Strongly Emergent

What comes from combining humans, computers, and narrative

Kipple Piling Up

Philip K. Dick has contributed tremendously to the world around us, despite being dead for decades. Media inspired by Dick’s works has far-flung influence, has soaked into our discourse. Right now I want to talk about a concept through the lens of a term that Dick came up with: Kipple.

Kipple is junk, stuff, crap - but it’s the kind of crap that presses your “wait, I might need this someday!” button, that’s just barely worth keeping, that’s not quite crappy enough to pitch immediately. Kipple piles up, accumulates, metastasizes. I say that the main form of kipple nowadays is advertising. It is everywhere, and it is not adding value, really. It is more noise, in a world already plenty noisy enough. You can see it in the tendency to plaster logos everywhere especially. It is a pathological expression of corporate insecurity, trying to make up for a desperate gnawing sensation that your product isn’t actually useful or meaningful to people’s lives. People make a good living producing kipple to soothe this corporate anxiety.

I can’t stand it.

It probably won’t shock you to learn that I’m the kind of person who carefully regulates their media diet. One component that I welcome into my media diet is Seth Godin. I tend to read Seth Godin intensively for a week once every couple of months. This time, I found a concept that points to the harm of kipple - he posits, essentially, that kipple is a bioaccumulative toxin.

Clutter trains our brains to disregard things - and it’s hard to undo that training. Every attempt to break through the kipple becomes, in the end, more kipple. The attempts become sad after a while, too.

In Merchants of Cool and The Persuaders, television programs that are essential for understanding television, we can see this process at work in its horrifying fullness. The corporations and people generally responsible for clutter and kipple have produced a self-reinforcing process. All the attempts to buy cool, purchase credibility, and make authenticity into a commodity, are self-defeating. Just as Godin points out, it’s all noise - and it all makes it harder to pay attention to things that matter.

Do us all a favor and make your next project not generate kipple (or alternatively, investigate forms of offsetting your kipple).