The volcanic theory of culture is based on the “admittedly Jungian” idea that artworks and pop culture artefacts, as well as icons and styles, erupt at the surface of consciousness when the “crust of reality” is too weak to support the status quo. Reality is indeed a form of consensus supported not only by the goodwill and the language of the communities that share it, but also framed and maintained by the principal media of communication used by that culture. Art, on the other hand, is a product of collective unconsciousness, even if it takes the channel of a single conscious creator. The first question then is why does the socalled “crust of reality” become weak? Because, fundamentally, the consensus surrounding and defining reality is technology-dependent and changes every time new technologies invade it. A worldview based on print is challenged and weakened by the appearance of television, just as a worldview based on broadcast television is deeply threatened by computer networks. Art erupts when a new technology challenges the status quo, also known as the State, or the state of things now.
This exploration will address three complementary realms, the structure of volcanic behavior, that of cultural behavior, and that of technological behavior. Technology changes the structure of culture well before it appears in the consciousness of the majority. It is important to learn about it quickly. The longer a society waits to find out about what is changing it, the more fragile and ready for war it becomes. A new tectonics of consciousness is being sought, that includes art and pop culture not as epiphenomena, but as essential correlates of a technological society. You can do without art in low-tech societies, but you surely need it for high-tech environment,
if only to accelerate the adaptation of consciousness to each new major technological innovation. Failing art and pop culture, there is always war which accomplishes the same structural change, but at much greater costs.
- Derrick de Kerckhove Director of the McLuhan Centre at Toronto University; author of several books