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Subvert the dominant paradigm.

A PARADIGM IS, ESSENTIALLY, a world-view or what is called a weltanshauung, a belief system that helps one understand the world around him or her, usually specifically related to a given phenomenon. Paradigms are by their definition (at least in the classical sense) mutually exclusive or incommensurable, but not infallible.

Perhaps the most quoted work in the philosophy of science is Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, written as a doctoral dissertation in 1962. In the book, Kuhn introduces the notion of "paradigm shift." Kuhn's thesis is that the process of paradigm shift is essentially a revolutionary one. One paradigm is debunked so thoroughly as to render it obsolete and replaced by another, better, more comprehensive paradigm: therefore, in the process of this revolution, science loses its commonly assumed property: cumulative knowledge. What was understood to be true and a foundation for building deeper knowledge is thrown out like yesterday's newspaper. The most widely cited paradigm shift is that from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics with Einstein's theory of relativity. Now widely accepted, Einstein's theory faced opposition because it represented a paradigm shift, Rare in the world of physics, Einstein's theory was proven a few years after publication during an eclipse in 1919, and the world of physi cs was changed forever.

Kuhn's work has been adopted and embraced by all sorts of disciplines, although these may fall far outside of Kuhn's intentions. Social scientists, for example, use the word paradigm loosely to describe competing theories, although often there is no sign of revolutionary change, or of mutual exclusivity or incommensurability. Some have pointed out that in the original manuscript, Kuhn's definition of paradigm is under-specified, and that there are some 23 possible varying definitions of the term. Others point out that though there may be change in the way people believe and think about the world, that does not invalidate the notion of cumulative knowledge.


of radical change in technology, health and disease, communications, and many other things. Skateboarding is but one seemingly insignificant blip on the map of world events, but it means much to those of us who are committed to it. Some have attempted to liken change in skateboarding to a paradigm shift: First it was the 1970s with skateboarding going vertical in pools and entering the private, for-profit park phase. Then it was the backyard ramp phase that dominated the '80s. Then it was the accessibility of street skating in the late-'80s and early-'90s. And now it seems to be the new public park and "extreme sports" phase. Many in the business tried to promote their products as representing a paradigm shift What was before has become obsolete, they argued. And a lot of people bought into it.

But was it paradigmatic, and was there a paradigm shift? Hardly. Pool skating never died. Vert never died. Street skating in favor of pan skating will never die. All of these aspects of skating coexist, albeit not always peacefully. The point is that skateboarding is cumulative, and one will never triumph over the other, although there will always be times when one overshadows another or is trendier than another. These are all merely phases, some with defining moments--Duane Peters doing the loop, the Gonz ollie at Wallenberg, Natas and Gonz doing handrails, the 540, the 720, the 900--but hardly paradigmatic. Quite simply, change happens. It is pointless to rail against change, but rather better to bend like a blade of grass in the wind than resist, and maintain your own standards.

But an omnipresent aspect of skateboarding has always been those who are not intimately involved in skating yet who think they have the ability or right to profit from it. Who are these kooks? Many may have skateboarded at one time, or at least pushed down the street now and then, Where and how to differentiate these kooks from legitimate former skaters such as "retired" pros is a line I refuse to draw, but like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote about pornography in 1964, I know it when I see it. Many are huge corporations looking for an "edge" in their corporate approach. It's commonly referred to as "milking it," and I have just a few admonitions for those who think they want to milk skateboarding: add processed "culture" and milk turns to cheese. But milk also turns sour. And in the heat of Phoenix--where I reside a good part of the year--cheese and sour milk permeate the skate atmosphere. like nowhere else. I have repeatedly seen in Phoenix people who think they are the bigwigs and hot-shots fall hard because they were in it for money or thought they had somehow bought into "prestige."


often comes from people who are totally clueless, who don't skate but who want to rock skate gear. Are the Spitfire and Indy logos the most popular stickers in the world right now? Most popular sweatshirts? Who cares? There is always a fine balance between doing what is acceptable in marketing skateboard gear and what is unacceptable. Do you know any skaters who actually wear Airwalks anymore? Are you going to buy Slim Jims or a Ford truck because they sponsored the most recent "extreme blowout" event? The skateboard market is often the jumping off point for companies who want to establish 'street cred,' and sometimes it works. But what about skate companies who already have cred, who are already ingrained in the standard skate business world (sell quality equipment, use part of the profits to sponsor ams and pros, get involved with providing places to skate, etc)? What about when everyone else starts to think they are cool too?

I say fuck it. Let it roll like water off a duck's back. The argument that when a skate company gets popular and sells more, then it can do more for skateboarding with the money it makes is somewhat valid, but often partially valid is the claim of "sell out." Who cares? People walking around in the latest hip skate fashion will never truly know what it is like to haul ass down a hill at 40 mph, grind a handrail or pool, blast an air over a hip, catch a kickflip. Truth be told, the majority of money in skateboarding comes from the weekend warrior-types anyway. How many Barneys do you see flailing around on their longboards, throwing up a chaka while sporting the latest hempen accessories? How many little kids get dropped off at the park by their mom with their board and safety gear, yet they can't even roll and turn, much less ollie? Very few of them will stick with it long enough to even ollie up a curb, but that's OK. They're feeding the machine. Let it roll like water off a duck's back...

Phoenix is haven to so many of these Barneys, who idolize the "California lifestyle." Luckily for me I avoid Phoenix during the hottest part of the year, summer, when I get to take off and travel. I guess I am what most call a "snowbird," enjoying the mild winter and scramming during the oppressive summer, But in those months of fall, winter, and spring, Phoenix is one of the best places to skate, regardless of whether you buy into the paradigmatic approach, but especially good if you do not, or whether you care about packs of rolling Barneys on the Arizona State University campus and elsewhere.

Phoenix is such an urban sprawl that downtown is dead at night. Security guards are all that stand in your way from a myriad of urban obstacles. Big Surf, the old water park, is still consistently skated every year with minimal bust. There are shitty, small-but-fun fullpipes half-a-mile down the road. There are new outdoor cement parks popping up everywhere, and although they honestly seem to get worse with each new one, one or two are still worth sessioning for hours. Backyard ramps come and go. And pools are ripe for the picking year-round.

In Phoenix, as in elsewhere, the crews are broken up into various cliques, but there is little if any animosity and it is merely a result of different preferences for terrain. Weekend nights at the PV is proof of all that I have mentioned: most people get along, there are plenty of kooks and Barneys flossin' skate gear without a clue, but most importantly the notion of a dominant paradigm in skateboarding has no legs with which to stand on. Subversion is the standard, stagnation is defeat, and as soon as you start worrying more about what others are doing, the terrorists have already won. I mean, the kooks and Barneys have already won.

And you have become one of them.
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Title Annotation:skateboarding and popular culture
Author:Lundry, Wez
Geographic Code:1U8AZ
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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