Original Post: Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2
it’s less that the grand narrative*, with all its glorious Meaning, has died out, to be replaced by a vacuous, empty database that transforms itself simply to create more consumer goods (which is what Azuma means, I think, by his “database animals” concept), it’s more that the database is newly operationalized and split off from the grand narrative.
Which means that rather than having preferred means of revealing Meaning (formalism), creating a hierarchy of culture (high-middle-low), we now have the understanding that Meaning is not inherently tied to a particular form and that you can utilize elements from any given form(s) to point at a Meaning beyond the shuffle of forms in the foreground (c.f. Scott Pilgrim OH YEAH I WENT THERE). Of course, now we also have pleasure taken just from the shuffle of forms in the foreground (and damn any extrafictional Meanings), so it’s a double-edged sword here.
What seems to be happening in culture in general, as a result of this, is that you have all sorts of differing forms competing with one another, trying to assert themselves as the new “high culture” (SF is Important Philosophical Literature for the Modern Age arguments, Anime is the Vanguard of Groundbreaking Revolutionary Animated Narratives arguments, and so on). This gets so bad that many seem to get much more concerned with whether or not their favored form(s) are considered high culture (or upset that they’re considered low culture, or pissed off at the arrogance of other claimants to high culture, or embarrassed about their enjoyment of low culture, or whatever), which links status not to societal position, but to which forms of fiction one enjoys.
*Surely to God we can think of a different word to phrase that concept as so that it stops sounding so terribly confusing.