Detective Work

A closer look at popular culture and communication

Where Your Opinion Matters.

With the emergence of user-generated content sharing sites such as YouTube, average people have become opinion leaders in certain domains. This is due mostly to the ability to create our own videos and content for others to share. I really enjoy this particular amateur video as the young woman is sharing useful information for other likeminded individuals. Her goal is not to increase consumption of a particular brand, but inform and demonstrate proper techniques while applying make up. I found it very refreshing and useful as she appears to have some sort of experience in the make up industry, and is quite genuine. YouTube allows us to access information from a variety of sources. I feel comfortable receiving “tried and true” information from an individual resembling myself, rather than from a magazine who divulge make up tips that require that you purchase specific brands and/or products (sponsored by the magazine to no surprise). As her list of subscribers grows, so does her YouTube reputation. She has fans who take her information seriously and to heart. How could she not be considered a new generation ‘Opinion Leader’?

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So Low It’s High?

Emo Albert Einstein

emo

If we are producing ourselves performing, as stated in a February 10th lecture, how can one define expressive culture within a specific social context?

 

Stuart Hall acknowledges that there has been a hegemonic shift in the meaning of culture; from high culture to mainstream popular culture. In order to explore this shift, I turn to American sociologist Herbert Gans and his book Popular Culture and High Culture: an Analysis and Evaluation of Taste.

 

High culture is an academic discourse to address what is deemed high art, classical music, and academic level literature. High culture is usually bound in academic journals and reviews. Constrating high culture is low culture, that which is deemed uneducational, trashy, or appeals to the average joe. This can include gossip magazines, MTV, comic books, celebrity interviews ect. Low culture is generally spread through word-of-mouth or magazines. However, high and low culture are not completely distinct.

 

The internet has furthered an already progressive gray area between these two entities. Gans groups the blurry distinction into two categories; upper middle culture and lower middle culture.

 

YouTube exemplifies the interconnected relationship between the two. High culture makes its way into mainstream popular culture through parody, appropriation, and the accessibility of the products to “average people”. The underprivileged are able to access the same virtual information sharing library as the educated via the Internet.

 

As stated in class, we, the average person, are producing 70% of the world’s digital culture. This number is sure to increase as user-generated content gains further popularity. Much like the arrival of the Guttenberg press, in which “more books were published in fifty years than in the entire human history before that” (Strangelove), our “low culture” products are taking the form of print through blogs and video through amateur created content. If word-of-mouth is predominantly a characteristic of low culture, what happens when our words become physical texts everyone to access? If the average man creates more content than educated philosophers and protégées, will low culture become the new high as it reflects new meanings and ideals of our current society? This idea isn’t too far fetched as, “in six months we put more stuff up on YouTube than NBC, MTV, and Fox produced in 60 years” (Strangelove).

 

Who decides?

YouTrouble

This video was created to embarrass and possibly destroy a young sixteen year old girl. It was filmed with the intention of upload onto YouTube. Six girls allegedly kept the young teen in the house and as you can see, proceeded to attack her physically. The video doesn’t show the two gentlemen who were discovered to be keeping look out outside of the house. The video was intentional. The kidnapping was intentional. Clearly punching the teen in the face was also intentional. Why? Are teens so hungry for attention or to become “E-Famous” in a sea of user generated content? Is this what today’s teen wants to watch? In establishing what is popular culture, is it important to look at the content we the consumers are creating. We can watch what we choose, deem what is and what isn’t popular. Unfortunately for the eight teens arrested and potentially charged with kidnap and battery, their video did not receive thousands of views due to original content and excellent technical execution. They did however manage to get their face in the news internationally, in the form of a mug shot

 

mug

My sister is a slut

This is an amateur video that was created by a thirteen year old girl with a clear hate for her sister. The title “my sister is a slut” sets the tone for a series of pictures featuring her infamous sister set to music. Pictures and videos uploaded on to YouTube are stripped of their original context and altered in order to suit the wants of the producer. This video is cruel and immature and I am appalled that it has received over 6 000 views. Her privacy has been invaded as the menacing sister uses her full name to accompany the photos. In a world where we are both producers and consumers privacy becomes more limited. This video will surely cause further problems down the road for Jessica Amezuca, as employers have access to the internet as well. Many companies are using Facebook and other networking sites in order to “check up on” applicants before hire. Potentially the worst part about this video is that she appears to be an ordinary, self-regulated individual. She is not wearing overly revealing clothes or surrounded by an abundance of men, yet the stigma or “slut” reputation could stick as that is the context in which the video was set. I should wonder if she was even aware her sister was posting it on the internet, or her reaction when she found out… poor girl

Groovin’ Grandma

This lady goes against the cultural ideals and hegemonic views of femininity. She is old, pale, and slightly over weight, yet she is embracing it by having a good time. It is a refreshing video to see as commercial is flooded with dance videos displaying barely legal toothpick thin girls in booty shorts in order to generate profit. User generated content sharing sites like YouTube, allow us to get a clearer picture of a realistic female portrayal. To the surprise of big business media, the woman has received positive feedback from the virtual audience. At over 300 000 + views and a positive review of 4.5 stars, it is evident that new generations want more from media than a materialistic and fabricated ideal of femininity. Sex does not necessarily generate profit and viewers as clearly depicted in this short clip.

Sex and the Capitalists.

In a lecture on January 12th Strangelove discusses the relationship between capitalism and ideologies…

 

sex1

 

This lecture opened my eyes to the close relationship that the two entities share. News and media are described as the mouthpiece of capitalism. Ideologies are defined as the meeting place for power and meaning.

 

“Ideologies reproduce social conditions and relations that are necessary for economic conditions and relations” (Strangelove). Media can reinforce ideologies and use them to their benefit in order to keep us in a constant state of hyper-consumption. We don’t want to be alienated by our peers for not conforming to cultural roles or not striving to be the “ideal” type. And don’t think for one second we want to be caught in a yellow sweater when that color was clearly deemed “so last season”.

 

Before taking this course, I would have thought that shows which break cultural rules by featuring homosexuality, promiscuity, female independence, and/or male passiveness, to be innovative and cutting-edge. One which quickly comes to mind is HBO’s Sex and the City. If ideologies reproduce social conditions in order to maintain the interests of capitalism, what makes television shows that feature gender bending or obscure behavior successful?

 

Sex and the City appears to contain all the features of an anti-capitalist, non conformist, New York lifestyle in which Carrie has options, choices, friends, and her own sense of self separate from her interpersonal relationships. If we idolize an individual who does not conform to cultural expectations or ideologies, how can social relations which govern economic conditions be produced? This would be an interesting question if Sex and the City didn’t produce ideologies on a level unconscious to those simply tuning in for entertainment.

 

Upon closer inspection, Sex and the City actually reproduced:

  • mating in New York and the need for a husband (Carrie wants nothing more than to be married to Richard at the end of the series even though he has put her through years of deceit and heartbreak)
  • reproduction of heterosexual monogamous relationships as Samantha who used to believe she was a lesbian and feared commitment ends up in a long-term relationship with none other than a famous male model
  • women trying to escape from power of men but in the end return to marriage (Three of  the four women become married)
  • women express themselves through consumption practices (Carrie faces financial troubles yet has a closet full of designer shoes, the main characters are always shopping together)

 carrie

 

But why is this important in regards to ideologies?

 

These women appear to be the next generation of the “ideal” woman, yet capitalist views are scribbled all over the series. This tells us how to behave, look, and feel. Sex and the City simply strengthens the idea that life is about the pleasures of shopping which in turn secures the interests of the capitalist system. As Strangelove points out, capitalism and ideologies are a tightly woven reinforcing system.

“We’re All in the Fashion Business”

Andrew Goodwin‘s section on Performance as Promotion led me to begin thinking about the implications for the music industry due to the rise of video sharing sites such as YouTube. I feel this is relevant to popular culture since the user is given the power to choose which songs and videos he or she would like to consume. We can type in a song in the search bar and within mere seconds be flooded videos featuring the desired song, user generated videos, remixes, related songs, more from the artist, and other links.

radio

 

I remember when I would tune into The Border’s Hot Five at Five as a means of hearing new releases and source of further increasing my musical enlightenment. I would have to wait and listen for a song I liked to come on. The thought of actually calling a radio and requesting a tune will surely be ludicrous to future generations!

 

The music industry is described as one that is “mulitextual”. It sells more than one type of media for a particular product. Music sells commodity and ideas. As explained by Goodwin, commodity comes in the form of cassettes, records, and compact disks (p. 26). On the other hand, ideas come in the form of lifestyle and live performance. It also acts as a gateway into other forms of media such as television shows, comic books, magazine articles, ECT. This is where music videos would come into play. But what happens when online sharing sites such as YouTube allow us to obtain song clips, music videos, and live concerts for virtually nothing and at our own convenience?

 

Word on Wall Street is that record sales continue to plummet. This begs the question, what does the music industry need to do to adapt to the digital age?

 

plumet

 

“We’re all in the fashion business. You used to be able to sell records purely on music and musicianship. Now it’s packaging, media, television and video” (Goodwin p. 27).

 

YouTube is forcing both television and radio to further adapt in order to compete in the competition for audiences. Music industries can create innovative and exciting videos as part of the “package”, yet users can obtain access to many of them simply by surfing these websites due to user uploading. Will artists have to resort to Mariah Carey and Britney Spears tactics, in which both stars use product placement directly within their videos to promote their new fragrance lines?

 

Warner Bros. is one of many media companies who are undoubtedly facing a decrease in commodity sales, as they continue to alienate YouTube users who feature clips of their music, by claiming copyright infringement and taking legal action.

 

The music industry is one that has been around for ages and is evidentially very adaptable. It will be interesting to see how the transition to new media in popular culture will take place.