Virtual Culture?

The Greater Orlando area is rich in suburbia. And what would a real suburb be without innumerable Red Lobsters and Cracker Barrels? All of those themed restaurant experiences are economically beautiful mass-market simulacra of (mostly) obsolete institutions and cultural styles.
Just to be clear: I don’t believe in the concept of “authenticity”. So this isn’t crying about losing “history” or whatever.

An example:
I’m especially in love with Olive Garden, the virtual restaurant reality of Northwestern Italy.

olivegardeninst.jpg

On their menu, they feature a portrait of Olive Garden’s “Culinary Institute” in Tuscany. And they explain on their homepage that every year “approximately 100 Olive Garden managers travel to Italy to enhance their culinary skills as part of an ongoing training program designed to bring the genuine Italian dining experience alive for managers and, upon their return, to their restaurant teams and guests.”
That’s quite a useless carbon footprint, because in the ongoing battle of “authentic culture” vs. “demographic market surveys”, the latter most definitely wins, because people don’t want to dine in “Italy”, they want to dine in what they believe is Italy, they want to dine in a “feeling”. And that most definitely shapes the next generation of cultural simulacra.
An endless copy paste loop which does not lack — I have to admit — a certain peculiar beauty…

2 Comments so far

  1. Ryan Price (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2008 @ 4:22 am

    Hooray, Johannes!

    So great talking to you and hearing a cultural reason to like Darden Restaurants – they are from Orlando, you know?


  2. johannes (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    Yes, Ryan! It was a really nice evening yesterday!

    Darden Restaurants are from Orlando? Really… wow!



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