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Lecture

PCUL 1F92 Lecture Notes - Scott Henderson, Lawrence Grossberg, Entertainment Weekly


Department
Popular Culture
Course Code
PCUL 1F92
Professor
Scott Henderson

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PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, November-10-11
The Business of Popular Culture
Branding, Lifestyle and the Cultural Commodity
Value
How do we measure the economic value of popular culture?
Was the $4000 cell phone of the early 1980s a much better product
than the $400 iPhone of today?
Clearly we know that the mass production of components along with
much larger user base share cost of infrastructure cut down the costs
per phone. $4000 phone cost so much because so few users were
buying it. The more phones you make, the lower the cost is per
component.
Market Value vs Utility
** Image of an eReader
eReaders
oHave been around for a number of years, but not living up to
expectations.
oThen, hit a price point that led to a surge in sales.
oWhich led to a significant cultural shift.
New York Times now includes eBooks in the bestseller list.
Economics clearly plays a role in the business of popular
culture.
Pop Culture Economy
O’Brien and Szeman: “one could say that the entire economy is now
dependent in suprising way son popular culture.” -- possible exam
question.
What they’re suggesting is that we need to look to broader economic
circumstances as part of any analysis and understanding of popular
culture.
The meaning of a pop culture text is then tied to these wider ‘circuits
of culture’.
Assigning Value
How do we determine that the iPhone is more valuable than the $4000
cell phone, when cost tells us otherwise.
O’Brien and Szemen point to the critical or aesthetic value (is the
product good?), it is a highly subjective point of view.
This is distinct from economic value, which can be much more easily
measured.
Are the top-grossing films the ‘best’ films?
** Image of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 **

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PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, November-10-11
Sales records are only one way of measuring popularity.
But can they reveal anything about the text itself?
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PCUL1F92 Section 1: Thursday, November-10-11
** Image of last.fm logo **
Online Listening Habits
Analysis of listening habits on LastFM found very little correlation between
sales charts and online ‘charts’.
Do sales really measure popularity?
And yet the sales were still seen as integral to an artist’s success.
Popular vs Art
Stigma attached to popularity.
Tied our negative views related to the ‘mass’.
Is there really a ‘lowest common denominator’?
Meaning, and culture value, are separated from economic or financial
value.
Problems
This division relies heavily on assumptions.
Are all Hollywood ‘products’ the same?
Can something popular also be ‘art’?
The Greatest Film of All Time?
** Poster image of Citizen Kane vs. Wayne’s World Poster **
Academic Value?
Even under-valued works are worthy of study.
We can learn much about the processes of popular culture through
analysis of them.
oHow is our perception-of-self perceived by those who create our
entertainment?
Who is the Mass Audience?
* Exam question related to defining the mass audience.
We’ve already seen problems in Mass Culture theory and Frankfurt
School approach.
True that producers of popular culture often try to define or create a
sense of the ‘mass’.
The actual audience is highly fragmented.
Producers of popular culture try to imagine what a more massive,
uniform audience will like.
John Fiske
Late capitalist society is “composed of a huge variety of social groups
and subcultures, all held together in a network of social relations in
which the most significant factor is the differential distribution of
power.”
oIt is power based.
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