PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, October-06-11
Professor Henderson began the class by reminding us of our upcoming Précis, and
later, our Ethnography Report.
Idea of Précis – basically writing in your own words what you perceive the article
to be saying. Not doing a paragraph by paragraph summary. Summarize key
points of the article: 1) Explanation of overall big argument. 2) How does he go
about arguing this? 3) What examples does he use to argue this? 4) Conclusion –
therefore this shows what he was writing. Meant to be writing practice. Must be in
our own words. We don’t want a point form overview of the article. Typed,
approximately 250 words. Include title page (with a title in the centre), including
name, student number, date, name of T.A., seminar number, course code (bottom
right corner). Due at the very beginning of lecture on October 13, 2011. Mark of
zero if not handed in. Any missed course components result in a zero in the course.
Remember to attach copy of academic misconduct form (as found in Syllabus).
Ethnography Report – should be thinking about what site you want to look at.
* * Continued from previous lecture’s slideshow presentation.
• Essentially the idea that changing social conditions (emerging in 19 century
in urban areas with industrialization) began to leave people more isolated.
Led to the development of the ‘individual consumer’.
• Less reliant on social and cultural institutions (religion, community
organizations, etc.). These institutions provided a sense of belonging,
community and civic engagement.
• This allowed people to create their own culture from the array of options sold
to them. People can now be individual consumers.
• Therefore, without those stronger institutions people could be more easily
exploited by mass culture.
• On both sides of the political spectrum it may be argued that mass culture
takes away desire for high culture, yet at the same time can exploit them
from having their own culture.
• We might perceive of these ideas as out-dated.
• However, Arnold through Leavis and followers represents over a century of
influence on attitudes towards popular culture. Arguably, these exact same
attitudes still exist.
• Ideas of elitism still define much reaction to popular culture. – e.g. Jersey
A show which is criticized for being very shallow, not complex
like more sophisticated forms of culture.
• Fears regarding the influence of popular culture on the masses still exist. –
e.g. Grand Theft Auto
Criticized for teaching and encouraging kids to go out “jacking
cars and shooting everybody” (Henderson). PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, October-06-11
U.S. survey ranked the intelligence of people compared to their musical
Does the music determine a person’s intelligence? Or are people of
certain intelligences already drawn to certain music genres? PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, October-06-11
Not to suggest that we need to throw these theories out, however, when we turn
attention to analysis we see how these forms of media may reinforce
When we examine texts, we can see how these structures emerge as part of the
process of production. Pop culture forms made to make money, how is this capital
spirit embedded into the product?
* * * New slideshow presentation.
Mass Culture and the Frankfurt School
Mass Culture Theory
• Mass culture theory makes huge assumptions about audience that they’re all
going to take things and react in the same way.
• Largely derived from the approach of Leavis and the attitudes he/his
followers had towards mass culture.
• This is seen in work such as Dwight Macdonald’s .
Their focus was on ‘mass culture’.
• Mass culture: popular culture produced by industrial techniques.
• For our purposes, we can certainly extend this into the commercialization and
regulation of pastime and play.
e.g. sponsorship, user fees, commercialization. Public spaces
always have sponsorship. No such thing as free space anymore.
Mass culture theory is clearly tied to theories of urbanization and
*Looking North along Mulberry St. c 1900 photo *
Culture produced in similar manner to other mass culture products, making the
comparison to Model-T Fords on an assembly line. Critics: ‘Yes, we understand, but
we disagree in that we don’t use these in the same way we do a car.’
* Model-T Fords on assembly line – photo *
Effects of Mass Culture
• Dwight Macdonald suggests it replaces real pleasures and “deep realities”
(sex, death, failure, tragedy) with false pleasures or “trivial and comfortable
On the other hand, Shakespearean plays dealt with all of these
“deep realities” in a very significant way.
• All of this was very much tied to consumption.
• The atomized individual is open to manipulation. Given the conditions they
exist under, they can be easily manipulated.
• In order to fragment this audience – make this audience not have to think a
lot – everything is aimed at a general audience. PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, October-06-11
• Products aimed at very general audience. Mass culture doesn’t want an
agitated, thinking audience. Aim that the audience can ‘veg out’ or ‘turn off
their brain’ and just enjoy.
• Mass culture theories rely on the notion of audience as an undifferentiated
• Mass culture theory’s attitude towards audience is critiqued:
• 1) Audiences can use texts in different ways than intended. e.g. Blackberry
Messaging used to rally rioters in London.
• 2) Popular culture offers us an array of choices – we all don’t like the same
* image of early 20 century audience with 3D glasses *
On the other side of the coin, diversity is also deceptive. Lots of pop culture do
influence our sense of social order, even if we don’t like them.
Are audiences really passive?
Or do mass culture texts treat us this way be reinforcing notions of ‘social order’?
We use Popular Culture in Various Ways
Reggie Watts video is used politically to raise questions about mass culture
production and consumption. Sometimes the form of mass culture is used to
critique mass culture.
* F— S—t Stack picture