Popular culture is usually distinguished from folk and high culture. In some ways, folk culture is similar to pop culture because of the mass participation involved. Folk culture, however, represents the traditional way of doing things. Consequently, it is not as amendable to change and is much more static than popular culture.
Folk culture represents a simpler lifestyle, that is generally conservative, largely self-sufficient, and often characteristic of rural life. Radical innovation is generally discouraged. Group members are expected to conform to traditional modes of behavior adopted by the community. Folk culture is local in orientation, and non-commercial. In short, folk culture promises stability, whereas popular culture is generally looking for something new or fresh. Because of this, popular culture often represents an intrusion and a challenge to folk culture.
Conversely, folk culture rarely intrudes upon popular culture. There are times when certain elements of folk culture eg Turkish rugs, Mexican blankets and Irish fairy tales find their way into the world of pop culture. Generally, when items of folk culture are appropriated and marketed by the popular culture, the folk items gradually lose their original form. A key characteristic of popular culture is its accessibility to the masses. It is, after all, the culture of the people.
High culture, on the other hand, is not mass produced, nor meant for mass consumption. It belongs to the social elite; the fine arts, opera, theatre, and high intellectualism are associated with the upper socioeconomic classes. Items of high culture often require extensive experience, training, or reflection to be appreciated. Such items seldom cross over to the pop culture domain. Consequently, popular culture is generally looked down upon as being superficial when compared to the sophistication of high culture.
This does not mean that social elites do not participate in popular culture or that members of the masses do not participate in high culture. Through most of human history, the masses were influenced by dogmatic forms of rule and traditions dictated by local folk culture. With the beginning of the Industrial era late eighteenth century , the rural masses began to migrate to cities, leading to the urbanization of most Western societies.
Urbanization is a key ingredient in the formation of popular culture. People who once lived in homogeneous small villages or farms found themselves in crowded cities marked by great cultural diversity. Thus, many scholars trace the beginning of the popular culture phenomenon to the rise of the middle class brought on by the Industrial Revolution.
Industrialization also brought with it mass production; developments in transportation, such as the steam locomotive and the steamship; advancements in building technology; increased literacy; improvements in education and public health; and the emergence of efficient forms of commercial printing, representing the first step in the formation of a mass media eg the penny press, magazines, and pamphlets. All of these factors contributed to the blossoming of popular culture.
By the start of the twentieth century, the print industry mass-produced illustrated newspapers and periodicals, as well as serialized novels and detective stories. Newspapers served as the best source of information for a public with a growing interest in social and economic affairs. The ideas expressed in print provided a starting point for popular discourse on all sorts of topics. Fueled by further technological growth, popular culture was greatly impacted by the emerging forms of mass media throughout the twentieth century.
Films, broadcast radio and television all had a profound influence on culture. So urbanization, industrialization, the mass media and the continuous growth in technology since the late s, have all been significant factors in the formation of popular culture. These continue to be factors shaping pop culture today. There are numerous sources of popular culture. As implied above, a primary source is the mass media, especially popular music, film, television, radio, video games, books and the internet.
In addition, advances in communication allows for the greater transmission of ideas by word of mouth, especially via cell phones. Many TV programs, such as American Idol and the Last Comic Standing, provide viewers with a phone number so that they can vote for a contestant. This combining of pop culture sources represents a novel way of increasing public interest, and further fuels the mass production of commodities.
You will notice that the phrase is made from separable units: Popular, I think, expresses the essential character of a high-tech, media-dominated age. If the media are correct, this is emphatically not the character of popular culture. Every day each person is addressed by cultural institutions — television for instance — which assume as their audience nothing short of the Collective Man. By Culture I intend those instituted actions and objects expressing that which is held in high esteem.
For the public articulation of personal beliefs is never free from institutional mediation, such as when a newspaper reporter elicits our private opinion of the Conservative Harris agenda, using carefully-worded questions.
Culture does not issue from a vacuum, and not even from the sincere, spontaneous expression of an individual. And let us not forget perversions and heresies as well; for a culture, if it is to be vibrant, must somehow appropriate to itself that which issues a threatening challenge or a deplored variation.
The strength of a culture is therefore to be judged by the ability or relative inability of its institutions to respect diversity while representing to its constituents a public: Aristocracies accomplish this by appealing to the metaphor of the body politic, of which the King serves as head, and we ordinary folk presumably as toes, elbows, and the like.
Our tastes however, inclining as they do toward democratic models, are supposedly gratified not by distinctions, but by uniformity. Hence, pop institutions labour toward the illusion that, whatever our superficial peculiarities, we are all of us of a mass, sharing certain fundamental values. There is one further point I wish to advance before I move on.
If you doubt this, call me on the 14TH of February. Popular culture is mass-produced by corporations for profit: And most of the time, most people are quite comfortable with this. Given my argument thus far, this would appear absurd. How does one defend the values of the people against the culture of the people? The popular culture industry feeds on attack, and is indeed founded upon it. The music industry, for one, has been richly rewarded for its appropriation of rebellion and critique, whether it was the 60s youth culture or 90s Gangsta Rap.
Establishment record companies promptly soak up the disposable income of anti-establishment teens, to the apparent satisfaction of all involved.
Capitalism thrives because it can sell even anti-capitalism.
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Keywords: popular culture essay, pop culture essay "Popular culture is always defined, implicitly or explicitly, in contrast to other conceptual categories: folk culture, mass culture, dominant culture" John Storey, , p Before we look into more depth about the term 'popular culture' we must first determine what it actually means.
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