Historical Overview of the Field of Popular Culture and
In our last lecture, we looked at:
1) culture as folk culture (created by people)
2) culture as mass culture (meditated to large audiences)
3) culture as mass consumption (what we buy, listen to, and eat, etc.)
4) culture as the everyday (what we do)
Hegemony (Gramsci, 1981)
• how people accept/understand culture
• he spoke against the dominant ideology of the italian government
why do people not speak out in larger numbers when they know that the
government is treating them wrong? Because people consent to being dominated,
being treated inhumanely and to social injustices.
We are not brainwashed. We are not passive.
The communication and interpretation of cultural messages involves
acceptance and consent. Ways people can be dominated:
1) Force - dominated by police. ex: police using their power incorrectly.
At G20 summit, police using pepper spray, rubber bullets. 40 people
put in a cell made for 10 people.. not very humane.
2) use of ideology in major civil institutions - to control ways of
thinking, to control thought. ex: church/religion, educations
institutions, economy, politics, mass media.
• If the same government can control all of these things they can control the
thoughts of the people. If people are consistently bombarded with the same way
of thinking about the social world, then they will begin to think that way.
If certain groups and individuals can have control over these institutions that
teach us, then the government will have absolute control over the masses.
¨ Therefore hegemony is…
subordinate groups accept or consent to being dominated by dominant groups.
• we accept it because we feel powerless to change it.
1 Examples: Defining the popular as what makes profit
• if it makes money it is legitimate.
• itunes, stores & sizes.
• ex: what types of sizes will be appropriate for certain markets. (a woman buying
a size 11 shoe, and people staring at her, plus many stores won’t have those large
o TV content
• You don’t call Rogers and Bell asking them to play a certain program because a
lot of people will like it.. You are accepting what is already played on TV.
o Social justice movements
Occupy Movement. 99% against the 1%. But why didn’t you go down and
protest at the St. James Cathedral? Didn’t want to miss class/work, didn’t think it
would make a difference, didn’t want to get involved with cops.
• hegemony says that you make these reasons. We think we’re powerless so we
choose to do nothing.
Interpellation (Althusser, 1971)
What cultural texts do
• the process that occurs when a cultural text calls out to us/ to our emotions/ to our
identities. it’s what happens when a text makes connections with us.
• think about it as being targeted.
Conditioning (the creation of subjects)
• when we see and interpret texts, they make us into something (robots).
• when a text attracts us, it is conditioning us.
• it makes us into subjects because it makes us follow those things we are attracted
• it suggests or recommends how you should behave, what you should like, and
what you should take value/interest in.
• for example: hailing someone. ex: a teacher standing at the front yelling “hey
you! stop texting” hey you is the interpellation, it could be you.
• when you hail a taxi, you are interpreting it. you are calling out to it. you want to
make it your subject. stop for me not the guy down the street.
1 Example: your favourite television show or cultural product
the things we don't like also interpellate us. just as the things we like do.
• ex: taser use in canada. it interpolates in a negative way. they are mostly new men
to the country.
Culture is class and capital:Alook at Bourdieu (1984)
• the class you are born into determines your capital.
• you buy things at a store(clothes), you are buying things based
on your/parents class.
• you watch things on TV based on your class.
• everything leads back to class.
Class as a determining factor
• CLASS: your income, the neighbourhood in which you live, the things you
• class determines the choices of consumption that we make and what we consume
determines our behaviours.
Capital: economic, social, and cultural
• does your class determine your cultural taste?
• economic: your financial power. (access to internet) (all the things that your
smartphone can do)
• social: the things that you own (your computer/cellphone). It has to do with your
ability to make connections and make relationships. So it has to do with all the
people you are connected too. (Facebook/Twitter,All the people that you know
and all the people that those people know)
• cultural: tastes, values and judgements. Do you know what’s valuable in our
society? Do you know what the trends are? Do you know what is meaningful in a
• We get our capital from our parents according to him. He thinks our class
determines our ability to consume things.
• We get our tastes from our parents. and each of these things mean different things
depending on the 3 types of capital’s you have, and how much of them you have.
1 • ex: You can use your economic capital to expand your social capital. (Use your
money to know more people/expand)
• ex: You need a job. You tell your parents and friends. You post it on many walls
around the school. You post online. (Using your social network to possibly
expand your economic)
Media and Cultural Effects
• interpretation in audiences
1) Effects of Content: What does popular culture content say about our
values? What is the influence of what is being communicated? What do we do with
when people go on gun rampages. (How music can be blamed for influencing
• what media does to us.
2) Audience interpretation: How do we make sense of popular culture? How
are our values influenced by popular culture? What do our consumption choices
say about who we are?
• what do we do with the media
Direct Effects Approaches
1) Hypodermic Needle Theory (Magic Bullet Theory)
Media Messages are injected ... like a needle or a bullet from a gun
• no matter what the message is, all members of audience receive it in the same
way and the MEANING is also the same.
It also assumes that messages produce a direct or immediate response
Example: Orson Welles – War of the Worlds (1938)
• He created a radio story. The story was about an alien invasion in the eastern sea
board of the US. (Boston/New YorkArea).
• People listened to the broadcast and thought it was real. They called the police.
Panic ensued even though it was fictional.