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Will novelty ever wear off?

Thinking about novelty, it seems this strange notion of something being new but also not worth that much. Why those two things ‘go together’ is a question for another day, as presumably new things could also be valuable and have longevity. Anyway, for now I’m mainly concerned with how ‘novelty’ is apparently this endless stream of constant and fairly frivolous change.

In that light, it seems we might never get tired of it; this perpetual rippling of variations, slight differences, unusual combinations, provocative or impractical suggestions. Given the global resources we have in terms of cultural, historical, social, conceptual, artistic reference points there’s arguably a limitless pool of ideas we could draw from in fresh and ‘original’ ways. We’re creative creatures; all with our own unique views.

But then what might it mean for culture, society or economic activity to be built upon that sense of novelty? Where might it lead if we’re forever pumping out ‘something new’ and surrounding it with ‘industries’ that effectively feed off that process? What is that churning tide, and is there anything truly value-able within it? Those are completely open questions; as I really don’t know, but often like to ask.

It’s just interesting, in that it’s viewed as a ‘product’: a product of the human mind, of our desire to belong and create and celebrate the richness of life; but also a product within a marketplace of attention, commercialisation and profit. And it clearly applies on many levels, within technology, news, entertainment, culture, fashion (see Notes One).

And that is what it is really, it’s how modern life’s evolved and the forms things are currently taking. ‘Things’, in that context, being the function that human ingenuity, expressiveness, creativity, and originality have within our communities; the value all that might hold for the lives we share.

Maybe that’s a strange way of looking at things? Maybe we’re supposed to just accept novelty as a way of life and go with the flow. But, as I’ve said, I’m just wondering where it leads and if there’s an end in sight that’s worth pursuing. I wonder if it’s not a misappropriation of our creative and social instincts – diverting them towards endless novelty and the status we’re assigning it, rather than putting it to better use elsewhere.

To my mind, modern culture’s a little strange in that I don’t quite see the meaning or purpose within it all (Notes Two). I know, not everything has to have meaning and some things we just do for fun, to join in and be part of that conversation. But I’d have thought there must be some reason behind these things, some substance there, something we could be adding to the wealth of human civilisation beyond a trail of discarded artefacts.

I don’t know. It’s just a thought really, attempting to circle in on the value of what we’re doing. I might be wrong in looking for more; but it also might be worthwhile drawing things into question, just in case.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Fashion, self & environment
Note 1: Is sustainable design an impossibility?
Note 1: Living in luxury, on what grounds?
Note 1: Culture selling us meaning
Note 2: Entertaining ideas & the matter of truth
Note 2: Cultural shifts & taking a backseat

In all of this – in the tone of my writing, the questions I raise, and topics I address – here, as anywhere else, there’s The need for discernment.

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