Transitioning to Post-Postmodernism: A Look at Twitter & Airbnb

Emily Rothkopf

If postmodernism was a rejection of societal absolute truths, perhaps post-postmodernism, or whatever the era will be dubbed, is about creating our own truths.  Many have come to terms with the fact that capitalism and the American Dream, organized religion and centralized government are not all they’re cracked up to be.  And while society continues to critique and remix modernist ideologies in media and the arts, the pessimism and cynicism prevailing in Gen X and Y have gotten a bit tired.  With advances in technology, and thereby increased access to information and a participatory culture, we may be evolving towards a new ideal of finding our own way, creating our own personalized (yet interconnected) experiences, and ultimately self-transcendence.  Millennials and those adhering to this new ideal seem to be more optimistic despite holding the same rejections of postmodernism – even more so with the recent recession and humbling job market.  With a multitude of new social media outlets, such as Twitter, and consumer-controlled web-based companies like Airbnb, society is transitioning to becoming even more decentralized yet with a cohesiveness and burgeoning enthusiasm.

“You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved’, engulfed, deciding … You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded,” (Kirby 2006).

Social media sites have reshaped contemporary culture in unimaginable ways, arguably none more so than Twitter, which currently has almost 650 million active accounts worldwide (Twitter 2014).  Twitter allows users to interact with corporations, media outlets, pop-culture icons, etc., in ways that cannot be ignored and are in fact encouraged.  A “tweeter” can vehemently express a customer service issue inciting a rapid negative word-of-mouth campaign or alternatively get instant access to a customer service rep to resolve the issue.  One can have his/her opinion read live, on-air during a news segment via Twitter.  And if desired, a fan can interact with his/her favorite musician, actor or writer on Twitter, without any bodyguards or hierarchies blocking the way.  Where postmodernism positioned contemporary culture as a spectacle in which the consumer sat powerless (Kirby 2006), post-postmodernism employs technology to render the consumer connected, participatory and influential.

“At pivotal moments throughout history, technological innovation triggers massive social and cultural transformation… unrelated developments, which had been gradually unfolding for years, suddenly converge to create changes that are as disruptive as they are creative,” (Taylor 2001).

With web-based, industry-altering companies like Airbnb, consumers literally control their own destinies.  Airbnb is an online platform allowing individuals to list or book unique and often competitively priced, residential accommodations around the world.  In 2013, Airbnb reported to have doubled its listings to 300,000 globally and served more than 4 million guests – statistics that put it in the ranks with top hoteliers like InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide (Pelletier 2014).  As an Airbnb skeptic turned “host,” I can attest to the revolutionary qualities of the service.  I am not only overwhelmed by the number of quality inquiries I have gotten, but also amazed at the ease of use and control each individual has in the process.  “Guests” get personal and localized interaction in contrast to the depersonalized, often sterile bureaucracy of a standard hotel.  Moreover, it’s typically a win-win for both host and guest money-wise.  As philosopher Mark Taylor speaks to in his commentary on the emerging network culture, I believe Airbnb is lending itself to one of those pivotal moments in history that could not only uproot the hotel industry, but also other similarly traditional and centralized industries.

“…we need to cultivate a keener, livelier, more dialogical sense of ourselves in relation to the diverse cultures, diverse natures, the whole universe itself,” (Hassan 2014).

What Twitter and Airbnb exemplify is decentralization at its finest.  Consumers are in control of their experiences and are connecting with others in ways that are both creative and progressive.  This provides a sense of optimism in that there are better means to an end and technology will continue to enhance and improve upon those means.  While we are still a long way away from achieving the spiritual project of postmodernity that philosopher Ihab Hassan describes, the interconnectedness seems to be leading us down a path towards self-transcendence.  And perhaps post-postmodernism will be considered a monumental stepping stone in that societal, spiritual journey.  For now, it will remain as a state of transition.


Works Cited

Hassan, Ihab. “From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Kirby, Alan. “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond.” Philosophy Now. 2006. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Pelletier, Sue. “Is Airbnb Becoming a Threat to Your Room Block?” Meetings Net Home Page. 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Taylor, Mark C. “An Excerpt from The Moment of Complexity – Emerging Network Culture.”University of Chicago Press. 2001. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

“Twitter Statistics.” Statistic Brain RSS. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.