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A beard, normcore glasses, and monitors makes a sysadmin, not a hipster
August 31, 2014 3:26 PM   Subscribe


 
The author is MeFi's Own, but someone with a better memory than mine will have to be more specific about his username.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:37 PM on August 31


Not actually a bad introduction to structuralism and post-structuralism, even dropping the major theorists at each juncture. Despite being BuzzFeed, I think I'll use this in the future in my rhetoric classes.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:38 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder if Buzzfeed is trying to co-opt Clickhole's ridicule of Buzzfeed in order to defang or at least complicate it, but my head hurts thinking about the implications of that.
posted by naju at 3:42 PM on August 31 [9 favorites]


One problem [with structuralism] was that signs don’t produce one fixed meaning. Zach’s beard evokes not only “hipster” but “gay bear”, “hobo”, “Hagrid” … and so on.
Couldn't this be because in the absence of other signs, the beard alone points to a superposition of different meanings/paradigms? The syntagm {beard, computer, glasses} means "sysadmin," the syntagm {beard, PBR, fixed-gear bike} means "hipster," but if all you see is the beard it could mean either of those.

Also, Baudrillard claimed that in modern hyperreality signs don't refer to objectively real things "any more," but Derrida claimed that meaning is constantly deferred, so signs never referred to objective meanings in the first place. How are those two viewpoints reconciled? And meaning does exist at some point, right? Otherwise people would never be able to associate what they see with concepts in their head; they'd be stuck on the process of associating signs with more signs.
posted by Rangi at 3:44 PM on August 31 [8 favorites]


Meaning is presumably socially constructed and transitory; and what better illustration of this than the concept of the hipster?
posted by acb at 3:46 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Meaning becomes the act/or process of the association of the signs.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 3:49 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


buzzfeed and clickhole are approaching singularity
posted by p3on at 3:53 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Couldn't this be because in the absence of other signs, the beard alone points to a superposition of different meanings/paradigms? The syntagm {beard, computer, glasses} means "sysadmin," the syntagm {beard, PBR, fixed-gear bike} means "hipster," but if all you see is the beard it could mean either of those.

I believe this was precisely the point.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:53 PM on August 31


Hey! I made this. (I also posted it to Projects).

Sometimes I wonder if Buzzfeed is trying to co-opt Clickhole's ridicule of Buzzfeed in order to defang or at least complicate it, but my head hurts thinking about the implications of that.

This is just a Community post – I don't work for (or get paid by) BuzzFeed. Though if someone here does work for BF, can you tell me how to link the first article to the second? It seems to be stripping out all outbound links. (Maddeningly, it also blocks your IP after you edit the post more than 4-5 times!)

Rangi: Derrida's point about deferral of meaning is clearer when talking about textual signs, ie words. If you look up "beard" in a dictionary, it doesn't point to a real object. It just points to other textual signs. If you look those up, you get yet more signs. It's a self-contained system that never actually points to real objects. You're right, I don't think that can be reconciled with Baudrillard, who talks about how signs (used to) point to the Real. Although it sort of converges at the same place.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:57 PM on August 31 [25 favorites]


I will be so glad when the beard trend dies out. Most of these guys would be way cuter without absurd foot-long chunks of hair attached to their jaws.
posted by spitefulcrow at 3:59 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Not actually a bad introduction to structuralism and post-structuralism

I think I'd respectfully disagree. It might be a great refresher in these concepts, but it seems a little dense to be an introduction. That is, with all the name dropping, there isn't much exploration of each individual school of thought. Instead it's a short paragraph with a cute picture that attempts to portray a rather sophisticated idea.

It's interesting, and I only say it's not a good introduction to these concepts because I'm someone who is ignorant on all of this stuff, and it left me more confused than enlightened.

Perhaps I'm just dense though. Maybe I'd understand it all better if I hadn't gotten rid of my beard a few years ago.
posted by el io at 4:00 PM on August 31


I will be so glad when the beard trend dies out. Most of these guys would be way cuter without absurd foot-long chunks of hair attached to their jaws.

My decidedly non-hipster lengthy beard and I have agreed to disagree with you.
posted by hippybear at 4:10 PM on August 31 [7 favorites]


If you look up "beard" in a dictionary, it doesn't point to a real object. It just points to other textual signs. If you look those up, you get yet more signs. It's a self-contained system that never actually points to real objects.

That makes sense. Then when you read words and form mental images or concepts from them, you're doing something outside the language's self-contained system of words. On the other hand, a computer can manipulate words forever without understanding their meaning (e.g. Google Translate).

It reminds me of What the Tortoise Said to Achilles, where Achilles takes an inferential leap from believing the mathematical formula "(A → B) & A ⇒ B" to believing "B", whereas the Tortoise stays within the system and believes "(A → B) & A & ((A → B) & A → B) ⇒ B".
posted by Rangi at 4:12 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


The author is MeFi's Own, but someone with a better memory than mine will have to be more specific about his username.

dontjumplarry who posted it to Projects earlier today!
posted by mathowie at 4:24 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


> If you look up "beard" in a dictionary, it doesn't point to a real object.

My dictionary only has ostensive definitions. If you look up "Einstein," why there's old Ein. And you thought he was dead!
posted by jfuller at 4:28 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I will be so glad when the beard trend dies out. Most of these guys would be way cuter without absurd foot-long chunks of hair attached to their jaws.

When my hair abandoned my pate I ended up looking like a morph of Donald Pleasence's first and last years of life. My beard has saved me from that so it's not going anywhere soon.

Though my attempt to co-opt Shel Silverstein's look had taken a turn for the Brian Posehn.
posted by sourwookie at 4:42 PM on August 31


Interestingly the linguistic Structuralists would quite happily classify each of the syntagms given as superstructures (small s) with deference and referral to the rather broader Superstructure. For more input on Structuralism (and the roots of post-structuralism) grab a hold of John Sturrock - Structuralism
posted by Metheglen at 4:43 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


In 2010 I asked about the hipster beard on Ask Metafilter. The origins may surprise you.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 5:06 PM on August 31


My decidedly non-hipster lengthy beard and I have agreed to disagree with you.
posted by hippybear(d) at 7:10 PM on August 31 [5 favorites +] [!]

posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:06 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


The syntagm {beard, computer, glasses} means "sysadmin,"


It could also be a Graphic Design Lumberjack.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:12 PM on August 31 [7 favorites]


I was talking to someone on twitter and was told that since I started having a beard in 2007 it was "OK" for me to keep it. Which was awesome, because I was definitely totally looking for the arbitrary approval of middlebrow oafs who think they know what a "hipster" is when I started growing it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:33 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


If you're Dad doesn't have a beard?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmFnarFSj_U
posted by bystander at 5:47 PM on August 31


It could also be a Graphic Design Lumberjack.

We call that the Dalston Woodsman 'round here.
posted by acb at 5:47 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Great article dontjumplarry!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:52 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I was talking to someone on twitter and was told that since I started having a beard in 2007 it was "OK" for me to keep it. Which was awesome, because I was definitely totally looking for the arbitrary approval of middlebrow oafs who think they know what a "hipster" is when I started growing it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:33 PM on August 31 [+] [!]


Certificate of Chrono-Veracity business, consider yourself ideated. This is gonna be huge.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 6:24 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I've seen this sort of article done before (I don't know for what issue...probably to explain different forms of feminist thought?) -- where often complex social scientific concepts are explained through BuzzFeed (or similar sort of listicles that are normally associated with far more whimsical topics.)

I am all for this, but I wonder if this points to a possible developing trend:

Are we entering a brave new world where listicles may one day replace dissertations as social science/social media double majors seek employability in our millennial hi-tech world? In other words...instead of speaking as the bearded hipster and the bearded sysadmin as two different syntagms with shared signs, can we truly blend the bearded hipster (or more of a beardy social science professor type) with the bearded sysadmin (or more of a beardy...SEO/social media "consultant")?
posted by subversiveasset at 6:26 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Buzzfeed just gets me, you know. I love both beards and post-structuralism above all else.
posted by dame at 7:01 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I was talking to someone on twitter and was told that since I started having a beard in 2007 it was "OK" for me to keep it.

*looks back at photos of me with a beard from 1986*

Okay, I guess I'm safe then.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


*Looks at sonogram of me, I have a beard*

We've come a long way baby.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:03 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Oh come now... we all know that sonogram technology hadn't been invented way back then, Potomac Avenue....
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I had to google "normcore", but I'm glad that I have. I just stayed still and let the world keep spinning, until I was so far behind I'M AHEAD!
posted by C.A.S. at 1:22 AM on September 1


(I improved the bit on Foucault to reflect how discourses shape power relationships and constitute human subjects, had sort of misfired on that one.)
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:52 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


That was really cool, and as someone who didn't have a clue what post-structuralism was before, I'm (slightly) better informed.

Using buzzfeed to explain an abstract concept like this is an interesting way of using the medium. I'm not sure I get why it works, but it's really funny to see clickbait and continental philosophy rolled together. As an exercise, it reminded me of one of these (especially this one): Explain post-structuralism like I'm a hipster and you're buzzfeed.
posted by Ned G at 2:02 AM on September 1


This a little hard for me to follow, probably because I don't fully grasp the terminology. What is the precise definition of "hipster?"
posted by univac at 3:15 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


I'm not completely sure if I understood this, but it did make me think of (quite a heated) argument I once had with my girlfriend about whether a flannel (I believe a washcloth in North American English) used to dry oneself after a shower could ever be referred to as "my towel". In my eyes, as it was used as a towel (and essentially a small piece of towelling material) it was for all purposes a towel. She considered it to still be simply a flannel (and regardless of use, not ever "my towel").

It was actually rather interesting as an argument because it really emphasised quite marked differences in the way that we classified objects. I found it particularly interesting as I'd been doing some work on machine learning around the same time and had been trying to figure out how to group together documents which described the same event. It turns out what you intuitively think of as an objects classification is actually quite hard to do with a machine. To learn that different people have quite radically different internal classification models was quite interesting.

I'm entirely philosophy-ignorant. Is this even related to structuralism, or am I just spewing unrelated anecdotes into a comment box?
posted by leo_r at 4:12 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Well, as far as I can tell, the whole edifice of structuralism and post-structuralism is built on the idea that language is a system of signs, sealed off by itself and not connected to the world, so I don't see how it could respect your appeal to the history of the flannel's use.
posted by thelonius at 4:22 AM on September 1


C.A.S.: "I had to google "normcore""

You and me both. I saw it for the first time a couple of days ago on a bus ad for Bumbershoot. Turns out, the New Balance sneakers and frazzled hoodie I have been wearing for a while now are cool (again?). As an apparent true patron of the normcore, I have no opinion this.
posted by fireoyster at 4:33 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I refuse to Google 'normcore'. To me, it means that fat guys on barstools are trendy now.
posted by thelonius at 5:39 AM on September 1 [4 favorites]


acb thank you for posting this.
dontjumplarry, thank you for writing this.
Now can you do one on Kant? Please.....
posted by SyraCarol at 6:30 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Rangi "Otherwise people would never be able to associate what they see with concepts in their head; they'd be stuck on the process of associating signs with more signs."

Sounds like a semiotic definition of mental pathology to me. Yikes!

dontjumplarry: "It's a self-contained system that never actually points to real objects."

On paper, in one book, but the mind doesn't work that way. The mind crosses multiple systems. The body is composed of multiple organs. If the mind were disconnected from hunger, we would starve. If we could only focus on hunger, we would never leave the dinner table--debilitated and stuck in a mental loops. Or at least until someone came by disrupted the system adding a stimulus distracting us from our hunger. The Tortoise and Hare example reminds us, Hofstadter discussed at length the breaking of loops.

Barthes describes the effects of the sign in Mythologies through the examples of photography (later in writing about fashion). He asserts the meaning of an image describing both denotative and connotative interpretations. Barthes is one of the few (post-) structuralists to engage with images and not only text. When we speak about the beard itself, what's present in the image but not present in the text is a wealth of detail. What are the qualities of the beard? What are the qualities of the image of the beard? Is it a real beard or Photoshopped cat/beard?

For this reason I see the sign as triadic and not binary. I've read a description of the triadic sign as the signifier split in two: representation and object. Unfortunately, since most of semiotic literature discusses the text, most semiotic theory focuses on the binary sign the triadic sign is frequently ignored. Few examples in the classic post-/structuralist canon address this binary/triadic difference in this way leaving us to secondary writers. Louis Herbert's description of the triadic sign verges on offering this description: "The representamen is a thing that represents another thing: its object. Before it is interpreted, the representamen is a pure potentiality..." However, as a visual artist, I find his summary unconvincing.

This photo essay shows, the triadic sign allows us to make critiques such as:

Zack's beard does not evoke 'Hagrid' because Zack's beard is trimmed close to his face while Hagrid's beard is long and trimmed to his body (hiding, one assumes, the actor's enormous wadle?). Zack's beard evokes a bear, but not a real bear as Hagrid's beard does, but a cartoon bear. A cartoon bear where the shape of the head is articulated as a round circle like Smokie the Bear or a stuffed toy. Zack's beard associated with toys and cartoons is repeated with the Zach character evoking the ultimate description: adult man-child. (I assume some other referent signals the 'gay bear' could be developed from the Zach character's friendship with Mr. Chow. Yet, I leave this to others more knowledgeable than myself, since I detect a hint of true guilelessness in the Zach character and I can't be sure how that fits within that cultural reference.)

Finally, if you take the triadic sign as primary it applies to nearly all "texts". Collapse the object and representamen into the signifier and you're back at the Sassurean text model. What cha think?
posted by xtian at 9:05 AM on September 1


> "sysadmin,"
>> It could also be a Graphic Design Lumberjack.


The app running on the left monitor is clearly a video editor. He's editing a music video for a band you've never heard of who are influenced by bands you've heard of but haven't heard, but only their early work.

I think it's Final Cut Pro, pre-X, back when it was still cool.
posted by morganw at 10:22 AM on September 1


Now can you do one on Kant? Please.....

Thinking of doing a follow-up on Frankfurt School, but Kant (and Heidegger) beyond me I think. I worry that I became a utilitarian just so I didn't have to read Critique of Pure Reason.

What cha think?

It's been many years since I studied Peirce so would need to brush up before commenting, but agree with that "never points to real objects" is problematic and unsatisfying (and yes, doesn't seem to account for phenomenological experience: the signified "hunger" doesn't seem infinitely differed if you are hungry). Also doesn't help in figuring out how we can so often reach a consensus about meanings but also wildly diverge according to social location, age, etc. For instance, few adults would think Hagrid when looking at Zach, but an 8-year-old kid might. The field of social semiotics has tried to tackle this, looking at how language systems provide grammars for meaning potential.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:38 PM on September 1


"...the signified "hunger" doesn't seem infinitely differed if you are hungry)."

Haha. I see you're perspective--truth or falsity.

Semiotics was a useful framework for many subjects as the early writers such as Levi-Strauss, Morris and later Eco (with his deep signal work) show. (Mad props for broaching the subject of Structuralism's failures.) The issue of the 8 yro is troublesome for Semiotics, but not because Semiotics is incapable of formulating a response to the 8 yro's perspective within the language of Semiotics. It fails, IMHO, because what it says is insufficient when compared to what psychology--experimental psychology in particular--can say about the child today.

Abandon all hope ye who enter semiotics from this perspective. You will be disappointed! The only peeps who I've seen can reference semiotics with a straight face are the Lit Theory peeps.
posted by xtian at 2:26 PM on September 1


I worry that I became a utilitarian just so I didn't have to read Critique of Pure Reason.

Wrong Critique, tough guy. I hate it when that happens!
posted by thelonius at 2:38 PM on September 1


Wrong Critique

What do you mean?
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:59 PM on September 1


It's the Critique Of Practical Reason that is concerned mostly with ethics
posted by thelonius at 4:08 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


'tough guy' - little joke about utilitarianism, sorry if it came off bad
posted by thelonius at 4:10 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I understood your joke. You were saying t̥̘̻͖ͅh͔̭̥e̦͍͙̯̺͉͖ T̝͇͖̙̠̣I͈͇̲̠̲̥̦ME͇̥̼̲̱̫ ͕̤̬̙̪ͅi̙͍̠s̜̤͚̟̬ ̱̥͓̲͍̥N͙̩̤̟̯I̲̹̹G̩̮̣̥̭͔̦H͍̤͎̲̖͇ ̼̹͎͎̮̳ͅ
d̜̖͍͎̠͈ra̘̞̫̭̼͎͍w̩͔̲̱̳ ̯T̘he͇ F̱̬I͔̞͍̼̥̫NẠ͔̜̠ͅL͉̟͉͔ S͔͖̦̠i͚͍͔̭g̭̦̘̼i͔̣̙̥l
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:10 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


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