This paper will discuss the selection of a single cultural artifact that I believe best represents the culture in which we live today. It will provide a detailed description of the artifact, analyzing in detail how the artifact relates to the values and beliefs of our culture. It will investigate and evaluate the deep cultural roots of the artifact. It will identify the historical roots that allowed this artifact to come into being. It will identify the cultural periods that may have influenced the overall development of this artifact as we see it today. It will explain how I anticipate this artifact being passed to future generations, and it will identify the different possible evolutions that this artifact might undergo as the culture changes.
Keywords: representation, culture, cultural artifact, description, values, beliefs, roots, cultural periods, future generations, evolutions

During the course of many different societies and cultures, there is often a single artifact that may be selected for the purposes of describing the culture as a whole for that time period. The 1960s had the Beatles, the 1980s had Michael Jackson, the 1920s had Ernest Hemmingway, and the 1990s had dial up. There are many different items that a person thinks of when they think of the 2010s, but perhaps one of the most accurate artifacts of today’s day and age is one that will not necessarily be first apparent, though after an explanation of the reasons for the choice, it will become clear as to the reasons this artifact has been chosen, and the reasons that the artifact is the most fitting for representation of our culture.

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The Artifact I Have Chosen that Best Represents the Culture I Live in Today
The artifact I have chosen that best works to represent the culture in which I live today is Fifty Shades of Grey; this particular book by E.L. James works to describe all that is wrong with society today, and how far society today has fallen from quality works. This artifact works to explain why nothing being created today is of any value, serves to show how a flight of fancy carries more weight with the total populace than something of substance, and indicates how deeply the quality of our society has gone down the drain. Furthermore, it goes to show exactly how much our society today seems to hate anything original; it shows how “crass, sycophantic, celebrity-obsessed, naïve, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal, (and) anti-original” our society today has become (Morrison, 2012).

A Description and Analysis of How Fifty Shades of Grey Relates to the Values and Beliefs of My Culture
Fifty Shades of Grey has been described as both “mommy porn” and “Twilight for grown-ups,” an ironic turn of events considering the fact that this book started out as a badly written fanfic, or fan fiction, of the world of Twilight (Bosman, 2012; Morrison, 2012). This poorly written knock off of a book that wasn’t much better in quality (but was at least properly edited for spelling and grammar) sold more than ten million copies by 2012 alone, a number which is sure to be greater with the coming release of the movies based on the books (Eakin, 2012).

The Cultural Roots of Fifty Shades of Grey
It is clear that the popularity of this book has less to do with quality, “talent, content, or luck” than it does with the desire of the public to read fan fiction, works based on favorite characters written by others in an attempt to continue the world from which they originate (Eakin, 2012).

The Historical Roots that Allowed Fifty Shades of Grey to Come into Being
Fan fiction prior to the rise in popularity of this particular work, was “a genre that operate(d) outside the bounds of literary commerce, in online networks of enthusiasts of popular books and movies, brought together by a desire to write and read stories inspired by those works” (Eakin, 2012).

The Cultural Periods that May Have Influenced the Development of Fifty Shades of Grey
The origins of fan fiction stem from the science fiction magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, though links to fan fiction and the origins thereof have come from both oral and mythical traditions (Thomas, 2011). It was not, however, until the advent of digital technologies and the internet that fan fiction truly became popular (Thomas, 2011), giving voice to any and all, regardless of ability, allowing them to write about the characters in their favorite universes.

How Fifty Shades of Grey will be Passed on to Future Generations
Fifty Shades of Grey will be passed on to future generations via the internet, old used bookstores, if physical books continue to exist, and through the poor choices of Amazon to turn fan fiction into a marketable, commercialized genre, in spite of the many issues of copyright infringement that such a change may spark (Rothman, 2013).

The Evolution Fifty Shades of Grey May Undergo as Culture Changes
It may be hoped that Fifty Shades of Grey will fall into obscurity as culture changes, calling for a return to the production of quality works, though with the creation of Kindle Worlds, a place for individuals to sell their fan fiction (Amazon, 2013), it is highly unlikely that such an event may occur. It is far more likely that such a cultural travesty will continue to live on the internet, and through Netflix as it is being turned into a movie, allowing future generations to point back across the ages and laugh that any person could ever quantify this so called book as something worth reading.

There are many different artifacts that a person could select as being representative of the times, calling for various pieces of technology, singers, or movies as that which serves to best embody the culture of today, but the fact of the matter is that today’s culture is perhaps the shallowest that it has ever been. It is for this reason that the only thing that may be considered representative of the times is an artifact as shallow as the culture that has had the misfortune to embrace it.

  • Amazon. (2013). What is kindle worlds?. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001197421 [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014].
  • Bosman, J. (2012). Discreetly digital, erotic novel sets American women abuzz. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/business/media/an-erotic-novel-50-shades-of-grey-goes-viral-with-women.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014].
  • Eakin, E. (2012). Grey area: how ‘fifty shades’ dominated the market. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jul/27/seduction-and-betrayal-twilight-fifty-shades/ [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014].
  • Morrison, E. (2012). In the beginning, there was fan fiction: from the four gospels to fifty shades. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/aug/13/fan-fiction-fifty-shades-grey [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014].
  • Rothman, L. (2013). Amazon gets into fandom, but will fans be convinced to cash out?. [online] Retrieved from: http://entertainment.time.com/2013/06/27/amazon-steps-into-the-cloistered-world-of-super-fandom/ [Accessed: 31 Jan 2014].
  • Thomas, B. (2011). What is fanfiction and why are people saying such nice things about it?. Storyworlds: A Journal Of Narrative Studies, 3 (1), pp. 1–24.