Cottagecore was a natural fit for a pandemic year. The subculture is all about pretending to live an idyllic life in the woods, and in 2020 has been embraced as a gentle attempt to make the most of a bad situation. Teens and young people in their twenties cosplayed online, posting as if the loneliness, wildflowers and ever-growing piles of homemade bread were enough to live on. By mid-March, cottagecore was more popular on Tumblr than Harry Styles or Marvel. In the summer it was inevitable on TikTok– just clip after clip of sewing tutorials and muffins with fresh berries. At the end of last year it was widely took into consideration one of the biggest online phenomena of an extremely online year.
Once the cottagecore exploded, it began to mutate. A group of volunteer contributors have started following its many niches and nooks and crannies on Aesthetics Wiki, an online encyclopedia of “visual pattern”. The main cottagecore subgenres, the page notes, include “bloomcore” (mainly flowers), “honeycore” (mainly bees), “Southwest cottagecore” (succulents and lizards) and “cottageblood”(The scary version). There is also a list of the 27 cottagecore “related aesthetics”, which include “grandparentcore”, “cabincore”, “prariecore”, “warmcore” and “woodland goth” – not to be confused with “forestpunk”. The same list includes “ravencore” and “crowcore” as separate entries. On Discord, the discussion platform popular among online communities, Wiki contributors even imagined the “vaporcottage” as a joke and added to the page: “what you would see after ingesting a mushroom soup with Xanax ”.
Cottagecore and its many ramifications are just one corner of the Aesthetics wiki. Extremely popular subcultures such as steampunk and cybergoth also have their own pages (and these pages have related pages). The level of detail on these pages is not as high or rigorously checked as on Wikipedia, but most of the information is still immediately useful: most pages contain image galleries to show the nuances of each subculture. or to help a casual viewer realize that they have seen “weird” before; they just didn’t know what it was called.
The drive for classification is an essential part of internet life – identify yourself; add your areas of interest; choose your favorite croissant and we’ll tell you the Taylor Swift song that sums up your life. “People love to identify with themselves,” says Amanda Brennan, Editorial Manager, Tumblr. “They want [label] themselves in such a way that it’s like, These exact people will get it. “The Aesthetics Wiki functions like a huge mall, a place to shop for a new set of features and a firmer self-definition. You may not yet know exactly who you are, but you can tell which collection. hyper-specific images best approximate who you’d like to be.
The Aesthetics Wiki is organized by suffix: “Wave” has 17 main pages; “Goth” at 14; “Heart” a 125. There are also 27 pages dedicated to the different sub-genres of “University”, which can be dark, light, chaotic, romantic, pastel or darker, among other qualifiers. Some of the most popular “cores” right now – according to the Wiki’s “trending pages” list – are cottage and goblin and trauma and angel. Yes the last looks attractive, you can participate by eating more meringues and buying a pet dove.
The Wiki is hosted on Fandom, a for-profit site that uses open source code from Wikipedia, and anyone can contribute. Although it was created in 2018, it was only edited intermittently before the pandemic, by less than 20 contributors, according to a spokesperson for Fandom. Traffic grew 9,974% in 2020, and January 2021 was its highest traffic month yet: Aesthetics Wiki pages were viewed almost 4 million times. Today, 258 contributors make about 60 uploads per day, and 57% of the site’s users are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to Fandom.
“We [have] the goal of being a unique place to learn about different aspects of human culture and civilization over the years, ”says Shawn, a prolific Wiki contributor who asked to be identified only by first name by fear of harassment. It is important to him that the Wiki pages include information about how the individual aesthetic has been shrouded in conflict or controversy, or deployed for political purposes. On the cottagecore page, for example, you’ll learn that cottagecore has been particularly popular in queer and anti-capitalist communities, while it has also grown with reactionary ‘tradwives’, who aspire to traditional gender roles and make references. white coded. supremacy.
Shawn suspects the site’s pandemic spike came from people who heard about cottagecore on social media and then took to the wiki to find out what other options they might have if they wanted to revamp their lives online. The “Cottagecore” page, in all of its meticulous detail, is what he calls the “gold standard” for a Wiki entry, and he told me that it helps people realize that “there has a whole world of people with different tastes ranging from the serene and natural to the weird and surreal and everything in between. (He specializes in technical aesthetics such as synthwave, vaporwave and Year 2000.)
At all hours of the day and night, changes to the Wiki are discussed on Discord. There Shawn speaks in the most precise and politically sensitive way of describing “fashwave,” a variation of the vaporwave that has often been used to make the alt-right seem more whimsical and current. There it is decided that “sleepycore” is not really a separate thing, nor “cactuscore” or “buttercore”. “Lighthousecore” is only part of “nauticalcore”. An image of a large old house that has been left to rot and full of trash is dropped into the chat: Is there a good term for this? Calling it “hoardercore” would be insensitive, but it’s not quite “moldcore”. A few “vandals” are reported and dealt with quickly: their contributions are canceled and their usernames blocked. (We tried to make a page called “Schizocore.”) Personal questions like “What aesthetic am I? are handled patiently in a separate Discord channel – I came across a channel in which someone was torn between a combination of things I had mostly never heard of, including “lostcore”, “gloomcore”, “bunnycore” “,” Mooncore “,” mushroom kernel “and” milk “.
If it seems like anyone can name anything an aesthetic at any time, that’s because that’s exactly what’s going on. “Endcore”, also known as “blisscore”, a new aesthetic listed on the Wiki as a subgenre of “”weird core“, seems to be the invention and practice of one person on Tumblr, who hasn’t posted to anything else. It’s apparently centered around the feeling of staring at the Windows XP wallpaper.”happiness. “Really, I challenge you to think of everything you’ve seen before. There is almost certainly an aesthetic listed for this on Aesthetics Wiki. “Intel Core”: an aesthetic for people who really like the look of early desktop processors. “Chewing gum bitch”: An aesthetic for people who feel a spiritual kinship with Bratz dolls and rude women who use cherry emoji in their Twitter usernames. “Cleancore:” an aesthetic for people who have experienced a global pandemic and now experience deep pleasure in looking at crisp surfaces and bottles full of soap.
At this point the word aesthetic is totally disconnected from his academic origins. While Tumblr users integrated it years ago, many teens use aesthetic as a universal adjective – “it’s so aesthetic” as a shorthand for “it’s so aesthetic to me”. But in broader Internet jargon, it now means a collection of signifiers or, more precisely, a “vibe”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, at the present time the most popular aesthetics are very different but united in an expression of deep nostalgia. Often, teens and those 20 and over present themselves as subcultures from the past in which they may never have participated. A Windows 95 culture is now bubbling up on Tumblr, Brennan told me, as is “scene”Culture, a throwback to the pop-punk era of MySpace and Warped Tour. There is even an aesthetic based on nostalgia for Tumblr culture of the early 2010s, back when American Apparel and indie pop were still on the rise, a highlight for physical touch in crowded spaces.
Knowing who you are online involves a constant search for ‘inspo’, as well as an accurate assessment of your ideal appearance and attitude, which is usually pursued by taking BuzzFeed quiz, scroll through the streams, compile mood boards, and the color schemes of the bookmarks. Morgan, the 20-year-old creator of a heart of honey tumblr, explained to me “an aesthetic” like “something that you find beautiful that you want to incorporate and embody in your own life”. (She asked to be called by her first name for fear of professional repercussions.) When asked how she practices this in everyday life, she told me that she mainly bought yellow clothes and cotton. shower gel and that she “strives to be kind and warm”.
It’s easy to dismiss the aesthetic, especially some of the more wacky, as superficial and frivolous. But Alexander Cho, a digital media researcher at UC Santa Barbara, told me that they can be “really important, especially for young adults in terms of creation or self-development.” If you have an idea of who you are, now it’s incredibly easy to search for pictures and ideas that help you refine that perception of yourself. Finding a nameable aesthetic helps you present that image clearly to the world and find people who identify with similarities. In adolescence and early adulthood, there is “a strong will to express one’s identity,” Cho said, and in the age of social media, a natural and meaningful way to do so is to choose. and organize images.
In grim circumstances, when many of us are alone and constantly connected to the internet, young people sift through archives and remix what they find. Their platforms are places where they can browse and select new identities, often quite literally, which is probably why, according to one Aesthetics Wiki contributor, the highest traffic day of 2021 so far was the New Year’s Day. Visitors to the site wonder who they are, little by little, choosing between pastelgoth and vaporwave, cottages and seascapes, crows and crows.