Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zines and the tipping point.

Another article about "zines" in the Bulletin, today. About the national scene.

I think that there is a desire by younger people to make real things -- vinyl records, art toys, and zines.

But I kind of use these things as earmarks, indicators of where Bend is on the "urban sophistication" scale.

We aren't there. Yet. Maybe never.

I see sporadic interest in zines here in Bend. Creators come in with a few copies, and I try to pay them a little bit, and then I don't see them again. Very, very few customers pick them up.

So it becomes a bit of downward spiral; not enough interest doesn't create enough zines; not enough zines doesn't create interest. Not enough, means the few true believers go online to get their fix, or compare Bend unfavorably with Eugene or Portland, and go there instead, which makes it even harder to get to that tipping point.

There are certain cool things that just never get to the tipping point in Bend.

I've often thought on a scale of 1 t0 10, with 8 being the number we need to be at to make these little nerd subcultures truly vital, Bend is like a 6.5. Sometimes we surge for a while to a 7, and often we fall back to a 6. Something like that.

People who move here from cities that have managed to reach an 8 can't see that, at first. We don't look all that different; it seems like we should be able to sustain that culture with just a bit of a push.

But it takes a big push, and that kind of push is hard to maintain.

It's not just population. Theoretically, I think we're big enough. It's the isolation, I think. And the lack of a real four year college, and -- as much as Bend would like to believe it has lots of high techness -- I think we don't really have a tipping point level of techness.

Because there is no real money in zines, or art toys, or street art -- it's nearly impossible to keep up a scene unless there is a surplus of interest -- instead of just barely enough.

Ironically, what would get it to the tipping point here in Bend is if these urban ideas broke out of the subculture and into the mass culture.

But then they aren't what they were, you know? They aren't underground, anymore.

Over the years I've learned that it is easy to get ahead of myself. I carry urban vinyl, for instance, which I think are just cool. But I get mostly blank looks. And the true aficionados compare my selection to online sites like KidRobot and find my selection lacking.

You can't fight the tipping point.

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