IN THE SMALL PATAGONIAN TOWN of El Bolsón, there are these young crews all riding downhill bikes. When I first moved there I couldn’t figure it out. They were everywhere, wheelie-dropping off ledges in the Plaza Pagano, bombing down the local mountain, Piltriquitrón.
While the sport fit the terrain perfectly, it was puzzling how it got there and had become, evidently, a widespread part of the youth culture.
Then I met Shea Jordan, an American whose family had moved to Patagonia in the early ’90s. A few years back, Shea had brought the first downhill bikes to Bolsón from the US. He eventually became downhill champion in Argentina. His friends also became expert riders, and in the five years that followed (and through the local bike shops in town) an entire downhill subculture had developed.
This is how culture mixes. It’s driven by the youth. It’s happens out in the streets or up in the mountains, or at the local surf break. It develops in dance halls, kitchens, makeshift recording studios. It’s pollinated by artists, musicians, athletes, cooks, designers, and travelers. It takes shape within the local terrain, environment, language.
As with the bike, certain inventions have been helped cultures take root in different places.
The following list includes both “artifacts” that are brought from one place to another such as bikes, as well as the devices / technology that have literally enabled the mashing up or collage-making of different cultural expressions. In general, I’ve looked for “culture” as what’s accessible to everyday people. I like what you can find people doing, listening to, playing at ground level as opposed to hidden away in museums.
What other inventions have helped create global culture in this way?