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What is Popular Culture?. What is Popular Culture?. Popular culture is a “conceptual category.” It can be defined in a wide variety of sometimes conflicting ways, depending on the context of use. What is Popular Culture?.

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what is popular culture2
What is Popular Culture?

Popular culture is a “conceptual category.” It can be defined in a wide variety of sometimes conflicting ways, depending on the context of use.

what is popular culture3
What is Popular Culture?
  • Popular culture is always defined, implicitly or explicitly, in contrast to other conceptual categories: folk culture, mass culture, dominant culture, working class culture, etc.
  • This in part accounts for why Fiske refers to popular culture as “more a culture of process than of products” (323).
what is popular culture4
What is Popular Culture?
  • To understand pop culture, we must understand its parts and several key terms.
key terms
Key Terms
  • Popular
    • Statistical (Fiske 322), or a Quantitative Index (something that can be measured)
      • But where do we draw the line? How many people must like something for it to be considered popular?
    • “Serves the interest of ‘the people’” (Fiske 322)
      • Fearful notion, especially for the elite. (Fiske 323-25)
      • What if this group gets out of control?
      • Fears of the Frankfurt school.
key terms6
Key Terms
  • Culture
    • A way of life (lived cultures, or cultural practices like celebrations or youth culture)
    • Signifying practices (cultural texts such as soap operas, pop music)
    • “Social circulation of meanings, values, and pleasures . . . the processes of forming social identities and social relationships, . . . entering into relation with the larger social order in a particular way and from a particular position” (Fiske 322)
key terms7
Key Terms
  • Ideology
    • A systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular group of people
      • What is feminist ideology?
        • A belief in equal rights and opportunities for men and women.
    • A “politics” embedded in a text
      • What is the New Newlywed Game’s ideology?
        • Fiske addresses this question when he describes its conservative, patriarchal nature.
key terms8
Key Terms
  • Mass Culture
    • Produces cultural commodities designed to appeal to as many people as possible (Fiske 326)
    • Industrial network that produces many of popular culture’s resources (326)
    • Use (or lack of use) of these products does not figure in the definition.
popular culture characteristic 1
Popular Culture: Characteristic 1
  • Use: “Art of Making Do With What is Available” (Fiske 326)
    • American culture and its people shape and are shaped by mass culture and popular culture.
    • What Americans use and how they use it distinguishes mass culture from popular culture.
popular culture characteristic 2
Popular Culture: Characteristic 2
  • Selection: “Roughly 80 percent of the products of mass culture are rejected by the people” (326)
    • No universal “standard” or selection criteria.
    • “socially located criteria of relevance”
popular culture characteristic 3
Popular Culture: Characteristic 3
  • Contradictions & Tensions in Use
    • Prescriptive/Ideological Norm of the “text”
    • Individual Desires and Needs of the “user”
      • Excess allows the user to “poach” meanings. (Fiske 332)
      • Incorporation/Excorporation
      • Appropriation/Expropriation
key terms12
Key Terms
  • High Culture
    • Use: Not mass produced or meant for mass consumption & “above” commercial concerns–elite.
    • Selection: Learned or “the right” people select what’s in and out.
    • Contradictions &Tensions in Use: “Not typically seen as antagonistic” (Fiske 332)
popular culture traits
Comprises the space between social norms and their application (322)

Culture of process, not products (323)

Contradictory (325)

Bound up with mass culture (325; 331)

Not dogmatic, creative (326)

Makes do with what’s available

Culture of the here & now (334)

Popular Culture Traits
popular culture interpretation
Popular Culture Interpretation
  • Interpretation requires
    • A “distanced” view to uncover the text’s ideological norms (333)
    • An insider’s view to uncover the relationship between the text and its user (333)
      • Snapshots of culture in process.
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