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Nostalgia, Dead Media

Nika Simovich


Not Nostalgic “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” In 1986, Ferris Bueller named an issue that resonates in 2012; the idea that life continues moving forward whether or not you are. In today’s society, we have reached a halt. We are at the culmination of a digital revolution, and rather than creating a definitive visual language, we are clinging to the past and delineating ourselves with recycled fashions and imagery. Hauntology, a philosophy that states that the present exists only in respect to the past, and that society after the end of history will begin to orient itself towards styles that are nostalgic, is the closest we have gestured towards a movement. Hauntology’s reversal of contemporary with nostalgia will result in a present world-view that is unsatisfactory and indistinguishable. In 2012, technology is our modernity. The lapse of time until something can be considered nostalgic has shrunk considerably and this is in part due to the fact that society cannot keep up


with the speed and connectivity of the Internet. What happened a year ago is fair game to be recycled as Internet nostalgia. We differ from past generations because we have an infinite pool of resources which allows us to revive the past, preventing anything from dying. Anything that dies can be recycled as a YouTube video or a screenshot on a blog. Society is battling against time and defying death, which creates a series of other issues such as the idea of over-availability and over-sharing. There is almost too much to choose from and in the end, we create decisions that have already been made rather than growing as a society and making conscious efforts to be unique. Some believe that the present is not nostalgic and that it is actually a remix of the past, but the issue with contemporary collective nostalgia is not so much about referencing the past as it is about ignoring the present. In addition, we battle with the fact that the digital revolution is textual. All computers and websites are programmed in text-based code to display images. This type of textual communication is difficult to emulate in the physical world, which creates a dilemma in generating a visual tone for our generation. Attempts at bringing the digital world into the physical world generally are not successful


due to the inability to translate pixels and code into a natural and organic world. Difficult or not, a visual tone needs to emerge because otherwise, we will be permanently stuck in a rut. Because Internet usage has become an instinctual part of our everyday, a communal naivety is the predominant trend. The sooner more individuals are aware of this habit of collective nostalgia, the sooner a distinctive identity for our generation can begin to emerge. There is a calling and a need for something new and definitive to point out our nostalgic habits and pave the way for the future of graphic design. As Ferris Bueller stated, life will continue to move pretty fast, and if we don’t end the cycle of nostalgia soon, we will have missed the opportunity to define this time in age.


Matt Jones, Space


The Forty-Year Itch In his article in The New Yorker, Adam Gropnik explains that there is a 40 year time lapse before we begin to think of something as nostalgic. In the past it has followed: 1940’s, 1900’s 1960’s, 1920’s 1970’s, 1930’s 1990’s, 1950’s This is not true anymore. The time lapse between what can be considered nostalgic has shrunk dramatically. This is especially present in graphic design, and is a calling for change. Due to the connections of the internet and the availability of resources, we are able to collect and share images and “rescue” them from the dead and fantasize them at a more rapid pace.


Nostalgia and Advertising An Empirical Investigation of the Differential Effects of Personal, Historical, and Non-Nostalgic Advertising on Consumer Responses, Darrel D. Muehling and Vincent J. Pascal. A sociological experiment that tested the effects between Historical (Presentation of the past as a the time before the audience was born) Nostalgic Advertising, Personal (Idealization of a “personally remembered� past) Nostalgic Advertising, and NonNostalgic Advertising. Studies showed that both types of nostalgic ads trumped non-nostalgic ads, and personal nostalgic ads resonated more with the audience than historical nostalgic advertising. Nostalgia in advertising linked favorable emotions with the brand and product presented.


“I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.” —Lou Reed


The New Aesthetic “I am so bored of nostalgia. Of letterpress and braces and elaborate facial hair. I appreciate these things, but I think there’s something wrong with a culture that fetishises them to the extent that we currently do.” “As if authenticity is only to be found in the past. I think we are frightened and I think we are distrustful and we are worried that things are slipping away.” “The New Aesthetic is not a movement, it is not a thing which can be done. It is a series of artefacts of the heterogeneous network, which recognizes differences, the gaps in our overlapping but distant realities.”

— James Bridle


“Instagram is about death” ‘Digital Photography Never Looked so Analogue’: Retro Camera Apps, Nostalgia, and the Hauntological Photograph Stephen Bull “The retro simulation of analogue photography seems to have been widely adopted as part of mainstream culture.” The manipulation of photographs through the filters on retro camera apps results in images where colours are washed out, tones are faded away, and simulated film damage and light leaks obscure our view. It may seem that these pictures preserve the appearance of popular analogue photography, but instead the opposite might actually be the case. The loss of information through washing out, fading away and obscuration in these multiplying spectres of dead media represents, over and over again, the irretrievable loss of popular analogue photography itself dead media.


“Instagram is all about death. The 70s filters our parents used, artifacts of cameras we’ve never held. Nostalgia is the negation of death, it proves we are still living even without an identifiable future. Instagram is a machine for producing instant nostalgia, a ward against death.” —James Bridle


Untitled Group (Senior Thesis) I am deeply inspired by James Bridle’s work with The New Aesthetic. I would like to continue exploring this notion of a new visual identity for contemporary culture, and especially with graphic design. There are precedents regarding The New Aesthetic in terms of fine arts and music, but nothing linking the issue with nostalgia to graphic design. I aspire to translate these ideals and notions to this discipline of culture. An important feature of my project will be to point out the over-usage of nostalgia in graphic design, but more importantly, to start a group for the progression. My group will work on creating a new voice for graphic design that reflects contemporary culture without being nostalgic. The deliverables of the group are to be decided in future iterations, but I hope to create an online presence and identity for the group and transition it to being a collaborative piece where designers can interact with the media and essentially change the future of design.


In furthering my research, I would like to attempt to interview the following people: James Bridle Svetlana Boyn Nicolas Bourriaud Michael Bierut Simon Reynolds As well as trying to attract working graphic designers to participate in the project. The following steps for me are continuing reading and researching, and also collecting examples of nostalgia in graphic design. In addition, I will continue looking at how groups have formed online and how they have become established and gained momentum.


We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind. —Piotr Czerski, We, the Web Kids


Nika Simovich - Thesis 1 - 01 - Nostalgia, Dead Media