This is a response to Venkatesh Rao’s post Peak attention and the colonization of subcultures. It’s a great article, a long read that I recommend everyone take a look at.

The TLDR of the post is that the Internet has connected subcultures to such an extent that in the near future we’ll see a corporate takeover of even the smallest cultural entity.


I don’t entirely disagree with Mr. Rao; I do see a near future where the smallest interaction between groups of people will be exploited for some form of profit. But, where he sees this capitalistic force coming from the next evolution of Bieber Corp, I find it much more likely to see it come from members of the subculture themselves.

No matter how much data you have about the future direction of a subculture, only a member of that subculture can convince them to move. People hate astroturfing.

We can already see subcultural trends being monetized by members on services like Etsy and Kickstarter. These tools have allowed subcultures to focus the demand that has been generated inside a subcultural community by enterprising members.

The future is much more likely to bring about a flowering of creativity from diverse subcultures, than a centralized control of subcultural desires.


If we are to see a corporate domestication of subcultural converstaion, it is going to be a degree removed from directly participating. The problem isn’t in creating the cultural items, but rather in the fact that those items have a lifespan, often far longer than the amount of time it is used by a given cultural group.  Skateboarding moved from surfer bums, to skater punks, and eventually to urban centers. The context required to stimulate demand in anyone of those groups makes it very difficult to operate in another.

Rather, I think what we will see is more of an investment model, where saavy investors (either institutional or crowd sourced) fund subcultural members to create their own cultural artifacts.   This outcome would be greatly facilitated by the passage of either of the crowdfunding bills currently in congress.


The Internet has enabled the blossoming of diverse communities all around the world, and  n the coming years, like Mr. Rao said, we will see a vast commercialisation of this space. A commercialization that I hope will be more organic than corporate. 

The Rise of the SubCultural Economy