Midterm Exam: Don't forget to study the relevant review questions in preparation for the final exam.

Mass Culture, Popular Culture

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, in Dialectic of Enlightenment”
The culture industry mass produces culture (“mass culture”) that is an instrument of deception.
  1. What is the culture industry? How is it similar to the producers of automobiles and bombs (121)?
  2. What is autonomous art?
  3. How is mass art formulaic?
  4. According to Adorno and Horkheimer, how is the “whole world made to pass through the filter of culture industry” (126)? What are the consequences?
  5. What is the ideology of the culture industry (137)?
  6. How does a mass culture product reinforce that ideology (137–149)?
  7. How does mass culture reward conformity—and punish outcasts (150–154)?
  8. Why is mass culture “cheap” (156–161)?
  9. How does mass culture break from history (165)?
  10. According to Adorno and Horkheimer, “the triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled enough to buy and use its products even though they seem to see through them” (167). Are we living in such a coerced society that we are happily deceived by mass culture?
Tania Modleski, “Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women”
Despite their derided cultural status, romance novels and soap operas provide powerful sites of identification and resistance against a patriarchy and domination.
  1. According to Modleski, why has the romance form been ignored by scholars as opposed to other forms of the “grand tradition” (11–12)?
  2. What three (four?) fiction forms does Modleski consider (15)?
  3. Why do scholars of the nineteenth century domestic novel, according to Modleski, disagree with the ideal of domestic, marital life for women (22)?
  4. How do the “domestic” novels and soap operas portray men, according to Modleski (23)?
  5. Modleski argues that mass-produced fiction for women contains “elements of protest and resistance underneath highly ‘orthodox’ plots” (25). How does that challenge Adorno and Horkeihemer’s argument about mass culture reinforcing ideology of domination?
  6. How does Modleski challenge the Frankfurt School’s argument about mass culture being uncritical and subordinate to autonomous art?
George Lipsitz, “Popular Culture: This Ain’t no Sideshow”
Popular culture is inherently political as it contains “certain hopes for the future that rebuke the injustices and inequalities of the present.”
  1. How did industrialization dissolve the end of organized ceremony?
  2. Why did popular theater address the repressed needs of the Victorians in the industrial age (8–9)?
  3. Why did business leaders need to create renewable commodities (10)?
  4. What is popular culture (13–15)?
  5. How does the ideal of the “carnival” help us understand the role or popular culture (15–16)?
  6. Even if we crassly dismiss television as mass culture, why should we bother to understand to television (18)?
  7. What approach should we take to studying popular culture (20)?
    • Popular culture performs “the dirty work of the economy,” or…
    • Popular culture “retains memories of the past and contains certain hopes for the future that rebuke the injustices and inequalities of the present”

Technology and Popular Culture

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
Mechanical reproduction destroys the dependence of art on ritual to politicize (democratize) art as never before possible.

Questions by Professor Florence Boos.

  1. How have changes in reproduction altered the relationship of art to an “original” object, and how has this changed “the authority of the object”?
  2. What are the special features of film, according to Benjamin?
  3. What was once the relationship between art, tradition and ritual? Has this changed?
  4. How has the film enriched our modes of perception?
  5. What is the relationship of Fascism to art?
  6. What does it mean to say that “Fascism renders politics aesthetic,” and that Communism politicizes art?
Lev Manovich, “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production”
The proliferation of user generated content on the web has challenged Michel deCertau’s concepts of strategies and tactics, whereby users still tactically outmaneuver the strategic data-mining of social media sites.
  1. According to Manovich, what is the difference between “media” and “social media”? What has made that possible?
  2. Why does Manovich question whether the “mass production of cultural objects by users in twenty-first century…represent a further stage of development of the ‘culture industry’”?
  3. What is the difference between strategies and tactics as defined by Michel deCerteau?
  4. Why according to Manovich are strategies and tactics “linked in an interactive relationship”?
  5. How does the emergence of Web 2.0 change our relationship to art?
Anna McCarthy, “From Screen to Site.”
Despite television’s ability to transcend space and time, the presence of the televisual apparatus signifies and determines the specificity of the place.
  1. How does television act as a “space-binding” technology?
  2. On what levels (or scales) does television engage notions of space?
  3. According to McCarthy, what three technological aspects of television “open up” our understanding of “place”?
  4. How does television, according to Weber, “upset the ontology of place”?
  5. How does the example of the Rio Videowall exemplify how television affects a sense of place, especially given the three different scales that McCarthy considers throughout the essay?

Popular Culture and Political Power

Susan Douglas, “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World.”
Despite the rise of more connected communications technologies and the need for television to respond to an international conflict, TV programming and culture have taken a “turn within” towards forms such as reality TV, celebrity TV shows, and “news you can use.”
  1. What is technological determinism?
  2. How does Douglas challenge Marshall McLuhan’s notions of the “global village” and media as “extensions of man”?
  3. Why was it important for media to look outside at the dawn of the 21st century for media?
  4. What has been the result of the inward turn of mass media in the twenty-first century?
  5. What kinds of programs have thrived because of this turn within?
  6. Why have young people turned their backs on broadcast news? Have broadcast news failed these young people?
  7. Has there been any resistance to the inward turn of mass media in the twenty-first century?
Lynn Spigel, “The Domestic Economy of Television Viewing in Postwar America.”
Post World War-II discourses surrounding television’s place in the home struggled to contain the division between labor and leisure for women in the domestic space.
  1. What is the historical division between labor and leisure, according to Spigel?
  2. How did television challenge the traditional division between labor and leisure, especially for women?
  3. How did the television industry idealize the woman as a television viewer in the domestic space?
  4. How did magazines at the time attempt to contain the dual functions of women as television viewers and as domestic servants?
  5. What does surveying household magazines in the post–World War II years demonstrate us about notions of gender, domesticity, and modernity, vis–a–vis television?
Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.”
The globalization of culture must be understood in more complex terms of multidimensional flows and deterritorialization in favor of the established binary models of powerful and powerless.
  1. Why does Appadurai challenge the notion of the “global cultural economy” as a “center-periphery model”, among other binary models, such as push-pull, surplus-deficit, and consumer-producer?
  2. Briefly define each of the following dimensions of global cultural flow.
    1. ethnoscape
    2. technoscape
    3. finanscape
    4. mediascape
    5. ideoscape
  3. What is deterritorialization and how is it one of the central forces of the modern world?
  4. What happens to the nation-state in this “disjunctive” flow of culture?
  5. Why does he conclude that the globalization of culture is not the same as homogenization?

Representation and Power

Stuart Hall, “The Work of Representation.”
Hall examines the tradition of using language and representations in the service of culture, power, and domination.
  1. What are, according to Stuart Hall, the three different theories for representation and meaning?
  2. What is a system of representation, according to Hall, in the constructivist tradition?
  3. Why are codes both arbitrary and shared?
  4. What is the sign? What are the signifier and the signified, according to the work of Sassuere?
  5. What is langue and what is parole?
  6. As described the Barthes, what are myths? What role do they play in the connotative and denotative meanings?
  7. Foucault argued that representation is related to power. How is discourse a way of exercising power?
Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, “Stereotype, Realism, and the Struggle over Representation.”
As a representational medium, mainstream film traffics in historically stereotypes that reflect the racism of the dominant culture.
  1. According to Shohat and Stam, what role do stereotypes play in the representation of people?
  2. How is Hollywood filmmaking an example of representational system?
  3. How does race and gender in mainstream filmmaking tell us about power relations, or as Shohat and Stam call a “linguistics of domination”?
  4. How does alternative cinema represent an alternate system of representation? How does that affect domination?

Media Technology and Social Reality

John Berger, “Ways of Seeing.”
In this excerpt of his well-known book, Berger frames classical oil painting and contemporary publicity (advertising) in the context of a patriarchal and consumerist cultures, respectively.
  1. What does Berger mean when he writes that “men act” but “women appear?” Who is inherently the subject and object of the artwork?
  2. What is the difference between nakedness and nudity, according to Berger’s reference of Kenneth Clark?
  3. Berger references the ideal nude as a woman as composite of various women. Accordingly, how does “glorify man?”
  4. How has publicity (advertising) assimilated these the techniques of oil painting?
  5. What is the relationship of representation to ownership and consumption in oil painting versus publicity (advertising)?
Leopoldina Fortunati, “The Mobile Phone: Towards New Categories and Social Relations,” and Nick Couldry, “Liveness, ‘Reality,’ and the Mediated Habitus from Television to the Mobile Phone.”
Fortunati and Couldry consider the impact of the mobile phone in terms of intimacy and connectedness.
  1. According to Leopoldina Fortunati, how has the mobile telephone expanded space and time?
  2. How is the concept of public space reconfigured with the mobile phone?
  3. How does the mobile phone construct intimacy as new form of social relations?
  4. What is liveness according to Nick Couldry?
  5. Couldry distinguishes between two forms of liveness—online and group—liveness. What are the differences between the two?
  6. How does the mobile phone transform space, according to Couldry? How does this relate to Fortunati’s conception of intimacy?
  7. How does the mobile phone make a subject permanent available, according to Couldry?

Media, Industry, and Economy

Herbert Schiller, “The Corporation and the Production of Culture.”
Most culture is produced, distributed and controlled by a decreasing number of corporations despite the increasing variety of cultural forms and genres.

Watch Herbert Schiller in action as he reads the New York Times.

  1. Who is the main stakeholder of mass culture?
  2. In addition to technology, what other factors have led to the corporatization of culture?
  3. What has changed in terms of the concentration of ownership?
  4. How does mass culture “deceive” its audience and hide the “means of production” of mass culture?
Michael Curtin, “On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era.”
In order to maintain their relevance in the post-Fordist economy, television networks evolve into neo-networks that have what Curtin called “edge” to appeal to narrower and narrower audiences, instead of an undifferentiated mass audience.
  1. What is Fordism? and Neo-Fordism (Post-Fordism)?
  2. What are the five dimensions of post-Fordist flexibility?
  3. How did corporations form the mass, national audience in the twentieth century?
  4. How did the late–20th century fragment this audience?
  5. What is edge and how does it make a fragmented audience?
  6. How is “edge” distinct from mass culture? How does it share a common purpose?

Digital Media, Industry, and Economy

Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart, “When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of Online Music Distribution.”
With the emergence of Internet, corporations saw digital distribution as a way to cut the costs of physical distribution of music, but consumers saw music and digital networks as a disintermediating platform.
  1. How did the recording industry traffic in a scarce resources, such as records and compact disk recordings? How does the Internet and its abundance challenge this notion?
  2. What was “Internet Nirvana” for the recording industry?
  3. How did consumers subvert the plans of the recording industry via peer-to-peer sharing?
  4. What events have transpired since this article? How do iTunes and Spotify challenge the assumption that the recording industry lost the battle of online music distribution?
Tizania Terranova, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy.”
The Internet and its abundance depends on free labor which is both exploitative but also collaborative.
  1. Speaking of abundance, how does the Internet change the economics of media production? Why is free a predominant theme for the production of media online?
  2. How can we consider the Internet a post-Fordist economic industry?
  3. Does the free labor necessary to make the Internet work exist for exploitation, as with the AOL example, or for informal volunteerism, as with open source?

Media Audiences

Ien Ang, “On the Politics of Empirical Audience Research.”
A political consideration of how to study the audience in light of then-recent attempts, such as Morley’s Nationwide and Family Television studies of the 1980s, to survey the audience as they watch television. It necessarily challenges the idea that audience watches in similar fashions.
  1. What are some political issues that Ang discusses in relation to watching people watch TV?
  2. How does the Nationwide study of audiences challenge the uniform responses of audiences?
  3. How does ethnographic research reveal more specific information about how people watch television?
Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of Self-Disclosure.”
With the rise of digital technologies, surveillance has changed from being a top-down power structure where users are monitored to one where users voluntarily surrender their personal information to private corporations.

Watch We Live in Public (2008) available on Hulu and Episode 2 of Do Not Track (2015) at https://donottrack-doc.com/en/episode/2 for some relevant issues about privacy, user tracking, and personal data on the Internet.

  1. How has surveillance been used in pre-digital work environments?
  2. What does Dot-Com’s experiment of broadcasting his life around the clock suggest a break from a top-down model of surveillance?
  3. How do interactive digital media depend on capturing and processing personal data?
  4. How does TiVo use personal data in a way that was impractical in the mass media age?
  5. How does digital media ultimately take personal information and put it in the custody of private companies?

Consumers and Producers

Lawrence Grossberg, “The Affective Sensibility of Fandom.”
Instead of looking at fans of popular culture as dupes or passive consumers, Grossberg proposes examining why popular culture matters to its fans, how it affects them, and how fans can read, resist, and recuperate the meanings of the work for their own purposes.
  1. How does a critical view of popular culture, versus high culture, mirror the regard for women’s romances as described by Modleski?
  2. Why does Grossberg challenge the term “fan” of popular culture as a synonym for consumer of mass culture?
  3. How do fans exercise different “sensibilities” towards a popular text?
  4. What is a “mattering map”?
  5. How does a fan’s affect for a popular text determine how much it matters?
  6. How does contemporary consumer culture transform the consumer to the fan?
  7. How does fandom enable democratic political struggles?
Mizuko Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange.”
Japanese otaku culture encompasses a variety of media forms and active practices of remixing and remaking, suggesting ways that youth fan culture is always active.
  1. What is participatory culture? How is it ordinarily a marginal activity?
  2. What is otaku and how does this compare to Grossberg’s definition of a fan?
  3. How is participation central to yugioh and card-trading activities?
  4. How do girls participate in doujinshi that suggests an active remaking and remixing practice?
  5. How is amateur cultural production of otaku cultures at odds with elite and high-brow concepts of culture and education?

Media and Citizenship

Peter Dahlgren, “Mediating Democracy.”
The public sphere—an essential component of democracy—is challenged by the commercial nature of media, its representations, the social structures that define it, and our own sociocultural interactions.
  1. What is democracy?
  2. How is democracy both and separately defined as a form of consumerism and as a utopian ideal?
  3. What is the public sphere and why is it important for democracy?
  4. How was the public sphere constituted at the dawn of the enlightenment in the 18th century?
  5. How did industrialization and mass culture change the participants of the public sphere? How did it lead to a refedualization?
  6. Explain each of the four dimensions of the public sphere, according to Dahlgren?
Stuart Cunningham, “Popular Media as Public ‘Sphericules’ for Diasporic Communities.”
The concept of the public sphere appears too monolithic when accounting for the pluralistic cultures of diasporic communities that constitute public spheres within and across a particular place.

Cultural Citizenship

Jeffrey Jones, “A Cultural Approach to the Study of Mediated Citizenship.”
Instead of locating media as the cause of declining civic participation, Jones argues for a cultural approach to account for how people actually use media for citizenship and political engagement beyond “information acquisition.”
  1. What is mediated citizenship?
  2. Why does the media get blamed for a decline in voting, political party affiliation, political knowledge, trust in leaders, and voluntary activism?
  3. What is the Fourth Estate and why is it consider superior to “infotainment”? (Consider the contrast between Jones and Susan Douglas’s argument about the “turn within.”)
  4. Does it surprise you to learn that media serving an informed electorate is a concept that only dates from the Progressive Era of early 20th century?
  5. How does our role of consumers affect or structure our relationship to the state?
  6. What is the “transmission” view of media and how does a cultural approach challenge it?
  7. In what sense are the media plural?
  8. How do consumers play a role in civic engagement, according to a bottom-up approach?
  9. What are the three functions that a medium can play in political engagement?
  10. Regarding “Mediation Occurs Before Information Acquisition,” how do citizens engage in communicative acts that are not related to the acquisition of information?
  11. How can entertainment-centered programming on television participate in the formal political arena?
  12. How is our culture is one where everyday life and politics are intertwined via the media?
Lauren Berlant, “The Theory of Infantile Citizenship.”
By using the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. as defining moment in making a citizen, television as a national hegemonic media both challenges the “infantile citizen” but also reinforces the ideal of the nation.

Watch The Simpsons, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” for a few laughs and to illustrate the Berlant article.

  1. What is infantile citizenship?
  2. How does have past narratives about the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. reinforced and challenged the reverence for American democracy?
  3. How does Lisa Simpson win a contest to travel to Washington, D.C.?
  4. How does the discovery of Rep. Bob Arnold’s corruption shatter her illusions of the strength of “The Roots of Democracy?”
  5. Can we think about the metaphors that she uses in both her original essay and her critical one that caused a ruckus? Roots, trees, saplings? Swampland and stench?
  6. How does the sequence after “a little girl has lost faith in democracy” help restore her faith in “the system?” How does it not restore our own faith in the system?

Citizenship and the Politic

Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, “Makeover Television, Governmentality and the Good Citizen.”
The makeover genre of reality television offers a glimpse into how television in general has adopted the role of making “good citizens” in a post-welfare, neoliberal state.

*[governmentality]: a way of governing without government

  1. What is governmentality?
  2. What happened to the welfare state after the 1980s and the age of neoliberalism?
  3. How does makeover television, as a genre of reality television, function as an instrument of “remaking government”?
  4. How does television replace the nation-state as the agent of making good citizens?
Hector Amaya, “Citizenship, Diversity, Law and Ugly Betty.”
A program like Ugly Betty reflects a tension within the media industries between racial ethics and profit in representing and marketing to Latinos.
  1. Why did US television networks look to the telenovela for reaching a broad audience?
  2. What are some primary motivating forces for corporations to embrace diversity programs?
  3. Why are Latinos an important audience for US television networks to at
  4. How did Ugly Betty allow for ABC to both do something racially ethical and profitable?