Jordan Wayne Lee
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Metamodern Design : Chapter 6 Discovering Metamodernism

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In order to define and articulate the concept of metamodernism and how it relates to design, I believe it is important to outline my view of culture by looking at the past to understand where we are today. This understanding will give light into how I see the cultural path of humanity’s future along with how we can consider the role of design – not justice as a designer – but for humanity to utilize design to make new understandings of our world, to discover new solutions in our rapidly changing world and to approach design as a practice beyond the modernist or post-modern approaches that design has existed within.

I believe these ideas form a foundation of my thinking about how design, creativity, thinking and new ideas can shape our future. If we don’t recognize this, we risk serious implications of a constant pull between extreme cultural polarities that are meant to divide, disrupt, confuse and distort reality. Beyond this exists true individual freedom. As designers, I believe it is our job to be hyper aware of these cultural movements and use this information for good and for a better future for humanity. I deeply fear the path we are headed currently. The rising status quo of post-modernism combined with the extreme polarities within culture are tools for the powerful and the elites to divide and confuse in order to build a paradigm of control, enslavement and a path toward an Orwellian existence for mankind. Maybe Aldous Huxley and George Orwell weren’t so far off. Maybe media and entertainment are priming us for a bit so distant reality of a dystopian future. If we can use design through the lens of metamodernism to awaken humanity and build a strong internal sense of self purpose and meaning, there is hope for a future where freedom can exist for all humanity. Design plays an integral part in this and it begins with us, right now.

Metamodernism has been an exploration of thoughts, work, art, design and music in my life. A framework to explore ideas and express them in various forms. Keeping a close eye on culture and finding various examples that seemingly emerge in unexpected places. Over that time, I have been writing and unpacking my own thoughts around metamodernism and what it means to me. The application of this feeling in the current cultural landscape has revealed new truths to me and shifted my perceptions around cultural ideas and narratives. I think it has provided a framework of feeling and understanding in which I could make sense of the individual self related to the greater good of a globally connected world. Through this, I began exploring this idea through the lens of design. While I don’t think I have everything figured out, I hope that my first explorations unpacked in this writing will help to inspire other designers or those who work in brand and business to make sense of the future of our cultural world.

The writings in this work seek to express the views of culture from a modern, postmodern and metamodern lens in which I then try to unpack my view of metamodernism from a designer’s perspective. I try and break down the sensibility, ideas, emotions and thoughts about the future of design and a designer’s role within a metamodern world. From my own perspective, these writings serve as self-examination of the understandings I have learned over the past 7 years of looking at culture and design from a lens of the active and observant designer – both from the view of the self, and within the design industry. My goal is to explore these ideas and offer up the truths in which I have discovered related to the pendulum oscillating observations and feelings within culture, and therefore, how to do those feelings translate to future work of design. I then try to unpack what it means and what it might look like to exist as a designer within the future context of a cultural feeling that exists between both modernism and post-modernism. How does design exists within both without getting lost within the commitment to one polarity or the other? My initial belief here, as I have worked through and tried to make sense of this for myself, is that the designer, as aware of their own design, must also choose to be aware of the self within the context of society and simultaneously aware of the collective society as a whole in order to design within the oscillation and create new works emerging from a new sensibility.

Metamodernism is a way to describe a structure of feelings based on the current cultural and sociological conditions of society. Metamodernism is not a belief system in of itself. It is meant to describe and then further articulate the sense of feeling that exists between the polarities of both modernism (sincerity) and post-modernism (irony) that we are succumbed and conditioned to among the many aspects and narratives of the current modern world.

Metamodernism is not a way to define or redefine belief systems, but to recognize the extreme polarities of beliefs about the world and discover the truth within the polarities. And within the polarities, there exists truth beneath. The world is complicated and complex. It is not as easy as to subscribe to a set of ideologies in the extreme and write off or discredit the ideologies of another. However, the ability to think and unpack the ideas and make sense about the validity of those ideas goes beyond the affirmations you provide to yourself or gain from the group in which you seek to belong.

Metamodernism is saying and recognizing that the pendulum of ideals and feelings swing back and forth and we choose to exist on one side or the other. However, by choosing an extreme rooted in either modernism or post-modernism we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to our community by steering clear of the uncomfortable tension where Metamodernism explores the ability to exist between the two polarities. Within the weightlessness of understanding “both/and” outside of “either/or”. That you can have both understanding and beliefs that validate from modernism and post-modernism because beyond the acceptance of the groupthink mindset, you have chosen to exist within the tension of both, unpack these ideals, observe them and understand and define a set of truths for yourself beyond the expectations a communal set of ideologies.

If we, as designers and creatives, truly believe that we are leading culture, humanity and creating a better future – we should recognize that it is our responsibility to step outside of the ideologies that trap us, that we should have the courage to define for ourselves, without fear of being ostracized, to define what the future looks like beyond a set of ideologies.

Because the design and creative communities have chosen to take a path of ideological stance’s to validate or invalidate the work of the individual beyond the measurement of success and impact of the work, they have simultaneously commodified their own industries. The reason that design has lost of sense importance to clients, to leadership and to those potential clients is because the design and creative community has allowed those who sit at the top of the social dominance hierarchy speak for the rest of design beyond the work and aligning the validity of design and creativity to be inherently rooted in ideologies. They have ultimately cut off 50% of the American population by an authoritative stance of creative work and ostracizing themselves from finding new work because they would rather stand and die on a hill of broken post-modern narratives instead of focusing on the work. At every opportunity design leaders choose to make a political or cultural statement not to change anything, but to fit into the creative community in hopes that their own sense of self-importance will be recognized enough that it may garner new work for themselves. All while standing on the shoulders of the community who continues to support these beliefs and narratives. And dare I say anything, or have an opinion or think for myself. Dare I even believe that I speak up and speak as a creative with individual opinions that may or may not exist outside the expected narrative of these so-called creatives.

I believe that sharing these ideas have helped me unpack meaning and purpose for myself. The effort within itself poses an exercise that left me feeling both attached and detached from my work. Trying to discover truth, share and articulate without finding myself being too attached to the emotions and feelings behind them. In addition, I could have flooded these writings with evidence, and data and research and spent another 5 years capturing all of the proof that went along with validating or invalidating my perspectives. However, in the spirit of metamodernism, I hope that these writings will simultaneously connect you to a sense of self, while connecting to my own sense of self and emerge some form of understanding beyond your own existence in the ways in which these thoughts and writings have emerged new sensibilities about myself related to meaning and purpose.

Modernism

“Modernism is both a philosophical movement and an art movement that arose from broad transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement reflected a desire for the creation of new forms of art, religion, philosophy, and social organization which reflected the newly emerging industrial world, including features such as urbanization, new technologies, and war. Artists attempted to depart from traditional forms of art, which they considered outdated or obsolete. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach.” – (“Modernism”, 2020)

These new modes of expression were derivative of the building of a better society. For the “dignity of man”. We observe the rise of the industrial revolution, massive innovation, infrastructure and the the pursuit of building a more advanced society. In art and literature, this took on pursuit of creating new forms of expression of this industrial world and making sense of the future of society and humanity. The arts made a conscious break from traditional forms of art – classical, neoclassical, etc. and sought to define new ways of meaning that complimented the industrialization of society.

This departure from Enlightenment lead society into new industrialized ways of thinking about humanity. From building roads, bridges, manufacturing and lifting up the state of humanity from darker times. Modernism was meant to drive culture through the lens of “dignity of man” where all come together and work towards a greater building of society. The arts, culture and economics of the time reflected in these efforts. Modernism was a new outlook from beyond the perspective of the self and into a perspective of the whole. Generated through a sincere attempt of creating a better world for the society.

“The Modernist impulse is fueled in various literatures by industrialization and urbanization and by the search for an authentic response to a much-changed world. Although prewar works by Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and other writers are considered Modernist, Modernism as a literary movement is typically associated with the period after World War I. The enormity of the war had undermined humankind’s faith in the foundations of Western society and culture, and postwar Modernist literature reflected a sense of disillusionment and fragmentation. A primary theme of T.S. Eliot’s long poem The Waste Land (1922), a seminal Modernist work, is the search for redemption and renewal in a sterile and spiritually empty landscape. With its fragmentary images and obscure allusions, the poem is typical of Modernism in requiring the reader to take an active role in interpreting the text.” (Kuiper)

This desire to build and construct and make something greater beyond the self was a cleansing, a renewal, a redemption from the ugly parts of society past.

“In an era characterized by industrialization, rapid social change, and advances in science and the social sciences (e.g., Freudian theory), Modernists felt a growing alienation incompatible with Victorian morality, optimism, and convention. New ideas in psychology, philosophy, and political theory kindled a search for new modes of expression.” – (Kuiper)

The idea of utilizing line, form and color translated to how those beyond painting could influence society. Brutalism in architecture focused on function and form, music became less grandiose and emerges more simple styles of music emerging blues, jazz, rock within the early 1900s. Fashion broke away from the Victorian and French influences. Things became more about the structure and less about the ornate.

Instead of forcing a representation through an artists viewpoint, the intention was to create forms in which the interpretation could be held up and determined by the masses and also by the individual.

“By the beginning of the 20th century, architects also had increasingly abandoned past styles and conventions in favour of a form of architecture based on essential functional concerns. They were helped by advances in building technologies such as the steel frame and the curtain wall. In the period after World War I these tendencies became codified as the International style, which utilized simple geometric shapes and unadorned facades and which abandoned any use of historical reference; the steel-and-glass buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier embodied this style. In the mid-to-late 20th century this style manifested itself in clean-lined, unadorned glass skyscrapers and mass housing projects.” (Kuiper)

Evidence of Modernism – “Sincerity”

Modernism arose as both a philosophical movement and an art movement. The growth began around the late 19th and 20th centuries with the rise of the industrial revolution. This movement began as a progression of society to build and construct for the betterment of man. The surge and growth of cities, construction of buildings, institutions, skyscrapers, transportation and systems designed for society to give man meaning and building a new construct of society throughout progress.

As a form of philosophical thought, modernism is defined by self-consciousness and awareness to create newness within society. A sincere approach to build better solution for society as a whole. Modernist look at every aspect of the lie existence and evaluate opportunities to create progress and better outcomes.

According to Roger Griffin, modernism can be defined in a maximalist vision as a broad cultural, social, or political initiative, sustained by the ethos of “the temporality of the new”. Modernism sought to restore, Griffin writes, a “sense of sublime order and purpose to the contemporary world, thereby counteracting the (perceived) erosion of an overarching ‘nomos’, or ‘sacred canopy’, under the fragmenting and secularizing impact of modernity.”

Examples of modernism throughout history are found during the French Revolution, the Enlightenment era, the Scientific Revolution, the idea of building “the Dignity of Man”, and an overarching sentiment about the story of progress through societal structures, systems and ideals. Much of the modern western world was built through the lens of modernists.

This merging of consumer and high versions of Modernist culture led to a radical transformation of the meaning of “Modernism”. First, it implied that a movement based on the rejection of tradition had become a tradition of its own. Second, it demonstrated that the distinction between elite Modernist and mass consumerist culture had lost its precision. Some writers declared that modernism had become so institutionalized that it was now “post avant-garde”, indicating that it had lost its power as a revolutionary movement. Many have interpreted this transformation as the beginning of the phase that became known as postmodernism. For others, such as art critic Robert Hughes, postmodernism represents an extension of modernism.

“In the visual arts the roots of Modernism are often traced back to painter Édouard Manet, who, beginning in the 1860s, broke away from inherited notions of perspective, modeling, and subject matter. The avant-garde movements that followed—including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism, de Stijl, and Abstract Expressionism—are generally defined as Modernist. Over the span of these movements, artists increasingly focused on the intrinsic qualities of their media—e.g., line, form, and colour—and moved away from inherited notions of art.” (Kuiper)

Modern Art:

Abstract art, Cubism, Pop art, Minimalism, Dadaism

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Artists:

Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kandinsky, Mondrian

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Music:

Stravinsky, George Antheil, Schoenberg, See: “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky as a landmark work

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Dance:

“The Rite of Spring” Ballet, “Les Noces” Ballet, Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Literature:

“Ulysses” James Joyce, “Metamorphosis” and “The Trail” Franz Kafka, “The Waste Land” T.S. Elliot, “Crime and Punishment” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Diabolidad” and “The Master and Margarita” Mikhail Bulgakov

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Architecture:

Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe

(“Modernism”, 2020)

Modern ideas:

  • Faith in science
  • Development and progress
  • Democracy
  • The individual
  • A meritocratic social order
  • Humanity can recreate nature by virtue of her reason

Source: Freinacht, “2017”

Post-Modernism

“Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical era said to follow after modernity and the tendencies of this era Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism, often criticizing Enlightenment rationality and focusing on the role of ideology in maintaining political or economic power. Postmodern thinkers frequently describe knowledge claims and value systems as contingent or socially-conditioned, describing them as products of political, historical, or cultural discourses and hierarchies. Common targets of postmodern criticism include universalist ideas of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, science, language, and social progress. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to self-consciousness, self-referentiality, epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, and irreverence.” (“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Like any rebuttal within history, whether political, religious, or economical, we find that the rebuttal to modernism emerges post-modernism. The idea that the sincere building for a greater society, lifting up through the lens of the “dignity of man” and the emergence of the industrial revolution to provide meaning and purpose held flaws. The post-modernist emerged as a rebuttal to point out the flaws and voice the opinion in opposition to the path in which modernism was headed through an angst-driven ironic form of narrative. A disruption to the modernist society in which the hope of the post-modernist is to have those rooted deeply within modernism to stop and observe the world in which they live and contribute. Post-modernism is a method of dialogue in which to create observations about the current state of the modern world.

This movement emerged during the mid 21st century and has become the mainstream narrative of culture. The discourse of modern day 2020 revolves around political, historical, cultural and hierarchical narratives that exist in extremism. From the COVID-19 pandemic, the current political climate in Washington DC, the protests, riots, crime and continuing narrative of topics such as gender, race, equality, and extreme political allegiance through media, entertainment, news and social media has fueled a skeptical grand narrative against ideologies associated with modernism. Tearing down old systems, destroying monuments, protesting main street (when the problem is politicians and corporations). The postmodern narrative is fueling entertainment and media as a cultural discourse to redefine and criticize morality, truth, human nature, reason, science and social progress. As if to say, the old systems are broken and we must destroy it all and rebuild in the manner in which the postmodernist deems to be correct. However, the earlier quote states that postmodernism “often criticizes(ing)…on the role of ideology in maintaining political or economic power.” And this narrative is running its course across culture.

Post-modernism is positive, when applied to the minority way of thinking within a large system. In which the skeptic reflects, evaluates and critically determines the inequities and imbalances of a system. For the individual, postmodernism can help on a journey of personal growth, self-reflection, self awareness and self consciousness. The irreverence of postmodernism exemplified on a larger mainstream cultural platform only leads to a path of destruction. History reveals this time and again.

“In the late 20th century a reaction against Modernism set in. Architecture saw a return to traditional materials and forms and sometimes to the use of decoration for the sake of decoration itself, as in the work of Michael Graves and, after the 1970s, that of Philip Johnson. In literature, irony and self-awareness became the postmodern fashion and the blurring of fiction and nonfiction a favoured method. Such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Angela Carter employed a postmodern approach in their work.” (Kuiper)

Postmodernism can be a healthy reaction to modernism. In which the cultural creators of our time can step back, observe and create new works in a way which pokes and prods at the current modernist system. The narrative becomes a problem when it exceeds the postmodernist’s intent and becomes the grand narrative of a society in which isn’t ready or capable of understanding the depth of postmodernism.

Duignan goes on to suggest that postmodernism is a denial of general philosophical viewpoints. To this, it becomes clear that postmodernism was the skeptical lens in which some viewed the impact and effects the modernist movement had on society.

“Postmodernism is largely a reaction against the intellectual assumptions and values of the modern period in the history of Western philosophy (roughly, the 17th through the 19th century). Indeed, many of the doctrines characteristically associated with postmodernism can fairly be described as the straightforward denial of general philosophical viewpoints that were taken for granted during the 18th-century Enlightenment, though they were not unique to that period. (Duignan)

There is debate about where we are in the movement of postmodernism today. Some would say it has ended, others say we are experiencing a post-postmodern world, and others would say that we are in transition to something else yet to be defined. The blending and transition from postmodernism to wherever we are headed in the future is widely debated. I am under the thought that in order for us to move forward, we need to accept that the current conditions of culture, especially mainstream progressive thought, is evidence of postmodernism. And for us to move beyond, we must accept that the break from postmodernism is essential to this path forward. Some would argue that we are currently existing within a modern world, striving for more postmodern ideals. I disagree. We are witnessing evidence in realtime across the globe of postmodernism being implemented in social, political, economical and cultural dynamics by those in power who were raised and grew up during the height of disruption and a lens for change under the narrative of postmodernism. That is to say, they are influenced and informed to create progressive change today from the postmodern ideals that have informed their past upbringings.

“We do not wish to suggest that all postmodern tendencies are over and done with.But we do believe many of them are taking another shape, and, more importantly, a new sens, a new meaning and direction. For one, financial crises, geopoli- tical instabilities, and climatological uncertainties have necessitated a reform of the economic system (‘‘un nouveau monde, un nouveau capitalisme’’, but also the transition from a white collar to a green collar economy). For another, the disintegration of the political center on both a geopolitical level (as a result of the rise to prominence of the Eastern economies) and a national level (due to the failure of the ‘‘third way’’, the polarization of localities, ethnicities, classes, and the influence of the Internet blogosphere) has required a restructuration of the political discourse. Similarly, the need for a decentralized production of alternative energy; a solution to the waste of time, space, and energy caused by (sub)urban sprawls; and a sustainable urban future have demanded a transformation of our material landscape. Most significantly perhaps, the cultural industry has responded in kind, increasingly abandoning tactics such as pastiche and parataxis for strategies like myth and metaxis, melancholy for hope, and exhibitionism for engagement. We will return to these strategies in more detail shortly.” (Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker (2010) Notes on metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture)

This idealism exists as a way to hold onto the values of the past, while looking forward to the future. Human nature has created constructs in society where we derive a set of beliefs and values to carry us into the future. In the past, that future transformed itself into the modernist structure of society in which the collective built roads, bridges, monuments, architecture, ideas, printing presses, automobiles, communication, newspapers, and the modern instruments of the world that drive our lives, economics and livelihoods forward. In such a way, we now look at the past, which was once the present and an idea of the future through the lens of the postmodernist where we see the flaws. We see the cracks in the system. We see the failures of how modernism may have left some behind as we continue to press on toward the future. Those cracks become amplified and serve as a narrative for postmodernism to derive their fuel through art, culture, media and entertainment. What was once the vision of a postmodernist to create a world in which the skepticism of their perceptions would be addressed, we now see these ideals as being the mainstream topics of cultural movements of today. Where the cracks are one side of the culture, and the drive forward through modernist progress and ideals are the alternative. And the polarities become more extreme between the two.

So we look back through history. The access to information, knowledge and ideas create a space in which we become nostalgic for simpler times. We desire to have the values of yesterday in which were created by those who desired a better future. And we look at where culture has emerged from and we are unhappy with the results, moreso within ourselves and then we project those personal inadequacies as a grander narrative in which everything must be wrong if I might be wrong. And the continual wheel of these narratives progress.

Skepticism is healthy when rooted in mitigating risk or trying to find a better solution. To exist as the skeptic simply for the sake of being the skeptic provides zero value to the individual or to society as a whole. In which, the skeptic must also realize that the apathy in which follows skepticism is not because of lack of success, or lack of effort, or failure. But the apathy now becomes the result of the narrative instead of pursuing a better solution. The skeptic gets caught in giving up hope because they either do not have a solution, or they give up when their initial idea or solution isn’t as great as they intended. Combine this with the “snowflake” “everyone gets a trophy” “helicopter parenting” culture and it creates a cocktail of self-entitlement. The postmodern skeptic becomes apathetic because their solution isn’t valid. Or they fail to continue the pursuit of finding a valid solution. The narrative then shifts from skeptic to apathy in which apathy breeds a lazy form of “maintaining political or economic power” rooted in the postmodern narratives driving mainstream media.

My hope is that our future will go beyond this narrative. Beyond the apathy, beyond the lazy thinking, beyond the cultural battle for “who’s right and who’s wrong”. Where skepticism can be healthy and then the solutions in which may have bred apathy for the postmodernist is course corrected to continue focusing on finding solutions. However, this problem solving approach is not widely understood or known or explored. Our education system, ran by postmodernists, prime children to learn, memorize and pass tests. The real world requires critical thinking and the ability to continue a pursuit in the face of failure. There is no guarantee. We are conditioned to believe that our first idea is the correct idea and anything outside of the confines of traditional education is merely left to chance and imagination and being “brilliant” or “creative”.  I’m here to tell you, creativity is not a gift, or magic or a talent or for the incredibly intelligent. Creativity is a process in which you cease to give up after your first round of revisions and feedback is less than you anticipated. Creativity is not a single stroke of brilliance in which you are entitled to. Creativity is not a word you throw on your resume, or study in school. Creativity is the lifelong pursuit of exploring beyond the failures. In which multiple failures lead you to the path of discovering the best solution after having sifted through all the failures to get you there. Postmodernism falls apart after the skeptic doesn’t get their way the first time. Creativity falls apart when it becomes overrun with postmodern thinking when the requirement for creativity involves a longlasting pursuit and fortitude to continue discovering beyond the failures. Postmodernism gives “creatives” a gold star and a trophy for showing up and then blame the lack of impact and ROI for a project on the culture.

“We would like to make it absolutely clear that this new shape, meaning, and direction do not directly stem from some kind of post-9/11 sentiment. Terrorism neither infused doubt about the supposed superiority of neoliberalism, nor did it inspire reflection about the basic assumptions of Western economics, politics, and culture*quite the contrary. The conservative reflex of the ‘‘war on terror’’ might even be taken to symbolize a reaffirmation of postmodern values.16 The threefold ‘‘threat’’ of the credit crunch, a collapsed center, and climate change has the opposite effect, as it infuses doubt, inspires reflection, and incites a move forward out of the postmodern and into the metamodern.” (Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker (2010) Notes on metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture)

Postmodernism exists as the status quo within culture. Those who have hinged their beliefs upon the postmodernist worldview are now the gatekeepers, creators, leaders of society in which they once sought to disrupt and change. They are now in the drivers seats of companies, brands, movements and politics in which they are using the system to redefine from within the system. The translation to this is the growing emergence of typical trends, aesthetics, ideas and narratives that were prevalent during the postmodernists movements of the 1980s and 1990s, but they now exist at the forefront of our cultural mainstream. Stories, topics, aesthetics, fashion, political ideology, all exist as a form of postmodernism that was once seen as radical or disruptive – hiding away in the corners of society in which you had to seek a subculture in order to find these ideals.

Everything in which was seen as strange, weird, queer, “out there”, oddball, underground during my adolescent is now the formative ideas and aesthetics creating mainstream culture. In which, those very things were so obscure during the prime era of postmodernism, it is now the backdrop for our cultural landscape in film, music, art, politics and religion.

And, as history shows us, postmodern ideology at such a large influence, has damaging and terrible repercussions.

Evidence of Post-Modernism – “Irony”

Emerging from modernism comes postmodernism within society and the Western world. Much like political or religious ideas, post-modernism was a rebuttal to the ideals embraced within modernism. This rebuttal began to question the very systems, ideals and progress that had been built, achieved and continued within the constructs of society. The ideals informed culture, art, commerce and industry. From this, emerged a new philosophy to go against and question these modernist ideas through irreverence, disruption and irony.

“Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection of the grand narratives and ideologies of modernism, often calling into question various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality. Consequently, common targets of postmodern critique include universalistnotions of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, science, language, and social progress. Postmodern thinkers frequently call attention to the contingent or socially-conditioned nature of knowledgeclaims and value systems, situating them as products of particular political, historical, or cultural discourses and hierarchies. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to self-referentiality, epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, and irreverence.” – Wikipedia

Architecture (“Postmodernism”, 2020):

The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, first published in 1977, and since running to seven editions. Charles Jencks makes the point that Post-Modernism (like Modernism) varies for each field of art, and that for architecture it is not just a reaction to Modernism but what he terms double coding: “Double Coding: the combination of Modern techniques with something else (usually traditional building) in order for architecture to communicate with the public and a concerned minority, usually other architects.” (“Postmodernism”, 2020)

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Art (“Postmodernism”, 2020):

“Postmodern art is a body of art movements that sought to contradict some aspects of modernism or some aspects that emerged or developed in its aftermath. Cultural production manifesting as intermedia, installation art, conceptual art, deconstructionist display, and multimedia, particularly involving video, are described as postmodern.” (“Postmodernism”, 2020)

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Graphic Design (“Postmodernism”, 2020):

“Early mention of postmodernism as an element of graphic design appeared in the British magazine, “Design.” A characteristic of postmodern graphic design is that “retro, techno, punk, grunge, beach, parody, and pastiche were all conspicuous trends. Each had its own sites and venues, detractors and advocates.” (“Postmodernism”, 2020)

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Literature (“Postmodernism”, 2020):

“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” Jorge Luis Borges’. Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, William Gaddis, Umberto Eco, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, John Hawkes, William S. Burroughs, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Jean Rhys, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow, Richard Kalich, Jerzy Kosiñski, Don DeLillo, Thomas, Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Kathy Acker, Ana Lydia Vega, Jåchym Topol, Paul Auster

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Music (“Postmodernism”, 2020):

Terry Riley, Henryk Górecki, Bradley Joseph, John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Lou Harrison, John Cage, Art Rock genre, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, The Pet Shop Boys, “Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space” Spiritualized, “Disco Volante” Mr. Bungle, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” Kanye West

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Current artists who embrace post-modernism within their work in “pop culture”

Billie Ellish, Kanye West

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Television (“Postmodernism”, 2020) (IMDB, 2020):

Portlandia celebrating postmodernism

Family Guy, Modern Family, Community, South Park, Bob’s Burgers, Breaking Bad, Ed Edd & Eddy (Deeley, 2016)

(“Postmodernism”, 2020)

Film (IMDB, 2020):

Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, Watchmen, American Gangster, Inherent Vice, 3 From Hell, Paris Texas, Payback, Jawbreaker, Far From Heaven, Titus, Close-Up, Youth Without Youth, American Desert, Being Black Enough, Jealous Gods, Phantom, Diamonds in the Sky, Fragile Machine, The Postmodern Pioneer Plaque, The Next Scorsese, Haemophobia

(“IMDB”, 2020)

Postmodern ideas (Freinacht, 2017):

  • Critical questioning of all knowledge and science
  • Suspicion towards all grand narratives about “progress”
  • Emphasis on symbols and contexts
  • Ironic distance
  • Cultures have been oppressed and ruined by modern society
  • Reveals injustice in “democratic” societies
  • Relations create the individual
  • A multicultural order where the weak are included
  • Humanity has destroyed the biosphere

Source: Freinacht, “2017″

Metamodernism

“Metamodernism is a proposed set of developments in philosophy, aesthetics, and culture which emerge from and react to postmodernism. One definition characterizes metamodernism as mediations between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism …The prefix “meta-” here referred not to a reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato’s metaxy, which denotes a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond them. Vermeulen and van den Akker described metamodernism as a “structure of feeling” that oscillates between modernism and postmodernism like “a pendulum swinging between…innumerable poles”. According to Kim Levin, writing in ARTnews, this oscillation “must embrace doubt, as well as hope and melancholy, sincerity and irony, affect and apathy, the personal and the political, and technology and techne.” For the metamodern generation, according to Vermeulen, “grand narratives are as necessary as they are problematic, hope is not simply something to distrust, love not necessarily something to be ridiculed.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

And so we witness the simultaneous happenings of both modernism and postmodernism ideals existing at the same time. Within ourselves. Within our society. Within our lives and community. The oscillation between the sincere and ironic are happening all around us. Infused within and without the world we live, the media we consume, the ideas we concern ourselves with and our attempt to make sense of meaning for ourselves, but also our purpose within the greater context of the world. This discussion has been happening for quite sometime. We listen to words and phrases like “rhetoric” or “grand narrative” infused in either a modernist or postmodernist worldview on a topic. We are fed similar notions of these ideas from both sides of (a)political, (a)religious, and cultural narratives occurring in our lives. However, the happenings within various parts of the world are now a direct concern to our daily lives because those happenings are informing our world at both a local and global level. The pendulum swings. The polarity exists. And yet, to make sense of this we are forced to choose one side or the other, choose good over evil, or choose the lesser of two evils.

However, the idea and term of Metamodernism has been around since the 1970s as a predictor and describer of sorts as to what comes after post-modernism. And when postmodernism becomes the status quo, it is no longer effective, instead, it becomes destructive. So we try to describe and observe the next movement in culture and society. And that exists as the idea of “Metamodernism” – where both modernism and postmodernism exist at the same time. However, we do not need to choose one or the other, but they exist as “both/and” and within that – we make sense of our personal lives and discover truth in this ever changing landscape of local and global ideals.

And from this, we exist within the constructs of the current society. Bombarded by influences, media, advertisements and marketing that represent both a sincerity and also an irony to it all. The meaning in the meaningless. There is everything and there is nothing. We have access to information, knowledge, ideas, connections yet we feel more isolated and alone than ever before. The growing numbers of anxiety and depression have continued to rise. It feels as if we are slogging through our own existence, watching the global policies and ideals move us in virtuous, idealistic or hopeful directions – and when those are achieved, we aren’t convinced that they will make us any more happy. The polarity of the societal differences surpasses extremes we have ever witnessed, or where privy too. Yet, we can’t do much about it. We are aware of the troubles in the world, but the powers that be are assuring us each day that “they’ve got it handled” but we aren’t too sure about that.

This structure of feeling puts us in a place of uncertainty. And they like it that way. (They being those who influence us). We are tossed around like emotional rag dolls trying to make sense between truth and fiction. One side holds truth and the other fiction, until we discover the fiction is everywhere. And the truth may have been lost along the way.

“In short, cultural philosophies help us make sense of our times by seeing patterns in how entire cultures (and individual subcultures within those cultures) operate. And because American culture, like any culture, has political and economic subcultures as well as ones in which new art is regularly being made, metamodernism gives us a lens through which to consider nearly everything that’s happened in America since the invention of the internet: political, socioeconomic, and sociocultural.” (Abramson)

My notion is that truth exists between both modern and postmodern ideals. That in order to really get to the heart of society, we must choose to exist between both modernism and postmodernism. To take the truth from each, the fiction from each, to consciously move forward in our own lives without being swayed from one side or the other as both movements and cultural ideologies are fighting for our attention, our loyalty and our allegiance. However, the polarity creates tension within the self, tension within our community and tension within the world. There is positive and negatives to both modernism and postmodernism, and the forward approach to this must not exist within choosing one or the other at the equal scale in which they exist, but to consciously exist between both to discover real truth.

“The ecosystem is severely disrupted, the financial system is increasingly uncontrollable, and the geopolitical structure has recently begun to appear as unstable as it has always been uneven. This triple crisis infuses doubt and inspires reflection about our basic assumptions, as much as inflaming cultural debates and provoking dogmatic entrenchments. History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end.” (“Notes on Metamodernsim”, 2010)

The polarity of movements oscillating from both modern and postmodern sensibilities are diverging further and further apart. The best way to describe this sense is to consider the idea of a pendulum. We swing back and forth through our daily lives. The rhetoric in culture and media is becoming more extreme from both ends of this pendulum. We are caught in the middle, yet we are forced, sociologically, to choose a side in order to fit within societal norms. One side or the other. The modernist extreme or the post-modernist extreme. And we also become bombarded with alternative viewpoints in our media consumption, our news, cultural movements and ideas to where the confusion is meant to distort the truth in a way to pander to one side or the other. We must pick a side and say that the other side is the evil, antagonist, villain in our story.

However, at the core of who we are, as humans, we seemingly have lost our way. Our identities are tied to the oscillation of one side or the other. And we feel trapped, but the alternative is to feel confusion and distortion.

I believe that within this continuing polarity of extremes, we must seek to find real truth. And that truth doesn’t not exist within a single approach to either modern or postmodernism. As the world is rapidly evolving and changing and progressing to becoming a more technological and interconnected planet, we cannot hinge the ideals and values of either/or (from modernism or post-modernism) in this new era of humanity across the planet. We need to find truth within the polarity extremes.

There are positives and negatives to both modernism and postmodernism.

We should be careful and weary of those who speak of metamodernism from a foundation of postmodernist ideals. Only until we choose to revert back to the ancient truths of humanity, the foundations of western civilization and the principles in which have built the modern world are recognized – then can we combine those ideals with thoughtful critique, questioning, articulation, scientific methods and understanding a new way of process and progress. To ground our foundation forward from the post-modernist foundation is built upon shaky ground that is only meant to exist as a disruptor of the modernist ideals in which post-modernism eventually emerged. Logically it makes zero sense to support metamodernism through a post-modernist viewpoint – and frankly, it reads deceptive.

The postmodernist used technology and media as a tool to disrupt the old world notion of the modernist movement. From this disruption emerges new leaders, businesses, technology, platforms and cultural influence built from those who embraced post-modernism. These platforms now exist as behemoths in society ran by those and supported by communities in which postmodernism is prevalent. Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates – all postmodernists who saw the opportunity to change culture – for the better – through a post-modernist viewpoint. Those pillars of technology have now influenced and informed society through a network culture in which the gatekeepers of the past are no longer relevant to the outcomes of the future. The modernists existed as the gatekeepers of society, in which order, vision, hierarchy and structure built foundations in which the future of progress could be laid. Those gatekeepers are either dismantled, no longer relevant, or shifting their business to become more post-modern.

“Since the turn of the millennium, moreover, the democratization of digital technologies, techniques and tools has caused a shift from a postmodern media logic characterized by television screen and spectacle, cyberspace and simulacrum towards a metamodern media logic of creative amateurs, social networks and locative media – what the cultural theorist Kazys Varnelis calls network culture.” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

The strength of the new narrative is not in the power structure in which communicates, but through the conscious and subconscious network in which we formulate our worldview. We believe that we are contributing to culture and society, which instead, we are merely a product to push the larger narrative of technology and power formulated through a post-modern leadership narrative. We are fooling ourselves otherwise.

For metamodernism to exist, we should agree that both modern and postmodern movements are happening simultaneously. The notion that some who believe metamodernism is emerging because we are still within the modernist movement means that we need to embrace more post-modern ideals is essentially wrong. Those who speak of this notion fundamentally still embrace the ideals of post-modernism in a way in which they now disguise it and shift their narrative to say that the ideals in prominent societies of today that are not working is essentially the flaws and failures of modernism. However, the socialization of Scandinavian countries, the ideals built on empty foundations and the push for total science and empathy without the belief or recognition of modernism and post-modernism occurring simultaneously is essentially post-modern in it’s form.

I am hesitant to agree with those who believe that metamodernism is a shift away from only current modernist ideals because the undercurrent of the argument exists as a way to undermine modernism while doubling down on post-modern values. However, the post-modernist path throughout history has led to destruction in society if not carefully managed. We see these examples time and again, Soviet Russia being one example, a pathway emerged from post-modernism.

The problem is that postmodernists will not admit that postmodernism has failed. Instead, those who speak the loudest about metamodernism tend to do so as a mask to push and support a belief rooted in a post-modern foundation. I fundamentally disagree with these descriptions and narratives about metamodernism. Whereas, metamodernism exists when both modern and post-modern ideals can be recognized as having equal prominence in society – and their positives and negatives can be equally measured. We cannot use metamodernism to dismantle modernism while pushing for more post-modernism. This is a dangerous path that does not end well, as history has shown.

“Our methodological assumption is that the dominant cultural practices and the dominant aesthetic sensibilities of a certain period form, as it were, a ‘discourse’ that expresses cultural moods and common ways of doing, making and thinking. To speak of a structure of feeling (or a cultural dominant) therefore has the advantage, as Jameson once explained, that one does not “obliterate difference and project an idea of the historical period as massive homogeneity. [It is] a conception which allows for the presence and coexistence of a range of very different, yet subordinate features.” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

And through the range of combing different, oscillating, subordinate features within our work, reflected and supported through a discourse built from a cultural dominant sensibility, we can then combine the polarities of both modern and post-modern sensibilities into new work that will support a new sense of opportunity, feeling, inspiration and search for meaning – between the polarity extremes in which our local, global and technology globalized society is operating from in the current landscape. From here, we can start to derive new ways of being, creating and communicating into the world where the focus first creates a sense of tension but ultimately allows the audience to experience a new feeling of metamodernism in which they experience and determine those sensibilities for themselves. We then consider how might we create new ideas, platforms, opportunities and ideas in which these ranges of feelings and features can be examined, created, displayed, experienced and highlighted in new and interesting ways where the dialogue shifts from either a heavily focused modernist or post-modern narrative.

From here, truth (and new sensibilities of truth) can be explored, discovered and experienced as we shift from a modernist and postmodernist foundation.

“These different, yet subordinate features can alternatively be described as ‘residuals’ of days gone by or as ‘emergents’ that point to another day and age. Postmodernism might have passed, it might have “given up the ghost”, but, as Josh Toth rightly argues, to speak of its death is to also speak of its afterlife. “The death of postmodernism (like all deaths) can also be viewed as a passing, a giving over of a certain inheritance, that this death (like all deaths) is also a living on, a passing on.” The spectre of postmodernism – but also that of modernism – still haunts contemporary culture.” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

The haunting of both exist as a murky uncertain wave of cultural narratives and movements in which all are battling for some sort fo relevance or significance. As if to fight for the next hierarchical power structure which will emerge beyond modern and postmodernism. The emergence is thought be fought and won through the narratives we are seeing played out through media, entertainment, culture and politics. However, I believe a different kind of world exists in the future, where we can look at both sides of modern and postmodernism and discover that both might exist together through a new sense of being. Where the audience is waking up because the centuries long show and dance has now ended. We can safely exit the building and go on about our business. We can take from it what we want and decide to think for ourselves beyond the narratives in which we are sold and must choose within the constructs of modern day.

“Others have started to theorise emergent structures of feeling that might, or might not, become dominant in the (not so near) future. The most obvious examples of such an emergence are all those practices that have become associated with the commons. Several theorists have argued, for instance, that these practices, ultimately, point towards an altermodernity, a future beyond modernity as we currently know it. Whether or not we agree with these visions of the future is besides the point here. What matters is that it is our contemporary culture that enables these visions; or rather, that opens up the discourse of having a vision at all.” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

We now exist in a time and space within civilization in which we can think upon these things. We can look back throughout history and learn from the ebb and flows of cultural movements, societies, wars, rise to power, downfall of empires, etc. We exist in a time where we can reflect back and consider the path forward. Those who exist within modern or postmodern ideologies consider the path forward to be through their own bias thinking. In which, their own self interests and ideologies inform the notion that their way is the path to truth because it yields them to be right. No one wants to be wrong. The gatekeepers of society want to keep us following their paths. They want us to continue to follow through the polarity of either modern or postmodern thought in which to say they want to help us. They are looking out for our best interests. However, the path forward might be where we can look at the landscape of civilization, the current condition of culture and the longing desire within human nature. Through this, we might uncover a new path where both modernism and postmodernism emerge to provide some new sensibility of a different kind of future. I have my personal opinions on the matter, however, I don’t want to spoil this with those personal thoughts. I want you to find and discover the meaning of your own path beyond modern and postmodernism and uncover real truth beyond what others tell you.

“If, epistemologically, the modern and the post- modern are linked to Hegel’s ‘‘positive’’ idealism, the metamodern aligns itself with Kant’s ‘‘negative’’ idealism. Kant’s philosophy of history after all, can also be most appropriately summarized as ‘‘as-if’’ thinking. As Curtis Peters explains, according to Kant, ‘‘we may view human history as if mankind had a life narrative which describes its self-movement toward its full rational/social potential . . . to view history as if it were the story of mankind’s development’’. Indeed, Kant himself adopts the as-if terminology when he writes ‘‘[e]ach . . . people, as if following some guiding thread, go toward a natural but to each of them unknown goal’’.19 That is to say, humankind, a people, are not really going toward a natural but unknown goal, but they pretend they do so that they progress morally as well as politically. Metamodernism moves for the sake of moving, attempts in spite of its inevitable failure; it seeks forever for a truth that it never expects to find. If you will forgive us for the banality of the metaphor for a moment, the metamodern thus willfully adopts a kind of donkey-and-carrot double-bind. Like a donkey it chases a carrot that it never manages to eat because the carrot is always just beyond its reach. But precisely because it never manages to eat the carrot, it never ends its chase, setting foot in moral realms the modern donkey (having eaten its carrot elsewhere) will never encounter, entering political domains the postmodern donkey (having aban- doned the chase) will never come across”. (Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker (2010) Notes on metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture)

In this regard, if evidence of metamodernism proves that the movement of culture and society is in fact moving within the direction of hurling forward through life where the truth in which we seek always seems to exist just out of reach, then how can we approach the work of design in an effort to compliment or acknowledge this sentiment? What role does design play in a world where we exist to move forward without ever finding what we are looking for. Beyond the discipline of design, we as a designer, must be aware that our own worldview, biases, politics, religions, and beliefs have effected and impacted our work. From the modernist designer to the post-modern designer.

The things we design end up designing us. As much as we wish to think we are creating the future, we have become merely the reflections of our past. We are designing within silos and echoes chambers, unbeknownst to ourselves that we are simply designing in a race to the bottom. Design has commodified itself. The tools we have built, the internet we helped create, the ideas in which we share have become the same artifacts that seek to make us replaceable. However, I believe in a deeper calling and meaning for design. One in which causes us to uncomfortably step aside from our own single mined perception of the world, and seek to view the world from a different angle. Where the validity and invalidity of both modern and post-modern ideals help to form a designer’s perspective about the current world in an effort to recognize, observe and determine how in which we move forward. And that movement exists in a place in which we must also decide to step aside and allow our work to help others see and experience the polarity for themselves. In which they begin to make sense of the world, the movements, their own existence and a sincere and ironic pursuit of truth amidst the global landscape of modern humanity. We must choose to observe the world around us while consciously considering the future of humanity through a lens of design.

“Ontologically, metamodernism oscillates between the modern and the postmodern. It oscillates between a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy, between na ̈ıvete ́ and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity. Indeed, by oscillating to and fro or back and forth, the metamodern negotiates between the modern and the postmodern. One should be careful not to think of this oscillation as a balance however; rather, it is a pendulum swinging between 2, 3, 5, 10, innumerable poles. Each time the metamodern enthusiasm swings toward fanaticism, gravity pulls it back toward irony; the moment its irony sways toward apathy, gravity pulls it back toward enthusiasm.” (Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker (2010) Notes on metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture)

This sensibility has become magnified through the growth of technology, media, narratives and the changing of our everyday lives. We become a local citizen with a global mindset. Swinging and oscillating back and forth to the ever micro moment of you reading this very sentence to thinking about the global pandemics and economic problems throughout the globe. The mind moves beyond the micro and macro and our sensibility, in order for our sanity, is to pick a path of narratives that help us come to grips with this changing world.

Within this though, I believe that the designer of the future must be aware of these movements and consider of different place within society beyond the modern or postmodern ideological narratives. In which, the designer can be self aware enough to remove themselves from the cultural trappings of these grand narratives and to sit back and observe in which the ability to look at solutions for the future exist in understanding the truth of human nature beyond the cultural narratives. To look beyond the topics of conversation and dive below the surface of these movements. The future will be shaped, not through a polarity winning the argument, but through the new emergence of truth and sensibilities rising to the surface. The alternative is a dystopian future straight out of Orwell’s 1984 or Huxely’s Brave New World.

And if the evidence of society reveals itself to be both modern and postmodernism simultaneously, the pendulum in which we swing not only has shown itself to move back and forth between modernism and post-modernism, but the movement becomes more rapid and extreme. From political protests, news cycles, the rapid advancements of technology, economic rise and fall, the exponential increase of artificial intelligence, the cultural shifts of equality, equity and balance in workplaces; we are witnessing the pendulum in realtime. We observe the oscillating narratives in media, news, entertainment, digital platforms, podcasts and social media. The message is clear and when you observe the world through this lens, you begin to see the undercurrent of truth and deception emerge from all forms of the pendulum.

“It is a worldview which combines the modern faith in progress with the postmodern critique. What you get then, is a view of reality in which people are on a long, complex developmental journey towards greater complexity and existential depth. The metamodern philosophy is a whole world of ideas and suppositions that are counter-intuitive to modern and postmodern people alike. But since both the modern and postmodern philosophies are increasingly outdated, these metamodern ideas are set to develop, take hold, and spread. One day, they may become as dominant as the modern philosophy is today.” (Freinacht)

My hope is that the observation of these drastic shifts in culture can be given a name, metamodernism, and to be recognized within the design industry as a path forward. Not only a path for observing where culture is heading, but a path for design to observe the next evolution and iteration within design. As much as we see the shifts from Classical Design, Computational Design, and Design Thinking – my observations of culture has led me to write the second half of this book, in which serves as a call to designers in a way in which we might observe these grand narratives within our cultures, and unhinge ourselves from our own biases to become self-aware in which the role a designer exists in the future sits between both modernism and postmodernism. For sake of the this writing, I will attach the term “metamodernism” moving forward in order to describe this sensibility in which design might operate from.

I envision a new path for design to think beyond the execution of the work. In which our work in design first begins with ourselves and that work becomes the starting point in which the future impact of our work emerges. Beyond the work, we must become conscious and self-aware of our own existence within the oscillating pendulum of Metamodernism, and find a new way to observe both/and in order to build a better future. The second part of this book aims to address these initial ideas and opportunities as a Designer.

I deeply wish that design will encourage us to consider the depths of our own humanity first. In which we go beyond the narratives within culture and seek to truly understand and empathize beyond the current talking points and topics of today. To understand humanity and the human level beyond the intersections of identities.

Overall, I hope for design to help us shape a new path beyond the polarity of the pendulum. Between modern and postmodern  happening in extreme throughout culture. I hope designers will step beyond these polarities and choose a new path – starting with the self, observing and self awareness, and translating the truth uncovered between both/and of modern and postmodern ideologies to create a future grounded in truth.

Evidence of Metamodernism

Today we exist within a world where evidence of both modernism and post-modernism exist. They inform our lives at various touch points and work as polar opposites within the confines of our lives, culture, news, media and entertainment. The existence of both has created greater extremes related to economics, politics, religion, culture and information. We are caught within both trying to make sense of this new grand narrative at an individual  and global scale to understand new meanings related to our own lives and our purpose in a greater globally connected world.

Metamodernism is a termed used to describe a set of ethics and ideology of a world that exists beyond post-modernism. It is the existence of both modernism and post-modernism simultaneously happening. Some have also referred to this as post-postmodernism.

It is the marriage of two worlds: modern and postmodern ideals. Existing as the progress of perspective, metamodernism captures the emotional connection and feeling between mind, body and spirit – but addresses the tension and uncertainty within. Ideas around our soul, humanity and emotional development lean into a feeling that both modernism and post-modernism have yet to fulfill. Culture has explored both at mainstream levels and yet we still have a yearning sense of sadness, loneliness, disconnect from each other. So we ask “what next?”. If modernism or post-modernism are not the answer. Could metamodernism offer new ideas and ways of thinking  that capture the human essence we have long searched for between the drastic pendulum swing of modern to post-modern ideals? Between both lies some form of truth. Being suspended emotionally between both prompts an internal examination of the self at both an individual and global role of our own existence.

Metamodernism takes a less judgmental position between modernism and post-modernism. Where both modern and post-modern ideals are pointing fingers at each other, metamodernism considers a world in which values from both can exist at the same time – and within those values, the individual is left to explore and understand the feelings and sentiment of the self between both.

This requires the development of subtle thinking. Looking within to understand and explore the suspended space of feeling that may often bring tension of uncomfortable uncertainty. It requires the individual to develop a stronger sense of self and stronger sense of internal identification to not be swayed or thrown about amidst the storms of modern or post-modern ideas and narratives. This path becomes the core to the metamodernist.

Examples of metamodernism being introduced exist in the form of meditation in schools, support structures and the relevance of faith during pandemics or uncertainty within a global society.

The political landscape is filled with evidence of metamodernism. Not for the politicians or the policies or parties. But for the constituents who are given varying narratives and half truths born out of a desire to build party loyalty at the expense of giving up our power and allegiance to red team or blue team.

“Every country has a political culture — widely shared beliefs, values, and norms that define the relationship between citizens and government, and citizens to one another. Beliefs about economic life are part of the political culture because politics affects economics. A good understanding of a country’s political culture can help make sense of the way a country’s government is designed, as well as the political decisions its leaders make.” (USHistory.org, “2019”)

The political divide in America has become prominent since the 1990s. The political landscape has been divided through politicians, mainstream media, 24-hour news cycles and pushing policy based on narratives for over two decades.

“By 2017, the divide had significantly shifted towards the two extremes of the consistently liberal/conservative scale. Median Democrat and Republican sentiment also moved further apart, especially for politically engaged Americans.” (Ghosh, “2017”)

Pew Research has tracked the political divide in the United States based on surveys of over 5,000 adults. Tracking public sentiment and political polarization since 1994.

Economy

“Between 60–70% of Democrats and Republicans agree that U.S. involvement in the global economy is positive, because it provides the country with access to new markets. However, they diverge when asked about the fairness of the economic system itself. 50% of Republicans think it is fair to most Americans, but 82% of Democrats think it unfairly favors powerful interests.”(Ghosh, “2017”)

Environment

“When it comes to climate change, both Democrats and Republicans see that there is growing evidence for global warming, but they are not sold on the reasons why. 78% of Democrats see human activity as the cause, while only 24% of Republicans agree.” (Ghosh, “2017”)

Government

“Americans are highly concerned about the U.S. presence on the global stage. Over half (56%) of Democrats think the U.S. should be active in world affairs, while 54% of Republicans think such attention should be focused inward instead of overseas.” (Ghosh, “2017”)

Society

“There’s still a wide partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans on their ideas of government aid (51 p.p. gap), racial equality (45 p.p. gap), immigration (42 p.p. gap), and homosexuality (29 p.p. gap).” (Ghosh, “2017”)

Individuals

“Not only this, but partisan animosity is on the rise—81% of Republicans and Democrats find those belonging to the other party equally unfavorable. In fact, both parties have seen a 28 p.p. increase in ‘very unfavorable’ views of people in the other party, compared to 1994.” (Ghosh, “2017”)

(For an in-depth review of research related to political polarization, visit https://www.pewresearch.org/topics/political-polarization/)

The political landscape in the United States creates a trickle effect within politics, religions, economics and culture where this divide exists in a growing polarity of extremes that is impacting local communities, state governments and the entire country in relation to the rest of the world as we progress more towards globalization and a global economy.

“It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent, rural vs. urban, white men against the world. Climate doubters clash with believers. Bathrooms have become battlefields, borders are battle lines. Sex and race, faith and ethnicity … the melting pot seems to be boiling over.” (Associated Press, “2020”)

Initially coined “The term metamodernist appeared as early as 1975, when Mas’ud Zavarzadeh isolatedly used it to describe a cluster of aesthetics or attitudes which had been emerging in American literary narratives since the mid-1950s.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

Nothing is everything. Everything is nothing.

Metamodernism has emerged out of the complicated constructs of society. We have built hierarchies and civilizations for the betterment of man to create the current world which has allowed us to evaluate, dismantle, observe and critique our current existence and roles within the world. The idea of metamodernism is a result of the intentional and unintentional design of culture and humanity throughout human history. And so we step into a future of confusion and uncertainty defined by the polarizing truths we seek to understand about ourself and our role within the world.

Metamodernsim exists as the polarizing uncertainty we feel from the current constructs of the modern world. And we must somehow grapple this understanding and make sense of it for our future. Metamodernism was unintentionally designed from the ripple effect of humanity building hierarchies and constructs upon itself to bring us to current day.

The idea of this term relates to an internal feeling within individuals because of the oscillation between sincerity and irony.

“Metamodernism, as we see it, is neither a residual nor an emergent structure of feeling, but the dominant cultural logic of contemporary modernity. As we hope to show in this webzine, the metamodern structure of feeling can be grasped as a generational attempt to surpass postmodernism and a general response to our present, crisis-ridden moment. Any one structure of feeling is expressed by a wide variety of cultural practices and a whole range of aesthetic sensibilities. These practices and sensibilities are shaped by (and are shaping) social circumstances, as much as they are formed in reaction to previous generations and in anticipation of possible futures. We contend that the contemporary structure of feeling evokes a continuous oscillation between (i.e. meta-) seemingly modern strategies and ostensibly postmodern tactics, as well as a series of practices and sensibilities ultimately beyond (i.e. meta-) these worn out categories.” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

We must choose to understand the nuance along with the global implications of this new feeling and work within the framework of current day to create deeper meaning. However much we view this current state as a problem or challenge, the designer perspective should choose see this as an opportunity to deeply connect to the human condition on a global scale. With understanding and alignment of our intentions, we can create a more meaningful world though the lens of metamodernism.    

“In 1995, Canadian literary theorist Linda Hutcheon stated that a new label for what was coming after postmodernism was necessary.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

As cultural trends and history moves progresses, we recognize patterns by looking backwards within society. What once was on the fringe, the underground, the sub culture, becomes the status quo until it dissipates into the next version of itself. In postmodernism we have seen this happen with the 1960’s hippie movement, the disco era of the 1970’s, the cocaine induced 1980’s and the grunge of the 1990’s.

For the past 20 years, the internet has allowed short lived nostalgia to relive itself in various factions. This has now emerged as postmodern ideals existing as the status quo. From film, television, music, fashion and art – anyone who has paid attention to the past 50 years of original work within postmodernism can see the remixed attempt of work that exists within pop culture.

Postmodernism is the status quo.

The effects are evident. The style popular of today is a remix of postmodern sub cultures from decades ago. The film approach, topics and stories are reimagined versions of indie films from the early 2000’s. The art is a digital remix of nostalgic induced work that calls for the remembrance of a time when print and ink ruled our storefronts. Music is a rehash of bands and artists who sat on the edge of the music industry never getting their big break, but now we see major artists remixing and capitalizing their time, style and angst from underground and unknown artists from yesteryear. The evidence of postmodernism influencing mainstream culture is everywhere.

The 1960s brought on a new set of values, ideals and emerging of postmodernism as evidenced through art, culture, music and industry. Broad examples can point to Andy Warhol for his disruption and commentary on commercialism, Jackson Pollock for creating the rise of the art market through abstract work, Woodstock music festival for advocating freedom and liberation.

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos, Steve Wozniak, and Larry Page all built their companies through a lens of growing up and embracing postmodern ideologies. Through the 1960’s hippie movements, the use a psychedelic drugs, eastern philosophy, and a desire to be a rebel within their respective industries. These men built new ways to innovate and create beyond the institutions they were competing against. Many people doubted them or didn’t see their vision, but they pursued through a belief formed by a postmodern ideology. And this mindset has rippled throughout Silicon Valley, forming a culture of those who aspire to be the next Jobs, Gates or Sarandos. Experimenting in ideologies, micro-dosing mushrooms and psychedelics, communal retreats, and exploring various ideas that shaped and formed the worldview of these leaders.

MTV killed the radio star. And when it hit the airwaves, it completely disrupted an industry while simulatanesouly having an incredible impact on culture. The introduction of visual postmodernism was brought into households 24-hours a day.

The Beetles influenced and changed the landscape of culture at the beginning of the postmodern era.

Elvis changed the face of culture, music and rock n roll during a time when sexuality, masculinity, and self-expression where taboo.

Bob Dylan pushed his story driven music with political undertones giving way to the post-modernist movements.

Kurt Cobain became the poster-child for 90’s grunge. A movement pushing postmodernism into the mainstream in the mid 1990’s with a flurry of bands and artists from Sup Pop Records, Seattle WA. The hair metal hype was over and a new breed of apathetic angst driven music emerged a new genre that became a mainstream success.

Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Temple of the Dog emerged from this genre. In addition, we see the rise of shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Failure, Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive, Swervedriver, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Staryflyer 59, Radiohead, The Verve, Lush all emerge as a cultural narrative against the modernist movements.

Notable metamodern works and artists from the past decade 2010-2020

  • Shia Lebouf, Wes Anderson, @Madebyjimbob, Honey Boy, Fleabag (Television), Postmodern musical influences as mainstream, Post Malone, Billie Ellish, Kanye West’s “Jesus is King” album, Childish Gambino, and writings of David Foster Wallace.

Cultural moments that build metamodern sensibility

  • Occupy Wall Street, Black lives matter, Tea Party Movement, Antifa, COVID-19 U.S. Protests, Alt-right protests, Black Lives Matter Protests, Hong Kong Protests, COVID-19 Pandemic and lockdowns, CHAZ (Seattle, WA), Trump administration press briefings, Covid quarantine and lockdown,, Essential business “marijuana stores open”, Essential business “closing church”

Technological tools informing metamodern sensibility 

  • Contact tracing, Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics, Economics, Digital currency, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, Digital workplace, Video conference calls and meetings.

Metamodern ideas (Freinacht, 2017):

  • How can we reap the best parts of the other two?
  • Can we create better processes for personal development?
  • Can we recreate the processes by which society is governed, locally and globally?
  • Can the inner dimensions of life gain a more central role in society?
  • How can modern, postmodern and premodern people live together productively?
  • How can politics be adjusted to an increasingly complex world?
  • What is the unique role of humanity in the ecosystems of nature?

Source: Freinacht, “2017”

The intention behind the work creates a sense of tension and unexplored feeling with the audience. Metamodernism exists as a way to define a feeling. A place between modernism and postmodernism. Where both exist at the same time. What once was a sense of “Either / Or”. We exist in a place in time that no matter what side of history you decide to exist, there is a bombardment of messaging, narrative, ideas and discussions coming at you from the other viewpoint.

So we swim through these thoughts and feelings.

Grasping onto the postmodernist view or abhorrently defying it.

And vice versa.  

The feeling exists as internal unsettling emotions. We are not sure what to do with this, yet we can’t escape. We live within a world where modernism exists as the structures, institutions and frameworks of our world, but we also seek to disrupt, adopt or engage in new forms of ideas or platforms for the convenience of a better life. This unsettling feeling manifests itself across political, economic, religious, cultural and global paradigms.

As those who doubted the value of the internet now use their iPhones on a daily basis. As those who stayed away from buying items online now rely on Amazon for getting their consumer goods. As those who protested the abominations of uncensored music, are now subjected to dialogue and topics far more crass in a single television show. We exist in a world where both modernism has created the structure and frameworks of society and we are using these structures to build upon it cultural ideals of disruption.

“In 2002, Andre Furlani, analyzing the literary works of Guy Davenport, defined metamodernism as an aesthetic that is “afteryet by means of modernism…. a departure as well as a perpetuation.The relationship between metamodernism and modernism was seen as going “far beyond homage, toward a reengagement with modernist method in order to address subject matter well outside the range or interest of the modernists themselves.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

And so the pendulum continues to swing back and forth in culture. And we make an individual decision to choose a side, a narrative, a feeling between two choices. One rooted in the modernist way of thinking or the other rooted in the revolutionist postmodern way. And we create tribes and communities through these choices. We join together and adopt of hive-mind for hope of belonging and for fear of being ostracized. And these tribes continue to exist at greater polarities from each other. The extreme right, the extreme left. The traditional institutions or the desire for a new type of product or service. Back and forth.

“In 2007, Alexandra Dumitrescu described metamodernism as partly a concurrence with, partly an emergence from, and partly a reaction to, postmodernism, “champion[ing] the idea that only in their interconnection and continuous revision lie the possibility of grasping the nature of contemporary cultural and literary phenomena.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

But somewhere between the oscillation of these polar opposites, exists the idea of “both-and” – not “either/or”. You must suspend your initial thoughts and bias for a moment beyond what you currently believe about the world through religion, politics, economic, culture and society. Beyond your moral view of right and wrong (or even if you don’t believe in right and wrong – this is still a choice) – or even if you don’t believe that we have a choice but exist within a determinist world. Suspend these ideas you have about yourself and world. Sit within the space between your own beliefs and the beliefs of those who have the polar opposite beyond your own individual views of the world. Beyond right and wrong. Your beliefs may exist at one end of the polarity formed by the external influence, ideology, environmental, cultural and political…well, brainwashing… that you are subjected to – whether you are aware of it or it. Think beyond that for a moment. And evaluate where the pendulum of your belief might swing in the opposite direction. Examine this. Metamodernism is the idea that between both of those ends of the pendulum of feeling, beliefs and ideas there exists truth – or this is how I interpret the idea. Between our extreme polarity, truth exists within suspended space of our feelings and perception of the world. You may not believe that truth is absolute – whereas, the opposing end of that belief is the idea that there is absolute truth. And somewhere within your feeling exist the truth.

Fact/Feeling Both/And

If we choose our feelings over facts, we discredit the very structure of feeling. Whereas, feeling should be informed by facts. If we lead our assumptions about life and the world through a lens of feeling, we disregard reality. Metamodernism seeks to make sense of our feelings by applying structure to the feelings we experience in this polarity of culture.

Our feelings are swayed back and forth, and to grasp any kind of sense within chaos. So we have individuals who are led to inform their worldview through a sense of feelings within right and wrong, compassion and empathy but informed by desire to harness the internal chaos they emotionally experience from the external world of politics, religion, economics, globalization and technology. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who inform their entire worldview through facts alone and discount the sense that feeling or empathy as a result of those facts, or informed by the facts are not something to take into account.

What I am proposing here is that both fact and feeling can exist simultaneously and that truth may lie within the existence of both. However, the hinge of an individual existence on feeling or fact alone may be a dangerous path that results in Marxism, Authoritarianism or Totalitarianism ideas to an extreme. It is not to say that the intention of those who speak truth through either narrative desire these outcomes, but that those who choose a side of the pendulum for interpretation may not be equipped to make sense of the message and choose to exist within the extreme. Politically speaking, we can see this example through far left protests and Antifa movements to the Alt-Right movements in support of Trump. The facts, or lack of facts, inform the feeling and the over abundance of feeling dismiss the desire for facts.

We have created extreme polarities.

“In 2010, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker proposed metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate In their essay Notes on Metamodernism, they asserted that the 2000s were characterized by the return of typically modern positions that did not forfeit the postmodern mindsets of the 1980s and 1990s, resembling a “neo-romanticism” represented especially in the work of young visual artists. According to them, the metamodern sensibility “can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism”, characteristic of cultural responses to recent global events such as climate change, the financial crisis, political instability, and the digital revolution. They asserted that “the postmodern culture of relativism, irony, and pastiche” is over, having been replaced by a post-ideological condition that stresses engagement, affect, and storytelling.” (“Metamodernism”, 2020)

Metamodernism creates an emotional framework in which we can understand the future of ourselves and the future of humanity. A progression beyond the postmodern and a reimagining of modernism to exist where both are valid with each other. Within this sense of polarity, the emotional state of humanity will oscillate between sincerity and irony.

The cultural paradigms that have driven pop culture for the past 60 years will now be recognized as existing at once. And this is where we are headed. We are at the precipice of this feeling, yet this idea is not yet mainstream. It is moreso at the phase of when Nirvana was playing music in a garage before anyone knew who they were, or when Steve Jobs and Wozniak were building home computers before Apple, or when everyone thought Bezos was crazy for selling books on the internet. Metamodernism is murmuring through those garages and discussions online, but it is not yet mainstream.

However, this is important to recognize and understand from a design perspective because we must have an ability to think, create, imagine and build beyond our own perceptions and inform the decisions within our work through a perception of others as we design solutions for larger impact. As we move forward into a more globalized world economy and culture, the impact of our work becomes much more important. If we desire to have a seat at the leadership table, to contribute in meaningful ways, and design better solutions to the challenges we face that have created from either a modernist or postmodernist framework – we absolutely must look at the future where both modern and postmodern ideology exist and form some new path and approach for design. It is no longer relevant or sustainable to choose an approach of design built out of a modernist hierarchical form of work or a postmodernist form of work.

Design is about understanding humans. Without understanding humanity or culture, design inherently falls apart. Design is creating solutions for humanity at various degrees to forge ahead, build new solutions, and create a better world.

Steve Jobs understood this.

He had a clear understanding of the world, humanity and what people needed – beyond what they realized they needed. His fervent and adamant decisions about how the products of Apple should look and feel was deeply embedded within his own opinions, and those opinions were formed by his understanding of humanity.

Those who try to emulate Jobs without having a perspective of humanity will fail. I believe this to be true with all great leaders who have innovated and moved us forward in our lifetime. The “what” and “how” is not what is to be replicated, but to understand their “why” and how this belief informs their drive to create through a deep understanding and perceptive of humanity beyond themselves.

I believe men like Gates, Musk, Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller and Jobs all understood this about themselves and the calling to move civilization forward. In essence, today we are witnessing those who have a desire to be the “Hero” like these icons by way of imitation. The engineers of Silicon Valley are not revolutionists, the startup founders creating social media apps for segments of our population by way of identity are not innovators, the disruptors of culture by way of art, music or fashion are reusing styles and mediums informed by sub-cultures from three decades ago.

The courage to innovate and move forward into the future is not built on the pursuit of riding the coattails of being the next startup founder, IPO-ing another mobile app or disrupting an industry. This is not innovation.

Those who choose to innovate and create industries that did not exist a few decades ago did so without the help of investors, backers, a full stack development team, speaking on panels, and the unending rounds of “networking” so evident in the innovation spaces we see today. These innovators built ideas from nothing with little-to-no-funding driven by a vision and a belief that informed their drive to create deeper than a desire to be significant, or relevant, or the “Hero” of humanity’s story. They sought to design and create a better world. Our society has become informed by the vision’s of those innovators. And the pursuit of trying to create the next Twitter-esque-Facebook-style-social-media-app-mixed-with-some-other-form-of-bullshit is not the path of innovation – and those who pursue these ideas are nothing more than snake oil salesman. They are not innovators.

I implore a new call to action. To look at the world from a different perspective and consider the future landscape existing between both modern and postmodernism. To unpack and understand where you personally exist within that paradigm and use that understanding to define, imagine, create and innovate new forms of ideas for society well beyond the current structure built through either a modernist or post-modernist perspective. Not to discredit either the great minds of modernism or post-modernism – but to step back and look at the path we are heading towards, and see a new opportunity to design a future built upon different understandings and places to consider where new innovations for humanity can exist. To utilize the current structure, connectivity, and globalization of our world to build something outside of the narratives we are currently trapped within. To liberate humanity at the individual level. To give people hope by designing new ideas where they can discover their own truth and belief about their own existence. To define and make sense of their own meaning and purpose. Beyond the current structure of our work building into the sincerity or irony of it all.

I believe the next place of innovation is the understanding of human thought and emotion at a global level. Capturing the needs, desires, fears and drive of humans and using this information to inform the next version of humanity. The polarity in which we exist today is divisive in nature. It does nothing to further our progress, but only creates continued wedges between a far left and far right ideology rooted in either modern and postmodern foundations. I believe that the future will shift to understand that their is value in both a modernist approach to the progress of man and the hierarchy of systems combined with the irony rooted within postmodern ideals. Where both exist. Until the understanding of this feeling is actualized at a mainstream level, we will continue to choose either/or and spin in our various circles of identity and decision to be one or the other.

The alternative is that we, as designers, look at our world, consider the future and make a decision about the space between both modern and postmodern. Where we can choose to find the space between the polarity of the pendulum, where truth resides. And this can inform our approach to our work, to build from this foundation, and to seek to design a new world beyond the extremity of emotions from either modern sincerity or post-modern irony – and choose to intentionally create from the metamodern place of both-and.

Creating from this Metamodern place allows the designer to truly design for humans.

Design is a pursuit of creating a better world. As the tensions and oscillation between economics, global crises, pandemics, disease, political movements, policies, war, religion, and culture; we become more interconnected than ever before. Yet the chaos and confusion within the individual existing in a global environment brings an intensity of understanding the self to a place where humanity has never experienced before.

If we seek to design a better world and create better solutions, we must have a perspective about the state of humanity that far exceeds the micro-details of each design element within our work. We should exist within the tiniest of details and the global impact our work has for future generations. 

Design is solving challenges. Metamodernism presents emotional challenges, but within this I believe there is a new emergence of design and an approach that creates a profound opportunity. To design new and emerging ideas where we intentionally embrace both modernism and postmodernism within our work to allow for the audience to exist between both. Therefore allowing the audience to discover meaning and truth within themselves through our design efforts.

Modernism was intentionally designed. The frameworks and structures that built civilization was an effort of design through business, architecture, industrialization and the rise of mankind.

Post modernism is also designed. The rebellion against the modernist, the disruption of the status quo, the angst against the injustices of the world are all facets of postmodernism that are intentionally created as a form of disruption.

Both of these sensibilities have been designed and created within culture by humans.

If we aspire to heal the world through design and solve challenges at global levels. We must recognize that since postmodernism is the status quo, it will not be for much longer – and the next step within the current framework of the world is where both modern and postmodern sensibilities exist simultaneously.

As a designer, we should not hinge ourselves within one ideology or the other.

We must not be a modernist designer or a postmodernist designer.

The cultural and political aspects of these ideologies have bombarded the design and tech industries. And the continuation of the path is going to lead to irrelevance or at worst, self destruction.

We must evolve as designers and throw away the idea of subscribing to a ideology. The only way we can design for the future where both paradigms exist, is to recognize the polarity of metamodernism within the individual self before we can aspire to solve challenges for the world through design.    

This book outlines my thoughts about how the future designer should approach their work, their well-being and venture into preparation for the next iteration of what a designer is going to represent for the world.

The importance of understanding cultural shifts through a design lens.

We must be more aware of the world and our place in the world if we seek to design for the future.

We must adapt and evolve in our practice of design to become leaders in culture and business.

We need to see beyond the client-service relationship and understand that the intentions of our design efforts inform the type of world we have created, and also the type of world we can nurture in the future.

Who we are as an individual within the construct of a growing connected global world becomes important as our work becomes informed by both modern and postmodern ideals.

If we choose stay within one side our work will be ineffective and irrelevant.

We see this today where startups and creators are trying to make new ideas, platforms or services that are remixes of what already exists. This is not creativity. This is postmodern ideology influencing an approach that lacks vision or innovation. The next version of innovation will exist in creating platforms and services where the audience experiences an intentional effort of both modern and postmodern approaches without the baggage of political or cultural influence. Tto then discover meaning within themselves to awaken and understand truth.

Designing a better world through a metamodern lens means designing a better experience beyond political influence, profit driven efforts, lifestyle brands, capitalism disguised in greenwashing or embedded narratives within entertainment. We must consider new ways to create a human experience that allows the space between the modern and postmodern to be designed. In order to do this, we must first look at ourselves as designers. We must understand our own intentions and identify that feeling between modernism and postmodernism before we can consider designing the future.

The approach of design through a metamodern lens is not to embrace “both-and” and decide for our audience how they should feel and interpret our work, but to balance our work with “both-and” so that our audience can emotionally exist between the polarity of sincerity and irony to feel a sense of tension and decide for themselves what truth lies within the oscillation of our work, and in turn develop a sense of truth about the world.

Therefore, I believe that the future of design is built upon a new approach of the individual designer in order to approach our work differently. My efforts here are to outline this approach through not only our work, but through the development of a new lens of design in which we can observe both the modern and postmodern ideals that simultaneously exists within the world. And in turn, our job is to not decide through our work, but to present an evolved approach of our work in order to help humanity understand themselves at the individual level, beyond the decision to choose between the opposing sides of the pendulum of culture. To allow our audience a new solution which exists between “both-and” to choose and decipher truth for themselves, beyond the existing narrative – to design for a grand narrative.

Continuing the current path of design has consequences

The alternative to continuing this path we are on places design within the oscillating pendulum of society. If we choose to continue to exist at the current pace of design and the design industry, we will face a continued path of diminishing relevance and lack of leadership within larger design challenges.

We must practice new concepts within our work and seek to look at the whole of society and culture beyond our own perceptions. Our beliefs about the world through the lens of tradition or disruption should be challenged to where we can see both sides to inform a new approach of finding “both-and” within our work. The continuation of false narratives perpetuate the information of cultural narratives and design exists as a tool to continue this narrative. We are a commodity to a greater narrative of falsehoods from both perspectives of society – both embedded with ulterior motives, hidden agendas and a pursuit for ultimate power and control. And yet, design exists as a tool to promote the individual self for meaning and purpose applied to a greater good that is ultimately driven by narratives which may or may not be true.

We must seek to approach our work differently as to think beyond choosing a side, or fighting against the opposition, but to use design to build a better future through our decisions out of a new perspective for our work. Beyond the mindset of “either/or” and encased in an ideal of “both-and”. If we seek truth within our work, and purpose within our decisions, we must step back, look at our own individual views and seek to exist within “both-and” to build new and innovative solutions moving forward. If not, we will continue toward a path of chaos where we oscillate every few years between market changes, corporate earnings, political elections and the 24-hour news cycle of being victim to our own creations.

The design of society is set between the chaos and we have built a landscape of confusion and misinformation only to swing the pendulum back and forth hoping that some sort of truth will come out of the emotional battle – but this pendulum swing will continue to grow wider and wider. We will see a growing sense of depression, mental health and suicidal rates increase. Because humanity was not meant to fall victim to a chaotic narrative and disorder, but to define meaning and purpose for the individual self.

I believe it is the job of designer’s to bear this burden with great concern and reconcile with the individual responsibility that we have in our work and it’s ripple-effect and impact we choose to put into the world. There is no peace within the continued battle for right and wrong in our current cultural approach. The back and forth rebuttals are fighting for relevancy at the expense of designing human narratives at polar extremes. We must step back and re-evaluate this on the individual, cultural and global landscape if design will be a tool for good in the future. If we choose to ignore this path and pattern, we could be contributing to civilizations greatest depression, ourselves. And we bear the responsibility of placing us on that path, but we also can choose to take a new approach for a brighter future.

Modernism builds.

Post modernism deconstructs.

Metamodernism reconstructs.

Where others mistake defining metamodernism is the outcome of examples, I view metamodernism as the intention that drives the outcome. Simply pointing to the example as embracing “both-and” while dismissing examples where the intention and outcome are both-and is where I differ on other opinions of metamodernism.

My definition of examining not only the outcome and intent, my exploration of “both-and” from and internal and external lens of metamodernism has led me through a personal path of reconstruction where intention, truth, faith and ideologies have shifted.

For example, my personal journey of metamodernism has embraced outcomes and ideas that may be right leaning in modern stereotypical archetypes and tropes, but the feeling about them derived from a “both-and” internal framework of exploration . Through my journey, conservative foundations such as truth, faith, a higher purpose, God, hunting for my own food, importance of family and hard work exist as values along with the part of myself that values disruption, rebellion (of pop culture mainstream media), mindfulness, consciousness, science, reason and questioning the status quo. Both exist and hold value within my understanding of the world. Metamodernism is not a tool to secretly leverage a leftist ideology. Nor is it a tool to dismantle a traditional conservative ideology. It is the expansive examination of both ancient truth born from centuries of the human story and the unknown future in which we must create, imagine and progress towards.

My explorations in these writings examine a future of design related to the ancient truths of our human story combined with a vision of an evolved framework in which we could approach design. And it encompasses a view in which the ideals of design apply not only to those who wear a title of design or creative within the present world, but a call that this design thinking can be valued among conscious leaders, visionaries and builders of our future across all disciplines.

If design is everything and everything is design, then all humans embody design and are designers.

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