Just fin­ished read­ing Alain de Botton’s The Archi­tec­ture of Hap­pi­ness. It is chock­full of worth­while bits but towards the end are a few that I’ll just high­light. These offer a nice way of think­ing about cul­ture and how it can be active­ly changed.

Con­trary to the Roman­tic belief that we each set­tle nat­u­ral­ly on a fit­ting idea of beau­ty, it seems that our visu­al and emo­tion­al fac­ul­ties in fact need con­stant exter­nal guid­ance to help them decide what they should take note of and appre­ci­ate. ‘Cul­ture’ is the word we have assigned to the force that assists us in iden­ti­fy­ing which of our many sen­sa­tions we should focus on and appor­tion val­ue to.

(Empha­sis mine.) And fur­ther on, some notes on how cul­tur­al works can legit­imize tastes oth­er­wise kept pri­vate:

For all that we mock those fake aes­thet­ic enthu­si­asms in hopes of gain­ing respect, the oppo­site ten­den­cy is the more poignant, where­by we repress our true pas­sions in order not to seem pecu­liar. […] It is books, poems and paint­ings which often give us the con­fi­dence to take seri­ous­ly feel­ings in our­selves that we might oth­er­wise nev­er have thought to acknowl­edge.

I like the encour­age­ment to be pub­lic about the things you like but feel self con­scious about. Those are prob­a­bly the most inter­est­ing things. That might actu­al­ly a good guide­line for what to post here.

And to Botton’s list I’d add games and oth­er con­tem­po­rary aes­thet­ic forms of course.

I real­ly enjoyed read­ing this while at the same time see­ing the whole New Aes­thet­ic thing real­ly take off. De Bot­ton points out not much is need­ed to kick off a new move­ment:

A few build­ings and a book have usu­al­ly been suf­fi­cient to pro­vide viable mod­els for oth­ers to fol­low.

Or, you know, a tum­blr and a few hacks. You don’t need a lot of cash to make a cul­tur­al move­ment hap­pen. But you do need to be per­sis­tent.

In all of these tec­ton­ic shifts, the tenac­i­ty of the prime movers was every bit as impor­tant as the resources at their dis­pos­al.

So, per­sist.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.