Sophy Bot, author of The Hipster Effect, has kindly sent me the video of her TED talk on busting the “hipster” stereotype:
On her website she further writes about the way that the dismissive “hipster” image actually obscures a fascinating reality — the fact that being a so-called hipster is actually an indication that people are taking charge of their identities, and choosing how to define and express themselves, beyond the shackles of cultural expectations:
Whereas previously prevalent subcultures focused on group differentiation, hipsters focus on the individual. The hipster isn’t necessarily about finding other likeminded souls out there. It’s more about expressing yourself and doing your own thing, no matter how wild that may appear to others. As more and more modes of self-expression have made their way into popular culture, fueled largely by the wide-open nature of the internet and the vast amounts of content we now consume on a daily basis, we’ve come to adopt more and more iterations of style at a breakneck pace. And because we’re adopting so many different styles so rapidly, we don’t have time to create a shared set of meanings about trends. Instead, what’s going on now is that we’re creating our own meanings for each particular style or object. Classical meanings have been lost somewhere along the way; though half of the people in a room may be wearing thick-rimmed glasses, odds are good that each of them has a different reason for doing so. We, as a society, assume this to mean lack of authenticity, but in many ways it is at the very heart of authenticity — it is choosing for yourself exactly how you want to outwardly express yourself, imbuing each object with your own personally created meaning rather than using off-the-shelf cultural symbols.
The rest is here, and worth reading. I’d never considered the “hipster” phenomenon in that way before, but I think Bot absolutely makes sense. Who better than the much-derided hipster to serve as an example of humanist self-creation — of the idea that we create our own meanings, that we are who we choose to be?