Modernism vs Postmodernism --The features in the table below are only tendencies, not absolutes. In fact, the tendency to see things in seemingly obvious, binary, contrasting categories is usually associated with modernism. The tendency to dissolve binary categories and expose their arbitrary cultural co-dependency is associated with postmodernism. For heuristic purposes only; don't try this at home. (Ha)
|Master Narratives and Metanarratives of history, culture and national identity; myths of cultural and ethnic orgin.||Suspicion and rejection of Master Narratives; local narratives, ironic deconstruction of master narratives: counter-myths of origin.|
|Faith in "Grand Theory" (totalizing explantions in history, science and culture) to represent all knowledge and explain everything.||Rejection of totalizing theories; pursuit of localizing and contingent theories.|
|Faith in, and myths of, social and cultural unity, hierarchies of social-class and ethnic/national values, seemingly clear bases for unity.||Social and cultural pluralism, disunity, unclear bases for social/national/ethnic unity.|
|Master narrative of progress through science and technology.||Skepticism of progress, anti-technology reactions, neo-Luddism; new age religions.|
|Sense of unified, centered self;
"individualism," unified identity.
|Sense of fragmentation and decentered self;
multiple, conflicting identities.
|Idea of "the family" as central unit of social order: model of the middle-class, nuclear family.||Alternative family units, alternatives to middle-class marriage model, multiple identities for couplings and childraising.|
|Hierarchy, order, centralized control.||Subverted order, loss of centralized control, fragmentation.|
|Faith and personal investment in big politics (Nation-State, party).||Trust and investment in micropolitics, identity politics, local politics, institutional power struggles.|
Faith in "Depth" (meaning, value, content, the signified) over "Surface" (appearances, the superficial, the signifier).
Attention to play of surfaces, images, signifiers without concern for "Depth".
|Faith in the "real" beyond media and representations; authenticity of "originals"||Hyper-reality, image saturation, simulacra seem more powerful than
the "real"; images and texts with no prior "original".
"As seen on TV" and "as seen on MTV" are more powerful than unmediated experience.
|Dichotomy of high and low culture (official vs. popular culture);
imposed consensus that high or official culture is normative and authoritative
|Disruption of the dominance of high culture by popular culture;
mixing of popular and high cultures, new valuation of pop culture, hybrid cultural forms cancel "high"/"low" categories.
|Mass culture, mass consumption, mass marketing.||Demassified culture; niche products and marketing, smaller group identities.|
|Art as unique object and finished work authenticated by artist and validated by agreed upon standards.||Art as process, performance, production, intertextuality.
Art as recycling of culture authenticated by audience and validated in subcultures sharing identity with the artist.
|Knowledge mastery, attempts to embrace a totality.
|Navigation, information management, just-in-time knowledge.
|Broadcast media, centralized one-
|Interactive, client-server, distributed, many-
to-many media (the Net and Web).
networked, distributed knowledge
|Seriousness of intention and purpose, middle-class earnestness.||Play, irony, challenge to official seriousness, subversion of earnestness.|
|Sense of clear generic boundaries and wholeness (art, music, and literature).||Hybridity, promiscuous genres, recombinant culture, intertextuality, pastiche.|
|Design and architecture of New York and Boston.||Design and architecture of LA and Las Vegas|
|Clear dichotomy between organic and inorganic, human and machine||cyborgian mixing of organic and inorganic, human and machine and electronic|
|Phallic ordering of sexual difference, unified sexualities, exclusion/bracketing of pornography||androgyny, queer sexual identities, polymorphous sexuality, mass marketing of pornography|
|the book as sufficient bearer of the word;
the library as system for printed knowledge
|hypermedia as transcendence of physical limits of print media;
the Web or Net as information system
Chart Created by Martin Irvine,