ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : PostModernism / PostTruth

Broke this QuoraAnswer out because I had a couple of new thoughts

Quora Answer : Is postmodernism a precursor to our current Trumpian post-truth age of "alternative facts"?

Feb 7, 2017

Sort of.

Post-modernism as a movement in the humanities was very much a response to the explosion of media in the twentieth century.

Prior to "post-modernism" cultural theorists looked to other kinds of theory : political or psychoanalytic as totalizing theories of what humans were. What motivated us and why we behave as we do. "People are like this because of how we are formed by our childhood or the class war."

Post-modernism was what happened when those same cultural theorists started taking seriously the explosion of media and advertising in the market, and started saying "well, what is actually shaping our mind is the churning dynamics of all these signs and symbols". They couldn't say "people are like X" or "people are like Y" when it largely depended on what magazines those people subscribed to.

Today, the internet has given us orders of magnitude greater variety and velocity of media. There's even less we can appeal to as "the absolute fact that people are like X" when so many rival "alternative facts" are circulating and so easily accessed.

So post-truth is simply the culmination of a trend which has been growing along with the rise of electronic media. "Post-modernism" is what happens when scholars in the academy started taking the effects of popular media seriously and started incorporating it into their theory of humanity. "Post-truth" is what happens when your TV news show suddenly realizes that Twitter is able to outpace and challenge its domination of the cultural narrative.

Related :

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Is post-truth politics an inevitable and unsurprising consequence of post-modernism?

I think a lot about how the "explosion of media" led theorists to think about post-modernism. And the explosion of the internet has led to "post-truth".

But critics of contemporary academia might have a point which is related to the same principle. As academia has grown enormously, and fragmented into more and more finer grained specialist subjects, the force towards coherence between the disciplines within academia is now very low. The history taught to archaeologists isn't the same history taught to political scientist. Even with the best intentions, over-generalization + simplification + absence of interchange between disciplines, can give them inconsistent narratives about how the world works and how it got the way it is.

Academia has had the same problem scaling as it grows, as every other epistemic institution. Even without the challenges from outside academia.

See also : AcademiaVsNewMedia,