Popular Culture, Individuality, and Global Reach

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The United States often has been labeled a cultural imperialist* power because of the successful export of culture that is popular within the United States. American movies, television, and music can be seen and heard in most urban areas around the globe. Cultural imperialism sometimes is perceived as a form of bullying. Some countries, such as France, actively resist the prevalence of American culture and even enact laws and policies to protect native culture.

Large-scale distribution and consumption of culture raises the question of what role individuals play in supporting global distribution of popular culture. Is the shared experience more valuable than diversity of expression? Can a single person change popular culture? How does an individual protect his or her own values in a pop culture world?

This week, you consider your individual role in creating and consuming popular culture.

By Day 3

Post a 500-word response in which you address the following:

  • Describe a time when you were surprised by something that was considered popular but that was new to you. Analyze whether or not you consider yourself to be an active participant in popular culture. Explain your analysis.
  • If you could create a popular culture artifact and provide universal access to it, describe what message you might embed in this artifact or whether you would avoid any specific message. Explain your response.

Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week’s Learning Resources.

Required Readings

Friedman, T. (1992). The world of The World of Coca Cola. Communication Research, 19(5), October 1992, 642–662.
This story from leading economist Thomas Friedman, describes his visit to the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. He examines the subtle ways that the Coca-Cola corporation positions their product as both local and international, while at the same time emphasizing the message that their trademarked product belongs to the public.

The World of The World of Coca Cola by Friedman, T., in Communication Research, Vol. 19/Issue 5. Copyright 1992 by Sage Publications, Inc. – Journals. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications, Inc. – Journals via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Paglia, C. (2012). George Lucas’s force. In Glittering images: A journey through art from Egypt to Star Wars (pp. 181–190). London: Vintage. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Why-George-Lucas-Is-the/134942
Camille Paglia is a cultural and social critic. In this excerpt from her book Glittering Images, Paglia discusses the role of art in society. She asserts that George Lucas is one of the greatest artists of today. The reading discusses how Lucas’s storytelling gave rise to technological developments that extended far beyond the limits of movie making and ultimately were adopted by other industries. Using a specific scene from Revenge of the Sith, Paglia analyzes the use of color, music, technology, and storytelling and classifies the scene as great art.

The following websites may be helpful throughout this course by demonstrating ways of analyzing pop culture texts as artifacts.

Cultural Politics. (n.d.). Popular culture. Retrieved from http://culturalpolitics.net/popular_culture

Pop Matters. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.popmatters.com

USC Annenberg. (2014). Media, diversity, & social change initiative. Retrieved from http://annenberg.usc.edu/pages/DrStacyLSmithMDSCI#previousresearch

Required Media

TED2015. (2015, March 20). Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame
Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 13 minutes.
In this video, Philippe talks about the universality and importance of pop culture to society.


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