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Time for some old news

The way ahead - murky and poorly lit,with an uncertain destination?

The way ahead - murky and poorly lit,with an uncertain destination?

Time for some old news.

Nostalgia in the new big thing.

Wikipedia defines it as a yearning for the past, often in idealized form. Feeling nostalgic implies a longing for the ‘good old days’, a period when life was simpler, easier, happier and more prosperous.

What period that might be, exactly, is something that probably varies depending on one’s age and life history. Maybe, for most people, nostalgia harks back to a period when we didn’t have feelings of nostalgia because we hadn’t suffered many of life’s downturns.

Feelings of nostalgia often come when times are hard, and because a lot of people are experiencing hard times right now, there seems to be a lot of nostalgia about.

I’ve been poking about in retail industry publications and it seems nostalgia is big business right now. In fact, by mid-2008 many of those publications were screaming that in order to survive the recession, companies should anticipate and ride the wave of nostalgia they saw coming.

Many of them have done precisely that. A lot of 1970s foods, from steak and kidney pies to baked beans, have come back into fashion, a lot of companies have returned to or recreated the look of labels and advertising from the seventies and earlier. The new (old) look is intended to imply that these are long-term, trusted brands that offer some emotional security. Apparently the best-selling toy game of 2009 wasn’t a Wii or Xbox or computer game, but Scrabble.

The same thing’s been happening with advertising, of course, with the return of the Milky Bar Kid among many others.

In music, I’ve noted increased interest in folk music. Presumably the folk musicians have been there all along, playing in small pubs and clubs, but now they have a larger stage and more media exposure. Not that folk was a 1970s thing, particularly, but it meshes with the retro ethos going around.

On TV, there’s been a sudden increase in programmes about the past, from attempts to recreate period shops to revitalise a high street, to ‘thrift’ programmes about how to get a period look in your house by buying second-hand or developing craft skills.

Also on TV, and maybe a little more difficult to understand, I’ve been noticing a lot of old science fiction and horror making a return. Is that just a function of where my own attention has been going? Is it reminding us that thirty years ago, we expected the future to be better than it is? Or that thirty years ago, the dystopian views of broken societies we had then are finally coming to pass? I’ll have to ponder that one.

Conclusions? Well, none very startling. To repurpose that famous quote by Baudrillard, when society is looking broken, what we can do is play with the pieces – in this case, pieces from our past that we want to recreate and cast somehow, like runes or dice, into new patterns that will offer new solutions.

A couple of the resources I used – Talking Retail and Reuters.

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  1. November 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

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