Yeah It’s Hot, But Very Little Sustenance Consuming The Roiling Steam Of Culture

Seth Godin made a post today that advocates for the value of the journey over the destination:

TL;DR is defensive. Not simply because it defends our time, but because it defends us from change and from lived experience. A joke isn’t funny because it has a punchline. It’s funny because something happens to us as the joke unfolds, and the punch line is simply a punctuation of that experience.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana,” isn’t funny by itself.

Godin cites an article by Ted Gioia that I saw about a couple months ago in which Gioia uses the term “Dopamine Culture” to argue that people want to experience the hit rather than the journey.

In a chart from Gioia’s piece Godin includes in his post, Gioia charts the trend away from participating in an activity to spectating to essentially just consuming the short tail end of an experience.

Among Gioia’s examples which go from Slow Traditional Culture> Fast Modern Culture> Dopamine Culture:

Play A Sport> Watch A Sport> Gamble on A Sport
View in A Gallery > View On A Phone > Scroll on A Phone
Newspapers> Multimedia > Clickbait

Godin points out that what seems to be in demand is the metaphoric boiling water of all these short bits of experience we can consume, but that sort of diet doesn’t provide long term sustenance. Long time readers will know I approve of his sentiment that about not everything that can be measured matters:

Cavitation happens here. We’re at a rolling boil, and there’s a lot of pressure to turn our work and the work we consume to steam.

The steam analogy is worthwhile: a thirsty person can’t subsist on steam. And while there’s a lot of it, you’re unlikely to collect enough as a creator to produce much value.


And now we live in a time where the previously informal is easy to measure.

But just because it’s measured doesn’t mean it matters.

The creators and consumers that have the guts to ignore the steam still have a chance to make an impact.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment