Zeitgeist. In one of those late nineties years it got to be a popular term to bandy about in conversation, though not one that could be easily defined. Paradigm? Sure, you can pick that up from context. Modernity? Its word root tells you the whole story. But Zeitgeist? It was always used in association with (pop)cultural trends, but in my anorexic teenaged mind all it did was draw up a picture of Linda Blair reading a little bit of Vogue every time her head spun around to the front.
You can look at the dictionary definition, but i think to really understand this work you need to understand another accompanying term: Jumping The Shark. It originated on Happy Days. The internet pretty much specializes in defining Shark Jumping, so i won’t bore you with an extended explanation. The short of it is that when something very popular becomes uncool or passé, it has jumped the shark. It has reached the end of the cool spectrum. People at the water-cooler are now openly mocking it, when at one point they were climbing over each other just to talk about it.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is zeitgeist. Z is the way you can measure of whether or not something even ranks on the sliding scale of coolness to begin with. It’s like a Technorati or a Blogdex of culture at large; a cultural trend-line. Z is the difference between invisible and up-and-coming, between Visqueen and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, between Line of Fire and CSI: My Ass.
Z can be a undertow you are swept into and a crest that you ride upon. To further beleaguer my metaphor, depending on how far upstream in cool river you are, you will get early indications of new phenomenon. I tend to have good advanced warning of new music, decent knowledge of upcoming movies, and relatively no knowledge of hip technology stuff.
I have prepared three examples to make light of this, but you’ll have to come back after i get out of class to see what they are (see, isn’t that responsible of me?).