On reality and authenticity

Mark Lamster, returning from a trip to Las Vegas:

Drinks at Prime Meats, in Brooklyn, with my wife. Realistically, this place is as much an artifice as anything on the Strip, a re-imagining of a 19th-century saloon, complete with polished bar, antique typography, Edison bulbs. Why, then, does it feel so much more honest? Because its aesthetic is filtered through a contemporary sensibility? Because it seems a natural part of a vibrant neighborhood? Is this all bullshit I invent to make myself feel more comfortable?

Mark Lamster, What Am I Doing Here? Tall Buildings and High Anxiety in Las Vegas


Carnegie Mellon Professor, Jesse Schell, on the psychology of games: Video here. It’s good in it’s entirety, but the relevant parts start at about 10:25. Segment quoted below starts at about 12:15:

Go look at TV — the people on TV, their heads are spinning! Everything is about reality TV. Go to the grocery store: it’s not just groceries anymore! Organic groceries — they’re more genuine, they’re more real groceries. You go to McDonald’s, and a Big Mac — well, you could get a Big Mac, or you could get the real burger, the Angus Burger, made with real this and that and whatever. Everything’s suddenly about reality.

[…] Gilmore and Pine put forth this interesting concept: that the most valuable thing in products today is are they real, are they authentic. Which is a bold hypothesis. And then they go further and they say, “Well, now why is it? Why now? It didn’t always used to be this way. Certainly it’s not what sold stuff in the ’80s. Right? […] What is it now that people are demanding reality, demanding authenticity?”

And they’re arguing that all this virtual stuff that’s been creeping up on us over the last twenty years has really cut us off from nature. We’re cut off from nature, we’re cut off from self-sufficiency.

[…] We live in a bubble of fake bullshit and we have this hunger to get to anything that’s real. Even if the best we can do is a Starbucks mocha with real Swiss chocolate — we’ll take it! Oh, that’s real! Look how real that seems to me, relative to what I’m used to!

Jesse Schnell, Design Outside the Box Presentation

In that segment, Schnell frequently references Authenticity, by Gilmore and Pine, so you might also want to check that out.


This is something I often wonder about, as the Internet grows by leaps and bounds. For example, my recurring love-hate relationship with the Great Internet Timesuck and my tendency to quit Facebook and invoke Vonnegut just about every year. As I said before, I feel as if there’s some sort of cultural push back on the horizon — maybe this “thirst for reality” is already here, just in some other form?

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