Today, the new is everything. And everything is conditioned by the privileging of newness. The new makes truth relative; it makes existing beauty kitsch and forces new beauty through the gates of exoticism rather than refinement or mastery. Newness has become goodness and is so universal that to even notice it, much less question it, seems extraordinary.
Since it was first determined that history might progress rather than simply role on, people have been looking forward for inspiration. Before the enlightenment, the future was seen with trepidation. It was the look backward—to some Golden Age of Rome or Greece—that comforted.
Thanks largely to technology people believe, at root, that newer is better. Technology has shown that new equals improved. Madison Avenue has firmly established the need to upgrade. Thanks largely to economics—that is, to the capitalism that holds sway pretty much everywhere today—people are told to believe without question that newer is necessary. By entailing “improved,” and embodying necessity, new becomes less a statement of chronology than a judgment, a preference. Newness is set up as a value.
It seems to be the only value that matters. The new thing is questioned only about its provenance, rather than its efficacy. The only currency is currentness, and the critical bias toward the new creates an atmosphere in which the new is of course privileged, while the not-really-new-after-all is held in contempt, and the not-even-presented-as-new-in-the-first-place is completely ignored.
History was once understood as a narrative of events and objects that stood out as important: either because they were bad or good. The sense of influence was based on this, rather than on simple priority. But today history is recounted as a litany of “firsts.” When first is not obviously available, then “best” will do, but only as it is reframed to be first in some way. The importance of the best stuff then is not explained in terms of its goodness but its claim to some originary status.
In the arts, the equation of new with improved makes even less sense. There is no measurable function served by art that could be engaged by newness, so older art is not necessarily worse; the evolution of art is not teleological. In art, matters of taste, which famously cannot be argued, are respected, and history is less easily recast in terms of “progress.” Rather, in the arts the new, freed of a relationship to program or use/function and unfettered by technological or economic constraints, finds the possibility of becoming an absolute value.
The construction of the new involves some paradox. The really new thing, which is what all newness wants to be, is literally inconceivable, and thus unrecognizable. Consequently the really new thing is already a little old before anyone figures out that it is even there, before it is recognized and understood as a really new thing. Design’s identity—and value, which in the signature design realm is the same thing—is entirely bound up in being seen as the next big thing. The best design is expected (only) to break new ground to be preferred. Yet the work hailed from the outset as new is pretty much guaranteed to be not actually new. This fact does not lead to a calm resignation, though, but to more fevered attempts to get out in front.
Because the stakes are so high, the new can be overheated but undercooked. When this happens a condition results that could be called the pneu. The pneu is that strand of the new which places the greatest value on currentness rather than difference. The pneu is as lite as air. In fact, its what’s in the air. Its “what’s-hot,” rather than “what’s-not.” Something cooked up for its own sake to be new has no value beyond that, and certainly no lasting value—particularly when the value is derived from newness itself. Yet the regard for the new is such that the pneu’s fleeting entertainment value alone is often sufficient to keep the pneu afloat long enough to become old. Which—no coincidence—is about the length of what is now known as a fashion season.
In fact, the “season,” as a measurement of time unrelated to the tilt of the Earth, has become a standard of duration throughout the culture. The attunement to an experience of fashions, of the vogue, of what’s in, the rage, the fad—and their seasonal passing—carries what could be called fashion consciousness into all variety of places that should know better, such as sports and politics and even, dare it be said, architecture.
In fact, some design is so enslaved to fashion cycles that it never gets past its pneuness, floating away before the next awards season can criticize it—or worse, ignore it. That design which professes a greater interest in being different (rather than in being simply current) could be called the gnu. Like with the pneu, the primary goal of the gnu is to be recognized as new, but unlike the pneu, which wants only to be fresh, the gnu wants to be original. The gnu takes its inspiration from the wilder side of novelty—and consequently comes off as a little wrong sometimes, like bellbottoms.
As newness admits of gradation, so there are degrees of difference, and difference finds itself drawn through degrees toward an absolute. If the pneu sacrifices currency (continuing value) in order to ensure a necessarily temporary absolute currentness, the gnu similarly sacrifices meaningfulness to achieve a more perfect novelty. Unrecognizable novelty is of course absurd, and sets a limit on “useful” difference. The goal of the gnu is to get as close to that condition as possible. The new becomes the gnu when it tests that boundary between recognizable difference and the simply weird or alien.
The new/weird thing cannot be judged—except by the standards of chronology or difference. The gnu, which flirts with the weird, must be as short-lived as the pneu, but for a different reason: while its difference may continue, the benefit of the doubt that novelty extends to it is withdrawn when the novelty expires. In other words, the effect wears off as its continued presence makes it familiar, and its shock becomes simply annoying.
This is to say that some newness sticks around longer than it should, and that annoyance can become more and more dismaying. Instead of just going away, such newness tries vainly to sustain interest after it is no longer young and sexy. Its continuing effort can only be embarrassing. Either as itself, or as disguised by too many facelifts, this type of new is branded the nooooo!, as in “the horror.” Architecture’s longer natural time frame makes it particularly susceptible to this type of the new.
In fact, because it is so easy for its efforts to drift into the nooooo! architecture may not be the best venue for the new. This presents a dilemma, since even the pneu has to be presented as if it intends to be realized (in order for its currency to be felt), but at the same time, it has to be careful not to stray too far into the built reality that will condemn it to quickly to perpetual nooooo!ness. This is why some work positions itself just beyond the possibility of physical manifestation. By remaining ever so slightly within the shadows of conceptuality it is able to survive on borrowed time, aware that, for example, given its day in the sun, even the once plump and juicy blob quickly becomes a raisin.
It is when architecture accepts so wholeheartedly the value system of the new that it gets into trouble. In today’s culture it seems impossible to avoid the seduction of the new and remain noteworthy. Consequently, most of the “architecture” that gets noticed is courting either a proliferation of nooooo!ness or a suicidal retreat from building. Both have been apparent lately.
Out in the world, buffeted by the new, unable to keep up with it or keep it at bay, architecture loses its institutional sense of self as an embodiment of cultural authority. The seeming choices for architecture—pneu, gnu, nooooo!, recognized or not—do not square well with its disciplinary nature and continuing presence. Architecture was once the biggest, most impressive thing a culture could make, and was invested with a corresponding significance and responsibility to that significance. But the contemporary sense of what’s impressive has shifted from the physical, and the role of establishing important newness has been taken by other (quicker) media, like film. So, unable to decide which way to go, architecture becomes insecure. Architecture is feeling a little vulnerable.
Architecture has run off in the direction of the pneu and then been tugged over to the gnu in understandable attempts to reassert some currency, to gain some credibility. Needless to say, this running around has not succeeded. In fact, it has had the opposite effect: the costumes in which such architecture has been cloaked flap open with every dodging move and shift in the wind, and so like fig leaves serve only to draw attention to the thing cloaked.
There is a running conceit in architecture that the architectural magazines, with their glossy photos of the latest hot designs and next big thing, are purveyors of architectural porn. This may be true, but for a different reason than is supposed. The voyeurs who subscribe to penthouses and gardens are looking at the costumes, but the real titillation comes with the subliminal recognition of what lies beneath, the exposure of newed architecture, in all its vulnerability.
For the vast majority of folks, variously understood as the lay audience of viewers, users, clients, and the rest who just rub up against or dwell in built-stuff, and are unfamiliar with disciplinary porn, these costumes reinforce the growing sense that architecture is what is shown in the history books or what fleshes out the itinerary of tourist carnivals. The lay audience sees newed architecture as nothing-more-than-building and yawns or possibly giggles. Woo hoo. From a professional perspective, though, what peeks out from beneath the costume is nothingness. To the architect, a newed architecture reveals that; its essence is insubstantial: architecture is, strictly speaking, unnecessary. Its presence is no guarantee of its identity: architecture is unsettled. A newed architecture reveals, finally, that architecture’s center is a howling void and its edges are increasingly tattered. Woo hoo, indeed. As professor James Prestini at UC Berkeley was wont to ask the young and impressionable undergrads there: “who needs architecture?”... and then would answer “Architects. Only architects need architecture.”
Historically, architecture’s sound and fury (masking nothing) has protected its modesty, and any insecurity about this subject has been repressed. Architecture has worked under a contract with power that kept the scrim intact. In exchange for its energetic establishment of social/political authority, it was never questioned about its own authority. The rate of contemporary newness, not to mention changes in the character of power, have disrupted this tidy arrangement. Advances in technology further compound the problem of architecture’s exposed foundations. Eventually, nanotechnology will challenge the disciplinary foundations of architecture, by making it possible for anything to be built by anyone. As well, a virtual reality that-deserves-the-name is inevitable, which will challenge the need even for building except as shelter for meat. Architecture cannot outrun these developments, and it cannot turn to the new for help, because it is the new that is bringing this grief. But it may be that by calling attention to this arrangement, lifting the repression, exposing the vulnerability, intentionally or not, the new in all its guises can cast enough light on the real dynamics of the architectural equation that measures can be taken to ensure architecture’s survival.
All this hand-wringing about newed-ity is not about newness in the world, but newness as drawn into architecture and established there as a value. When the privilege of the new is raised to a value, these new technologies are presented to architecture as necessary rather than elective. It is not virtual reality’s threat to actual presence that matters, it is its challenge to the value of presence; it is not nanotechnology’s threat to the architect’s livelihood that matters (except to the architects of course), but its threat to the idea that expertise matters in design.
If it is the new’s value within architecture that is such a problem, then, can the solution to all this not simply be the elimination of that value? One might think. But what to replace it with? Architecture has gone through several generations now in thrall to newness, and has perhaps forgotten what it once cared about, once aimed at, what once drove it forward and where that forward was. In fact, newness cannot be stripped of its value without being replaced with something else. What this discussion is really about is what that other thing could be, and how the necessarily continuing relationship of architecture to newness might be structured to allow that something else to work.
The first thing to note from here is that the spirit within which this discussion is offered suggests that the relationship of design (and of the succession of designers) to architecture should move a little more toward one of stewardship. At this point in time, in this culture, architecture is too fragile to be taken for granted or abused. It may not survive the fascination with commodification and branding, or the envy of bioengineering or digital special effects, and unlike art it cannot protect itself with outrageousness—as the examples of the gnu and pneu attest. To think of the architect not as an entertainer but as a professional, with all that entails, and then not only as a professional with a public responsibility but with a responsibility to architecture, as a steward of architecture, is a very different way of looking at the traditional relationship.
If the new is new, it behooves the architect to think about what it might have supplanted. The problem with architecture today is that the new has supplanted the good. The value of the “new” derives originally from its association with the “good,” as embodied in the concept of improvement, which was eventually institutionalized as progress when actual examples began to show up. That inceptive relationship to goodness has been lost to a large extent, buried by habit and inflected by boredom: new equals good without examination if only because it is potentially interesting. If the good were resurrected as a meaningful participant in this discussion, architecture might understand a goal other than the new. Mies famously said he would rather be good than interesting.
The modernist call to revolution is seldom remembered for what it was: a warning against a different sort of revolution. The call to architectural revolution was balanced by a respect for architectural tradition. The giants of early modernism declared the beginning of a new era with the confidence that they stood at the head of a long tradition. Corbu referencing ancient Rome and Greece, and Mies invoking the traditions of the craftsman, were not alone in making the point that the revolution was not about starting over. Rather, their efforts could be seen as a movement to recover an earlier honesty about the relationship of craft to form and, in the guise of the zeitgeist, of form to the society it served. This was a continuation of the critique, by Durand, Choissy, and others, of the nineteenth century’s indiscriminate historicizing and the disjunction between techno-industrial capability and architecture. The issue was propriety, and goodness was not simply congruent with efficiency or hygiene.
Mies’s comment was made much later, and can be taken as a sign of how much had changed. Since then, the narrative of revolution has morphed yet further into talk of thresholds and paradigm shifts, and a different spirit animates it. Whereas the earlier intentions of improvement, and the innovative forms promoting those intentions, were explained by reference to social, political, and technological concerns, the intentions today seem to revolve around possibilities of originality or uniqueness, and the forms are consumed in demonstrating only this.
In going from good to god the new leaves behind the idea of progress that once united it with the good. Progress is the result of changes from within, even if introduced from the outside. This is what has been forgotten/lost in the scramble to the new. As progress, the new should be expected to develop logically from the old and relate to a set of standards that judge it as an improvement. This gives it a sense of familiarity. The new-seen-explicitly-as-progress might be termed k-new-ness. The k-new broadens the sense of newness beyond the knife-edge of chronological divisiveness, making space for the development of goodness as well as statements of difference. In contrast, the pneu and gnu are much more interested in burying or killing the old, and of course any sense of progress must suffer from that.
Both Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Loewy coined terms for the degree to which any new design must embody aspects of an older design that it is intended to replace in order to be accepted as an improvement on that original. Loewy talked about the threshold created by the “most-advanced-yet-acceptable” (MAYA) form, while Dreyfuss coined “survival form” to describe the physical characteristics of the old that must be incorporated into the new to be successful. Long before Deleuze, they acknowledged the paradox of absolute novelty. They recognized the usefulness and importance of a careful balance between innovation and familiarity, between continuity and discontinuity.
If the advance of newness is a zero-sum game and newness creates oldness in the place of former newness, then there is already an almost necessary connection. This is the connection that the pneu and gnu strive to overcome or at least repress. Their view of progress is that it may only be achieved on the back of the preceding case. But of course the other way to see this is as Newton did, in “seeing so far [from] the shoulders of giants.” Both can be true; it’s a matter of intention. In talking about progress, the preceding case serves as the medium for the later stage’s demonstration of prior inadequacy, and of understandable heritage. Nothing recognizable as new and good ever just appears out of thin air.
The operation of the k-new can be suppressed, like with the pneu and gnu, in order to support an image of creative genius, or it can be publicly professed in order help ratify changes the new brings. Loewy in particular played both sides of this possibility. In either case, the net of k-newness is cast out before the new, almost defensively, to widen the moving line separating currency and datedness into a space that can be inhabited for longer than an instant.
A newed architecture is shown to be without intrinsic presence, but the k-new names the space where architecture may emerge from newness as the good, or the good may be reasserted as a goal of design.
To continue this spatial metaphor, consider architecture as a discipline (repress for a moment the howling void). Any discipline can be imagined as an area of concern. The extent of that area, its shape and topography, is mapped out by the relationship between the discipline’s ideas of the new and the good. The (insubstantial) presence/existence of this area is what is revealed in a newed architecture, when the scrim is parted. By looking at the dynamic of the new and the good, the interior structure of the idea of the architectural can be explored.
In this illustration, the good and the new are not just rattling around within the loose confines of the area of concern; by their maneuvering they establish those confines. The good fixes the center of gravity, staked out by the canon. The new highlights the edges, according to the popular metaphor of “pushing the envelope.” It goes without saying that newness helps to identify the limits of the area of concern, the boundaries of the discipline, while the good sets the character, locates its heart.
Now it gets tricky: stop repressing and remember again that in architecture, the center is a howling void, not a fixed point or simple idea. This is not for lack of trying. The incredible expenditure of energy masking that vulnerability establishes a weight or dignity that the good names and then guides. And that weight is immense. It is what has allowed architecture to keep up its half of the pact it has historically made with power. It has made architecture the preferred term for organizational stateliness and authority, and encouraged its appropriation as frame by the historical and philosophical systems of the Western tradition. Within architecture’s own tradition, the center is where the giants dwell, watching over and protecting the viewer from the howling void. The center is the big leagues, where the whole canon looks down upon the design to see if it’s got game. In the center the design goes up against the exemplars, head to head, for all to see. There is nowhere to hide and no tricks to play and no excuses. The game is clear, the test is pure ability and everyone knows what’s what—the stakes, the conditions, the hazards, the prize.
Today few with talent try to play there, though. Rather, attention is focused out along the edge, where stuff may or may not be architecture, new or good, and only the media keep score, with a stopwatch. While there is still a lot of work going on by the big corporate firms at what would be considered the center, this does not really count as such because it bears no relationship to the good, and the giants look down on it and laugh or weep. Those with game are not testing themselves, they are holding out for celebrity rather than respect, which only the giants can give. They might also be gambling on the possibility that this celebrity will prize the keys to history away from the giants. But the history being written today will not allow whatever priority they might muster to stand long enough to be worth the effort.
Goodness operates from the center, but its example percolates to the edge, saying emphatically from the inside what is architecture. The new probes that edge, pushing from the inside and pulling from the outside, wagering on what might be architecture. In this tug-of-war between the new and the good, the example of goodness protects the edge, and thus what is already inside, while the critique-embodied-in-newness attacks it. Without the protection of goodness the edge will just give way where newness pushes it; but nothing in the new cares about the condition or position of the edge except what it might take to transgress it. Newness plays with it, worrying it like a puppy, without regard to its uselessness once the noisemaker is removed. Left to the attention of the new, the edge becomes ratty, blurred and indistinct.
Consequently, today architecture doesn’t expand to absorb the new. In an age that has neglected to nurture the good, the center has no weight with which to resist the pull at its borders, no way to hold the field down (the howling void is not a black hole). If the edge does not give way when it is pushed, the whole thing just gets pulled or pushed around. The effect of this is far worse than messing up the edges, because it exposes architecture’s dark secret of insubstantiality. An architecture, or rather a discipline, that can just blow away in a high critical wind, is not long for this world.
As the previous discussion of the k-new shows, the new is a zero-sum game: the new comes at the expense of the old—it doesn’t just stand on its shoulders, but cuts it down and replaces it. With successive waves of newness, the old recedes farther from what counts for significance today—that is, farther from the edge. Except for the implication of external agency, a spotlight is a good model for the way the new jerks the discipline around. Eventually, the spot-lit field has wandered away from the old entirely, and the old slips not to the center (as it would if the model were simply amoeboid expansion), but out of the lighted area entirely, to be history.
In following the play of new and good the question of identity is raised: what does it mean for the boundaries of the discipline to be up for grabs in the way described? Ironically, the best evidence for the value of the institutional boundaries of architecture is provided by the self-styled radical attempts to contest them. Other evidence includes the continued narrow range of invention in an objectively limitless universe of formal possibility, as well as the empirical evidence of the social and cultural and economic forces that respect and uphold them, and finally the historical record and continuing bite of the canon. But none of these examples carry the weight of apostatizing fury.
Within the general spatial metaphor, there seem to be two models for the relationship between the new and the good, or the edge and the center, with implications for the continuing identity of architecture: the edge/new-that-drags-around-a-free-floating-center/good, and the centered/good-expansive-absorption-of-the-edge/new. The former could be understood to contrast with the latter in a less alarmist way as the result of a sort of “conservation-of-identity” law that limits the area/scope of the field, and thus its expansion—either as a necessary symptom of any field’s identity as a field, or as a real sign of the limited universe of relationships that may be deemed “architectural” after all.
In either case, the question remains whether boundaries are isomorphic with identity or not. Some kind of boundary is implied in any question of identity, but the effect of that observation depends on what is meant by identity. Identity can be oriented toward exclusion or to substance, for example. It can be defined by where the thing stops and becomes the other, or where it starts—at the edge or at the center. It is highly significant that until recently architecture has taken its identity from the center, where it started and where the value of goodness holds sway. Various attempts through history at “discovering” an origin for the field, by people like Laugier, intended to locate that center as an unimpeachable source of authority and judgment.
Yet for these folks the center is also seen as a fecund source of all that comes after, and it is this that invests it with the authority to pass critical judgment on later efforts. This is the center testing the edge, rather than visa versa, or at least the center rebuffing a challenge offered from the edge by asserting its own greater, primal generative capacity. The historical sense is that the new’s generative capacity is empty without the possibility of discrimination, and it is this discrimination that sets the field.
If the identity of the (new) object as architecture is important to its appraisal, how does this identity come to be held? Is it bestowed from the center, or achieved from the edge?
The determination of identity from-the-center could be considered a top-down approach, in which the individual instances of architecture take their identity and thus value from their avowed association with architecture. This avowal is the point of entry for the spirit of stewardship mentioned earlier. In today’s edge-oriented milieu, on the other hand, it seems that the question of the identity of the discipline is more a bottom-up affair, with the individual instances of architecture fending for themselves or offering themselves up independently as potential examples of architecture. In either of these new/edge cases the label “architecture” is assumed as a default—something to be struggled with rather than reinforced—and the instances are seen to have a more critical relationship to such possible identity.
In fact, it is a little shocking to wonder in this if an identity as architecture is ultimately that important to the valuation of the object. If the issue of stewardship had not been raised this question would be less poignant. As it is, though, this question opens another door onto the howling void, because in fact it is not important in any single instance unless its only value is stipulated as architecture. Even in this case it can be asked if its value is a product of its affiliation with architecture, or whether it is more appropriate to think of its architectureness as something unique and intrinsic.
Even if the object’s own value depends on its identification as architecture, architecture itself must act as if this were not the case, as if the object’s identification as architecture was not crucial to its appreciation. Only if the object is understood as intrinsically valuable will it be able to sustain the structural presumptions of the canon, since the canon is made up of, and owes its power to, individual instances. The canon is like the DNA of the institution, a parade of self-sufficient yet exemplary instances that allow architecture to believe in itself as the sum of their examples—rather than as the category to which they have been fit or have fit themselves. The institution cannot legitimize itself, it cannot declare by fiat that its own inarguable identity is based on or guaranteed by examples that it declares to be architecture; that is tautological and thus cheating.
Somehow, then, this leaves the individual examples with the responsibility to arrive at a sense of the institution from the edge in, or bottom up—spontaneously generated, as it were. This hangs the fate of the identity of the discipline on each individual work as an independent instance of “architecture,” without biasing that determination with any prior expectations.
How can one go from saying that the value of the individual instance does not depend on its identity as architecture, and then turn around and ask those instances to establish or describe the boundaries of the discipline? This is what is asked of the new/edge-defined discipline and, ironically, is the only way that identity will have non-tautological validity. Although this may be objectively true, its seeming contradiction of the center-defined, good-inflected, top-down identity for architecture is beside the point. It misses the value of the howling void at the center, architecture’s dark secret of non-necessity: it is the energy expended to cover over this “problem” that has made architecture what it is. The tautological basis of architectural identity is merely more of what constitutes that void. To “solve” this problem by endorsing—or relaxing into—a new/edge regime is to kill architecture. It is to unleash an anarchic Babel of competing micro-architectures that can never escape their own selfish interests.
The long tradition of complaints about non-functional wacked-out ego-statements by signature architects could be seen as evidence of the idea that architecture cannot be selfish. Architecture is unavoidably public, and this fact, and attendant responsibility, grant it the license to rise above building. And in this movement of course all the rest originates—the howling void opens up, leading to the heroic measures to mask or bridge it, which set the pattern of presence for the Western tradition, etc.
This public responsibility demands of architecture the capacity for judgment—beyond inarguable matters of taste. The possibility of judgment—even outside the issue of architectural identity—requires these instances to talk to each other, to form some common basis for appreciation among them. Is there in the very possibility of judgment itself, something that leans toward architecture? In fact, the architecture of any condition is precisely that-which-judges or by which judgment is possible.
Judgments other than objective determinations of chronological precedence or declarations of taste are made in a community. It is this community that must continuously agree to hold this or that physical instance as good and possibly as architecture, or visa versa, lest it be mistaken for simple building. In this way, the good is understood to be a necessary part of architecture, while the new is not: in fact, it is only through the nurturing of a community of practice that may judge what it creates or what comes to it from the outside that the continuing sense of the architectural itself is maintained over time.
The community of subscribers is a condition of the creation and appreciation of the good. Goodness results when people are working together to refine a common project, rather than simply differentiate themselves from each other. Refinement is inclusive, it comes with the contributions of many, even if they are competing with each other, while differentiation is exclusive and promotes the individual instance. Even more so than the new, the good is constructed. And whereas with the new this fact is a secret, with the good it is an acknowledged achievement. The standards that come to be set through the efforts of the community are held up, like architecture, as a mark of how that community sees itself and what it considers important, and an encouragement to others to measure up.
There’s the rub, though. The good is exemplary, while the new is selfish. This interest in the exemplary can be seen as generous or as repressive, depending on one’s confidence in one’s ability. Standards are encouraging or challenging—or limiting and authoritarian, in the same way. Standards are necessary to establishment of community, but superfluous to an exclusive interest in the new, unique, or individual. This is not to say that a community cannot be organized around an interest in the new. In fact, the success of the blob today is a tribute to the value of such networking. Yet that value has little to do with refining judgment about the subject matter—that is, with standards—and everything to do with the acquisition of power.
Only goodness invites and then deflects the gaze from the void at the heart of architecture. Goodness—and its codification and stewarding through a system of conventions that became classic, and classical—is the character of the mask worn by architecture to protect its dark secret of non-necessity, revealed when it is newed. Newness simply avoids the problem by focusing attention elsewhere, and thus is generative without substance.
Yet there is a place for the new in the conventions that are established with the accumulation of the good over time. The new keeps the convention from becoming repressively anachronistic, testing its limits with shots of gnu, or its sense of propriety with doses of the nooooo! or pushing it forward with a comfortable k-newness. History cannot turn back, nor would the unshedable sense of irony let society merely update something previous. The newest technologies must be considered, and space left for skepticism, doubt, and the possibility for positive disappointment. If they are framed within a supportive environment, they can be useful, helpful, and not just in and out of fashion.
The contemporary frontier for goodness is its seeming prescriptiveness. The implication of the exemplary is that others should follow: the good has a problem with freedom that makes it ugly in today’s liberal cultural climate. Maybe the new can help here.
Ultimately, goodness and newness need each other. In a contemporary sense at least, goodness needs newness to have effect. Notice this is not a question of avoiding staleness; the point is not to recast it in newness’s terms, which staleness implies, but to see how newness serves it, in goodness’s own terms. And goodness’s terms here revolve around the exemplary, and newness’s assistance is in communicating that to an audience conditioned by now to respond only to newness and change. To be exemplary is to have effect, this effect is delivered via channels of appreciation opened by newness. And newness needs goodness to have its given effect be actually significant.