The Somewhat Clogged Culture Pipeline

Serdar had responded to my post that we have replaced culture with economics with one of his usual, thoughtful replies. He notes that our technocratic marketing has driven innovation from the marketplace and we are left with what sells, not what necessarily has value, and that to an extent we have a case of this mediocrity infecting us or becoming a kind of cultural pollution. However out of many of his ideas, one thing comes up I want to talk about: the role of The Pipeline.

The Pipeline is how Stuff Gets To Us. There are Pipelines for food, for clothes, and of course for Culture.

When I say The Pipeline, for the sake of this post, I’m talking the media system we have.

The Pipeline that we have are often built of foundations decades, or even centuries old. Publishing houses, radio stations, movie studios, etc. Huge companies and small companies, various suppliers and interests, and so forth came together to create the giant Culture Engine we have now. Some of it is very old, and it often plays it very safe.

Oddly, I am not disrespecting the impact of the Pipeline for good. In fact, I think overall it’s entirely understandable that we have some old, entrenched special interests acting as a big part of our Culture Engine because you needed these initiatives and huge structures to deliver things of interest. Even if we’ve seen much history of negative, limiting, or insipid content there’s also enormous good content out there (as well as plain neutral content). In short, I can make many a complaint, but I think that The Pipeline has done a lot of good.

I’ll go as far to say that some of the things we decry about The Pipeline may have been accidental, part of development phases, or even good at the time.

For that matter, a chunk of The Pipeline was and is becoming about enablement. From CreateSpace to Adobe Software to blogging to YouTube channels, there’s stuff out there based on getting things out and helping people get things out. I have hope for some of this, frankly.

However I think in many cases The Pipeline has gotten conservative in the non-political sense, cautious, unoriginal, and moribund. There’s doubtlessly a variety of factors to this, but I strongly believe that a mix of media consolidation, short-term thinking, avoidance of risk taking, and inability to know what to do with a changing world are part of it.  Some of the symptoms of our own economic malaise have affect it and made its negative traits worse.

So thus we end up with things that sell being basically part of our culture, and profit/loss the only driver for members of The Pipeline who in theory are providing a lot of our cultural infrastructure.

One of the problems we face is its hard to imagine The Pipeline can change – or we’re often thinking with the same mentality that people running The Pipeline have. We want to write the next Twilight Clone. We can’t imagine things won’t be mediocre. The sputtering Culture Engine we complain about is part of our culture.

Now far be it from me to present some multipoint plan to solve this. Also, right now I don’t have one. But it’s important to recognize the problem.

The Pipeline isn’t doing it’s job.  There’s a flattening, blanding, ahistorical problem in our culture.  We’re not getting sold things of deep value, we’re getting sold something again and again.

Our culture is too important to be left in the hands of simple profit-loss calculations.

As for how we solve this, well . . . that’s for more essays . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at