The Lifecycle of Novelty

Disruptive innovation is humanity advancing. Once we get past the disruption, we celebrate it. But first, the disruption.

Some of us want the next big thing. Most of us fear it. All of us assimilate it.

As noted elsewhere, any creative movement worth its salt is treated as an assault on commonly accepted principles – which of course it is. How society chooses to defend against such an assault varies. Everything from a general outcry, through to and including death to the perpetrator(s). History is littered with martyrs and outcasts. The fortunate ones benefit from small but influential pockets of appreciation where enthusiasm replaced outrage long enough to garner a trend in favour of the work. Long enough to safeguard their wellbeing. To be ignored is to be irrelevant.

Trends do not necessarily equal understanding. Once given to the world, the presented work is seized as raw material into the lives of the audience. Early adopters take what they will from it, already appropriating aspects of their own choosing for their own ends – Making it their own, as it were. Positioning themselves at the vanguard, they gather around themselves followers and later-stage adopters who in turn filter the trend by another degree removed from the artist’s initial intent.

Before long, the once threatening movement gets swept up into the wider popular culture. Neutered, tempered and homogenized. The original targets of the innovation adopt the trappings of the movement. Fashions, modalities of speech, mannerisms all manifest in the new adherents, safely distanced at some remove from the dangerous edge of creativity.

And so, language evolves, hair lengths and hemlines fluctuate, suburban affluent youth don the clothes of disenfranchised urbanites while sharecroppers become dandies. Activity on the streets of London gets refined on the streets of Paris, and marketed on the streets of Milan. Dissonance tempers harmony. Everything gets normalized until normal cries out again for its antithetical cousin and Nature’s pendulum swings in the wind.

Simone de Beauvoir commented that the writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels. And so it is until new becomes old again.

I am curious, dear reader; are there creative movements you now follow only after having adapted to them? Are there other movements you follow that persist as outliers? Leave your comments below.