Week 11 how to read popular culture
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Week 11. How to read popular culture. Why do people watch soap operas, horror films, and other popular genres. Are they escaping from reality, living in an illusory world, or just enjoying themselves and making money for Hollywood? What does the mass media do to culture and society?

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Week 11. How to read popular culture

  • Why do people watch soap operas, horror films, and other popular genres. Are they escaping from reality, living in an illusory world, or just enjoying themselves and making money for Hollywood?

  • What does the mass media do to culture and society?

  • Do we live in a ‘hyperreality’ where the images are more real than ’reality’?


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Ways to study the media

  • As an industry – the production of media and its images, who owns, who controls, who sets the agenda. Glasgow media studies group

  • As consumption - passive and active audiences

  • As a cultural phenomena, what images, how do they convey their meanings.

  • As a fundamental feature of post-modern society, not merely information age but a new reality – hyper-reality


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Reading:

  • Lyon, David (1999) Postmodernity. Open University Press, Buckingham. Chapter 4. ‘Postindustrialism to postmodernity’.

    Studies:

  • Ang, Ien (1985).Watching Dallas: soap opera and the melodramatic imagination translated by Della Couling. London; New York: Methuen, 791 ANG


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Chronology of media studies

  • Kevin Williams has provided a history [of media studies] from its birth in nineteenth century debates, through its formulation in the US in the 1930s based on mass society theories, propaganda and public opinion and the work of the Chicago School.

  • The new quantitative empirical research which superseded it in the 1940s was itself replaced by the critical turn in the 1960s and the popularity of Marxist and structuralist analyses, as well as feminist and McLuhanist perspectives.

  • Post-structuralist and post-modernist theories began to make an impact from the 1980s, as did neo-Marxist debates on the public sphere, though the 1990s were dominated by audience reception theory and effects research. (Merrin, 2005:1-2)


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Postindustrial society

  • Just as agrarian societies based on the land had given way to industrial, based on manufacturing, so new service-based societies were coming into being. Daniel Bell’s postindustrial society provided the ‘social frame work’ for the ‘information society’ in which telecommunications and computers would become ‘decisive for the way economic and social exchanges are conducted, the way knowledge is created and retrieved, and the character of work and organizations in which men [sic] are engaged’. (Bell quoted by Lyon p.48)

  • This is seen as progress, an inevitably beneficial future which will spread throughout the globe.


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“Following McLuhan, Baudrillard argues that it is through their form and operation rather than the content they carry, that the electronic media of communication have transformed social relations.

The existing mass media are considered to undermine communication as an exchange, to ‘fabricate non-communication’, and prevent response other than in the form of a simulation, which itself is already inscribed in the process of transmission-reception.” (Smart 1992:122)

Jean Baudrillard

  • http://word.world-citizenship.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/jeanbaudrillard1.jpg


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Non-communication their form and operation rather than the content they carry, that the electronic media of communication have transformed social relations.

  • “The mobile phone provides one example of this [technologies of non-communication]. Its popular take-up through the late 1990s transformed it from a much ridiculed and even publically despised elite gadget to an essential component of individual life and communication. In the process it also moved beyond criticism such that all critical analysis of its use and its transformation of social relations appears reactionary and old fashioned.


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It does however, provide an excellent Baudrillardian example of a form that only appears to increase communication, the streets full of oblivious, down-turned individuals thumbing their abbreviated and almost meaningless messages [twittering?] back and forth representing a dystopic realization of that world of non-communication he described in 1971.

In his Cool Memories 4 of 2000, Baudrillard suggests exactly this. For him the man in the street ‘talking away to no one’ represent ‘a new urban figure’, one imposing on everyone else ‘the virtual presence of the network’. Emphasizing the priority of symbolic relations against such asociality and public imposition, Baudrillard describes him as ‘a living insult to the passers by’ (p.24)” (Merrin, 2005:23)

Noncommunication


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hyperreality: of a form that only appears to increase communication, the streets full of oblivious, down-turned individuals thumbing their abbreviated and almost meaningless messages [twittering?] back and forth representing a dystopic realization of that world of non-communication he described in 1971.

  • hyperreality:-a condition in which "reality" has been replaced by simulacra-

  • Baudrillard argues that today we only experience prepared realities-- edited war footage, meaningless acts of terrorism, the Jerry Springer ShowThe very definition of the real has become: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction. . . The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced: that is the hyperreal. . . which is entirely in simulation.

  • Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible.

  • http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/Anthro/Anth206/jean_baudrillard_and_hyperrealit.htm


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“The ‘real’ has not come to an end, other than in the sense that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle ‘event’ from media constituted ‘representation’. To an extent the representation or, as Baudrillard has it, the simulation is the event, it is what is known of the event, it becomes virtually synonymous with the event. Here we are on the terrain of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperrreal’… The key point is that there no longer exists an unmediated ‘reality’ as the potential object of representation; the real has become ‘that which is always already reproduced’ and to that extent hyperreal.” (Smart 1992:139)

hyperreality

http://www.chrismadden.co.uk/cell-phone-cartoons/phoneselect.html


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Critiques of post-modernity sense that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle ‘event’ from media constituted ‘representation’. To an extent the representation or, as Baudrillard has it, the simulation is the event, it is what is known of the event, it becomes virtually synonymous with the event. Here we are on the terrain of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperrreal’… The key point is that there no longer exists an unmediated ‘reality’ as the potential object of representation; the real has become ‘that which is always already reproduced’ and to that extent hyperreal.” (Smart 1992:139)

  • “Is the Babel of communicative society – now enlarged to a global range – a situation to be welcomed for its liberating potential or resisted as disintegrative and destructive of human relationships?” (Lyon p.68)

  • Themes: globalisation, consumerism, media, knowledge, information


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Anthony King sense that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle ‘event’ from media constituted ‘representation’. To an extent the representation or, as Baudrillard has it, the simulation is the event, it is what is known of the event, it becomes virtually synonymous with the event. Here we are on the terrain of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperrreal’… The key point is that there no longer exists an unmediated ‘reality’ as the potential object of representation; the real has become ‘that which is always already reproduced’ and to that extent hyperreal.” (Smart 1992:139)

  • Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 24, No. 6, 47-66 (1998)DOI: 10.1177/019145379802400603A critique of Baudrillard's hyperreality: towards a sociology of postmodernism

  • Anthony King University of Exeter, Department of Sociology, Exeter, UK

  • Through the critical examination of Baudrillard's concept of hyperreality, this article seeks to make a wider contribution to contemporary debates about postmodernism. It draws on a post-Cartesian, Heideggerian philosophy to demonstrate the weakness of the concept of hyperreality and reveal its foundation in a Cartesian epistemology. The article goes on to claim that this same Heideggerian tradition suggests a way in which the concept of hyperreality and nihilistic postmodern sociologies more generally might be dialectically superseded. Instead of these theories being seen as saying anything insightful about recent social transformations, the epistemological void in which they position themselves should be interpreted as the intellectual expression of the wider cultural and postmodern trend of transgression.

  • Key Words: Baudrillard • Cartesianism • Heidegger • hyperreality • postmodernism


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 Professor Ien Ang sense that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle ‘event’ from media constituted ‘representation’. To an extent the representation or, as Baudrillard has it, the simulation is the event, it is what is known of the event, it becomes virtually synonymous with the event. Here we are on the terrain of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperrreal’… The key point is that there no longer exists an unmediated ‘reality’ as the potential object of representation; the real has become ‘that which is always already reproduced’ and to that extent hyperreal.” (Smart 1992:139)

Centre for Cultural Research University of Western Sydney

Distinguished Professor Ien Ang, Professor of Cultural Studies and the founding Director of CCR, is currently an Australian Research Council Australian Professorial Fellow. She is one of the leaders in cultural studies worldwide, with interdisciplinary work spanning many areas of the humanities and social sciences. Her books, including Watching Dallas, Desperately Seekingthe Audience and On Not Speaking Chinese, are recognised as classics in the field and her work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Turkish, German, Korean, and Spanish. Her most recent book, co-authored with Gay Hawkins and Lamia Dabboussy, is The SBS Story: The Challenge of Cultural Diversity (UNSW Press, 2008)

Professor Ang’s innovative interdisciplinary work deals broadly with patterns of cultural flow and exchange in our globalised world, focusing on issues such as:

the formation of audiences and publics 

the politics of identity and difference

migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism in Australia and Asia 

issues of representation in contemporary cultural institutions.

http://uws.clients.squiz.net/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers/professor_ien_ang#2

 Professor Ien Ang


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Dallas sense that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle ‘event’ from media constituted ‘representation’. To an extent the representation or, as Baudrillard has it, the simulation is the event, it is what is known of the event, it becomes virtually synonymous with the event. Here we are on the terrain of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperrreal’… The key point is that there no longer exists an unmediated ‘reality’ as the potential object of representation; the real has become ‘that which is always already reproduced’ and to that extent hyperreal.” (Smart 1992:139)

  • American dramatic serial about a rich Texan oil family.

  • Worldwide popularity.

  • “In the Netherlands, for example, over the half the population watched Dallas every week in the spring of 1982, when its popularity reached its peak.

  • Dallas developed into a modern myth. It became a symbol of a new television age.

  • Time magazine ‘the program’s high gloss handsomeness brings a touch of class to the ruck of commercial series TV’.

  • Sontag ‘symbol of American cultural imperialism’.`(Ang 1985:2)


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As far as visual style is concerned, Dallas offers no surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

Nearly all the scenes consist of conversation; what we see the characters doing mostly is just talking to one another. In these discussions problems and mutual conflicts are expressed, generally of a psychological nature. Physical violence, and even milder forms of action, play a marginal part in Dallas. And this continues endlessly, in one episode after another. When one problem is still unsolved, another looms of the horizon.

Although this every continuing story may sound ridiculous and terribly exaggerated to the disengaged reader, it is treated in an entirely serious manner within the programme. All themes and events are dramatized without any humorous distancing devices.

Dallas as Hollywood television


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Production perspective surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • Hollywood film industry meeting competition on television as a medium

  • Transferred stars from film to TV

  • same sets repeatedly used keeps production costs down over outdoor filming

  • South Fork Ranch is now a tourist attraction.

http://southfork-ranch.visit-dallas.com/


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Why do people watch Dallas? surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • Why do people watch Dallas? Nobody is forced to watch television; at most, people can be led to it by effective advertising. What then are the determining factors of this enjoyment, this pleasure?

  • Advertised in a Dutch women’s magazine.

  • Forty-two letters of reply.

  • Not an empirical sample – qualitative research, analyse reasons for watching, decode what they say not simply taken as self-evident.

  • “we cannot let the letters speak for themselves, they that they should be read ‘symptomatically’: we must search for what is behind the explicitly written, for presupposition and accepted attitudes concealed within them. In other words, the letters must be regarded as texts, as discourse people produce when they want to express or have to account for their own preference for, or aversion to, a highly controversial piece of popular culture like Dallas.” (Ang 1985:11)


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Melodrama surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • Tension between fiction and the real. Involvement and distancing from the characters. How does it produce the tears in the audience – even although they know it is fiction

  • Experiencing pleasure in Dallas is an immediate spontaneous experience, doesn’t involve self reflection or intellectual effort

  • “It is as though the pleasure of Dallas eludes the rational consciousness of these letter-writers. They do their utmost to give explanations for that pleasure, but somehow they know that the explanations they can put into words are not the whole story, or even perhaps the ‘right’ story.” (Ang 1985: 85)


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Ideology of mass culture surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • “if people have to account for taste, for example when they have to give reasons why they like or dislike Dallas, they cannot, or only difficulty, evade the discursive power of the ideology of mass culture. This why the ideology of mass culture succeeds in ensuring that each category of letter-writers – haters, ironizing lovers, ‘real’ lovers of Dallas – is alive to its norms and judgements and why it seems to brush aside the populist position.” (Ang 1985: 114)


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pleasure surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • “Pleasure, however, is the category that is ignored in the ideology of mass culture. In its discourses pleasure seems to be non-existent. Instead it makes like responsibility, critical distance or aesthetic purity central – moral categories that make pleasure an irrelevant and illegitimate criterion. In this way the ideology of mass culture places itself totally outside framework of the popular aesthetic, of the way in which popular cultural practices take shape in the routines of daily life.” (Ang 1985: 116)

  • Discusses the significance of Dallas and women’s responses to popular culture to feminist and critical positions.


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References surprises: there are hardly any unusual camera movements, no experiments with lighting and so on; these are no diversions from the normal conventions of the productions rules of prime time television programmes. In short, Dallas is in every respect an expertly made sample of mainstream Hollywood television. (Ang 1985:8-9)

  • William Merrin, 2005 Baudrillard and the media: a critical introductionrevised. Polity Press.

  • Barry Smart, 1992 Modern Conditions: Post-modern controversies. London: Routledge.


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