CMNS 110 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Working Class Culture, Making Money, Plebs

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Popular Culture
Three key elements to bear in mind in relation to the rise of studies in the field of popular culture:
1. The industrial revolution’s impact on the social organization of labor and everyday recreation.
2. The success of Marshall McLuhan’s book, The Gutenberg Galaxy
3. The appearance of semiotic approaches in the humanities and social sciences
George Lipsitz on Commercialized Leisure:
Leisure activities become commodities as society sees a transformation from the production of
entertainment to the consumption of entertainment.
McLuhan showed that criteria used in the study of art and literature could be applied successfully to the
analysis of so-called “popular arts” such as advertising, comic books, magazines, films, and television.
Division between high culture and low culture
People working in the field of popular culture analyze cultural forms and cultural products (sports/toys
eg) by examining the signifying practices of these cultural forms in relation to the broader socio-eco and
socio-cultural world in which these forms are embedded.
Popular:
of the people (denotation)
mass of the people (connotation)
This second, connotative meaning leads to notions of popular, being defined as base, vile, riff raff,
common, low, vulgar, plebian, cheap
Popular can mean something negative: [The “too popular” argument]
1. Lacking in artistic integrity on account of having becoming widely appreciated.
2. Losing original authenticity on account of having become widely appreciated.
“Popular” also has a dual meaning:
1. Objects, practises, and individuals who are popular/famous/or widely enjoyed at a particular
historical moment. A current pop star can be popular. [synchronic - one moment in time,
currently in style]
2. On the other hand, it refers to a timeless range of practices that are related to a particular domain
of the social order. Long dead pop stars can be popular - despite being dead. [diachronic - over
time]
ex) a part of popular culture
Culture: The social production and reproduction of sense, meaning, and consciousness. The sphere of
meaning, which unifies the spheres of production (economics) and social relations (politics).
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