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English 2017
Thy Phu

English 2017 Chapter 1- Introducing Popular Culture Defining Popular Culture - popular culture consists of those things- products, texts, practices, and so on- that are enjoyed by lots of people - it is commercial culture consisting of the traditional practices and beliefs or way of life of a specific group - pop culture is simply the practices of everyday life - although these definitions summarize general meanings of pop culture, the differences be- tween them is fundamental to understanding the varying interpretations of the term popular cul- ture What is Culture? - culture has multiple meanings - commonly understood as focusing on high-end creative productions- artistic pursuits enjoyed by an elite minority - privileged collection of artifacts that comprises a cultural tradition - a second definition of culture encompasses a way of life of a society or distinct subsection of society including art, everyday rituals such as meals, work, religious observances, sports, sex, family, and friendship The Mass Media - mass media tends to fall outside the definitions of culture centred around elite artistic produc- tion or the practices of ordinary everyday life; also cited as the thing that threatens to destroy culture in both these sense - people feel that the mass media erodes the traditional aspects of culture, feel something has been lost - desire to study our world before it was contaminated by commerce motives the relatively new discipline of cultural studies Objects of Study - one definition describes culture as the social production and reproduction of sense, meaning and consciousness. The sphere of meaning, which unifies the spheres of production (econom- ics) and social relations (politics) - useful definition because it incorporates traditional definitions of culture- fine art and everyday practices- as well as mass media - the different conceptions of culture named in this definition are not only historically different, but contradictory - seeks to understand the connections between culture and the spheres of politics and econom- ics, along with how that realm of activity concerned with meanings, pleasures, and identities shapes (and is shaped by) relations of power What/ Who Defines the Popular? - popular is often used in a contemporary context to describe something that is liked by a lot of people - blurring between high culture and popular culture, as popular no longer refers to the most people, but to a particular group to whom a certain quality or value is attached - i.e. some argue that as a public space, museums should respond to the preference of people in general rather than to the tastes of the extremely educated elite - concept of people is easily skewed and misinterpreted, who represents the people? - when those that are elected to be representatives of the people forget the minorities or special interest groups, who then represents them? - the word popular tends to carry connotations of value that are implicitly contrasted with the value of what it is not, though those values are seen differently depending on who is talking and in what context - second, the question of who or what constitutes the popular is tangled up with questions of power- who has the power to determine the popular - what kind of agency- that is, possibility for self-motivated activity or action- is involved on the part of the people in determining or defining something to be popular ? What is Popular Culture? - most familiar use of the term popular culture identifies it with the entertainment produced through and by commercial media (television, film, the music industry, etc.) that have the eco- nomic and technological capacity to reach large, demographically diverse and geographically dispersed audiences - popularity, in this case, is measured by patterns of consumption: it refers to the things we buy (or watch, listen to) - somewhat different use of the term popular culture defines it in terms not of consumption, but production: popular culture is what the people make, or do, for themselves - this definition fits fairly closely with the anthropological definition of culture as the practices of everyday life - culture that is produced by large corporate entities is driven by their need to create things to sell to the public - this kind of culture is often seen as threatening the culture of everyday life by creating habits of passive consumption rather than productive activity- people rely on others to supply them with culture that would be fulfilling for somebody to personally create Folk Culture and Mass Culture - folk culture refers to those cultural products and practices that have developed over time with- in a particular community or socially identifiable group, and that are communicated from genera- tion to generation and amongst people who tend to be known to one another - transmission of folk culture is generally technologically simple (e.g., face-to-face, oral commu- nication) - mass culture, on the other hand, is produced for an unknown, disparate audience, more likely to depend on electronic or mechanical media to convey its message to the largest possible audi- ence in oder to secure maximum profit, which is its ultimate goal - folk culture can cross over to mass culture through expansion of production for capitalist gains- i.e. traditional Inuit sculptures being mass produced in factories to get distributed and sold, rap music becoming a multi-billion dollar industry after emerging fairly recently from the street cul- ture of the South Bronx - therefore, attempt to maintain strict division is difficult - nostalgia attached to the idea of preserving a folk culture devoid of the corruption associated with commerce, returning to a (mythical) time in history in which culture and social identities were secure and cultural boundaries were clear - when the desire to preserve a folk culture is extended to a socially and economically disadvan- taged group, the situation becomes even more complicated, as exchanging their folk culture for mass cultural would mean extensive monetary gains, and the disapproval of those who fall un- der the popular culture category may only be attributed to their upset at this new-found compe- tition for business - a less crudely materialistic motivation for consumer nostalgia in this case might be a well-in- tentioned, if racist, aesthetic investment in the image of the noble savage - this imaginary figure conjures up a purer, more natural world outside Western commercial cul- ture while occupying a comfortable place within it - folk culture as a term has a lot of ideological baggage and many troublesome derivations - however, it still retains some value as a descriptive term to designative particular kinds of cul- tural production, especially when referring to a time before our present capitalist movement which now constantly skews the boundaries between authenticity and commercial value Capitalism - economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and distribution, geared towards the generation of profit - dominant economic system in the world today - system of private enterprise whose primary aim is the production of profit - has been developing since at least the fifteenth century - underwrites many economic and cultural institutions that we take for granted today, such as private property, individual freedom, and the imperative of economic growth - our tendency to view these aspects of capitalism as natural to humanity makes us dismiss its negative aspects, such as social fragmentation, unequal distribution of wealth, and the conver- sion of everything (including life itself) into something that can be bought or sold - in capitalist economies, means of creating, distributing, and exchanging wealth lie mainly in the hands of individuals and corporations rather than in public or state hands - main goal of individuals in capitalism is to maximize the profit or wages they receive - criticism is that it emphasizes the status quo- gap between rich and poor grows - postmodern, postindustrial, or late capitalism is distinguished by the fact that by comparison to earlier eras of capitalism there is now a greater emphasis on the exchange of information and services (software and banking) as opposed to hard goods (steel and cars) in an economy that has become globally integrated The Culture of Everyday Life - popular culture can also be defined as the communicative practices of everyday life, where communicative practices comprises all those activities concerned with the production of mean- ing: talking, writing, social rituals such as eating, shopping, dancing, music, visual culture, sports, fashion, etc., that are shared among many members of a society, including those who arent particularly socially, economically, or politically powerful - this somewhat clumsy definition accomplishes three things: - 1. Signals the inclusion of mass media alongside, and even within, the practices of ev- eryday life, without determining in advance what relationship it has to those practices - 2. it emphasizes the meaningful nature of popular culture- meaningful in the sense that it is important, as well as in the sense that it is concerned with the production of sense and social value - 3. highlights the issue of power that always and overtly dogs the production of culture in general, and popular culture in particular The Politics of Popular Culture - culture both reflects and influences social organization and the distribution of power - capitalism in its wealth-generating capacity and patterns of inequitable distribution enables the production of culture, and contributes to the economic and social struggle that is in
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