Monday, April 12, 2010

Another way to view the Long Tail: the infinite Tent

Yes, the concept of the long tail is pretty crucial to understanding my Aesthetics, here. However, I don't see it two dimensionally. I see it more three dimensionally. Picture, instead of a long tail, something more like an endless plateau of fabric. Now, imagine tent poles erected at various spots underneath this endless fabric. At the apex of each spike, you have your "hits"- those things that are enormously popular. The more flat areas unaffected by the tent poles? That's the "long tail" area, and if you're picturing it the same as I am, there's a lot more fabric that's flat, like that, than there is elevated by the tent poles.
There's several important bits involved with why I prefer this model. First, because the fabric itself is just one endless thing unto itself, and the tent poles are something else- related, but not intrinsic to the fabric. That, to me, more accurately represents the relationship between Art, and culture, and finance and popularity. The "art", the fabric, exists just as it is whether it's "elevated" by commerce, or not, eventually, it is effected, just as fabric stretches if you put a tent pole under it, but it still is more the same thing as Art that is not "elevated" by commerce. Second, because in three dimensions different areas can exist to represent different forces. An example- Japanese Anime is enormously popular in japan for Japanese reasons. It appeals to the Japanese person for reasons that have to do with Japan. But, it's also very popular with some Americans, for very different reasons. So, in our tent pole, one slope can represent the Japanese popularity of Anime, while another side of that same tent pole slope represents the American interest in Anime. Those things elevated the highest by the tent pole are Animes that are popular on both sides of the Atlantic, while, as the slope descends, you have things that are more popular in either places, but not necessarily both. Third, because with multiple tent poles under endless fabric, we can represent other factors, like time, and fashion. For example, picture two tent poles spaced just far enough apart that the fabric between then just about touches the ground for some of the space between them. That would more accurately represent , to me, anyway, Swing music in the 20th century. First, it was obscure, close to the ground. Then, in the 1930's and 1940's, it peaked up in interest, but then, as other stuff gained popularity (other parts of the fabric were explored) the fabric got closer and closer to the ground. Then, in the 1990's, another tent pole goes up, and the interest climbs with it. The fabric (swing music) never got as low as it did before the two tent poles (the interest never hit zero) but it did decline.
Now, why is this metaphor important for reading this blog? Because I'm more interested in things that, for this time, in this place are lower to the ground, thus, further out on the long tail, but that doesn't mean it was ever thus, everywhere. For example, right now, my interest in Thrash would be fairly long tail, fairly "niche". But, if this were Finland, and it was 1987? It wouldn't be nearly as long tail. Get it? It's important because it is this much more broad, more "three dimensional" view that I think is more sustainable, and more inclusive, and better able to describe the realities of the relationship between culture of all types, and the whole of the "mass".
Yes, this is fairly self-referential and esoteric- but I think you can adopt my framework, here, fairly easily for whatever your own niche thinking may be....

No comments:

Post a Comment