The act of making calculated and intentional references to some obscure subject, often an art-form, has become more than a cultural mode of communication; it has become an art-form in its own right. It used to be that self-referential films such Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino or novels such Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer were a form of meta-art; but now making a reference to yourself is amateur compared to a well-placed timely reference to another artwork. Whether these references are inserted effortlessly in a conversation, in a novel or a film, the act has developed into an art-form with its own set of aesthetic and substantial guidelines, as Woody Allen said in Annie Hall regarding photography (like that!).
References have become a modern Internet Age equivalent to literary techniques employed within and beyond the literary realm, such as hyperbole or metaphor. And if you think references are an art form reserved for the sub-culture, counter-culture, or anti-culture hipsters, I am afraid that it has been seeping into the mainstream at an alarming rate. The result of this is two-fold, one that audiences are exposed to art that is new to them and hence they explore it; the second more sinister side-effect is that people think they are familiar with an artwork if they heard it mentioned somewhere. Either way this is a movement to enrich culture by expanding its horizons with references. And every movement has its heroes: at the forefront, our commandante, our Che, our fearless leader Dennis Miller, the stand-up comedian who perfected the art-form of obscure references tucked neatly and unexplained into his notorious and hilarious rants. Dennis Miller is the John Milton of our era, which means that Quentin Tarantino is our William Shakespeare and Steven Colbert is our Jonathan Swift.
As with all works of art references are an expression of our uniqueness and humanity. References are a palpable link between us and art. They connect our understanding of the world to that of an artist who values the same obscure, abstract and quintessentially quirky things as us. References are a rare kind of connection in a world where pop culture is expanding and a new generation is seeking to legitimize its experiences, art, and voice amongst the clutter of mass information and media.