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New Forms of Cultural Snobbery: How Many Can You Identify?

Is flaunting your great taste in books and music really harder in the digital age?

In the latest Vanity Fair, James Wolcott worries about the future of cultural snobbery in an age of Kindles and iPods. You cannot have an instant connection with a subway rider reading your favorite novel, Wolcott laments, when Kindle offers you only blank white. We will have a harder time judging people by their bookshelves as we buy fewer material books. So too has the CD selection been usurped by the iPod, not so easily browsable while your host goes to make the hors d'oeuvres. As Wolcott writes: "To have Public Image Ltd.'s Metal Box in its original container was to have your punk cred validated." What will come up with to replace these twentieth century markers of cool?So what are some digital age ways to signal one's membership in the arsty group? Wolcott quotes Emily Gordon, the editor in chief of Print, who says "the real bragging rights in popcult superiority now belong to those who snag and collect ‘set lists' from hipster-accredited bands and have them framed. If they're autographed, so much the cooler."Wolcott has a point, but careful study proves there are many ways to display your taste other than book and CD covers. Us humans are endlessly inventive that way.Matthew Yglesias comments on Wolcott's piece on his blog. He notes that he uses Adium to set his "IM chat status to the title and artist of the song currently playing on ... iTunes." A friend of mine links to his Facebook page.Readers of Yglesias' blog offered up more examples: literary tattoes (sited: a young woman with lines from Kerouac down her back), the book-sharing sites Goodreads, and Shelfari, and the status of owning a Kindle. Having the latest iPod helps, too.Book covers, CD boxes, and movie posters all have fairly short histories. Before they came to signal elite conspicuous consumption, we had leather-bound sets of Virgil, harpsichords in our living rooms, oil paintings on our walls. Now we are developing new ways to flaunt our taste.Social media signals allegiances and sensibility-who you follow on Twitter, who your Facebook friends are. I imagine those who are followed more than follow on Twitter get added cultural snobbery points. Clothes need to still be worn, so logos may be displayed. Will the decades-old popularity of wearing band t-shirts morph into a trend for author t-shirts? (I can see it now: The "Junot Diaz Book Signing Tour" t-shirt, with the jacket design on the front and a list of indie bookstores on the back.)What about a blogroll, that shows readers which other blogs you read? Or Facebook groups that literally tell your friends of whom you are a "fan"?I am sure I am only scratching the surface. Could we compile a longer, better list? How do you or your friends let others know what a culture vulture you are?

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