Takacs, S. How to Teach Popular Culture – A Teaching Workshop 1/26/2015

“How to Teach Popular Culture” 1/26/2015 – Stacy Takacs workshop

Teaching popular culture versus teaching through popular culture – there IS a difference!

First, how to define culture: beliefs and practices, material culture – symbol systems – “the glue that holds systems together” and cement social relations

Next, what is popular: widely-dispersed, easily accessible, easily-accessed to masses (Ling) – [what is the threshold of popularity? Can high culture be popular culture? Can an unpopular, floppish show be popular culture, even though it was widely consumed?] ; instead, where is its source? (Commercial, crowd-source, mass media?) – as a synonym for mass culture- comes from commercial culture industries, produced for standardized way for a standardized audience [cons: how do people factor into this consumption – often focused on the production aspects]; how do people USE this type of media – the applications, manipulations, and interpretations of media, based upon available cultural resources – drawing people together, and using as a point of establishing relationships/congregations

Where are people congregating? Where are people congregating that worries authorities (hence, group action, inciting moral panics)?

There’s more to your text than you think – visual, auditory, affect (emotions impressed), content, relationship to other songs/genres, production of identity. Examination of Author-Function (a la Foucault) – how are authors present to establish preferred readings of texts?

# Basketball as ritual, basketball as text because of presence of rule structure.

Realist text forces foreclosure, presumes identification with protagonists; serials, however, expand the world for development and encourage the construction of alternative plots and identifications.

Within comparisons with other related texts, one may be able to “read” analyzed texts in a different way, or establish new relationships between the existing materials. (Intertext)

? – How to focus on ways of opening texts without also bring it around to provide closure – possibly address through “loose ends” list – promoting further inquiry and points of curiosity – what is lacking from commentary?

Images do not have a specific impact- they can have different readings and different impacts based upon the reading (#skinny models does not make everyone perform behaviors that make people skinny, however, some people read this in ways that promote body-image issues) – be careful about differentiation between correlation and causation in textual readings. Think about shifting the focus of images – class, race, beauty ideals, etc. There is always another way to interpret this – however, be sure to return these back to social contexts.

#problematic representations of people of target markets, particularly issues of POC; people don’t always identify with people that look like them, simple presence of these characters do not promote identification in texts – access or connection into text. Role of ironic identification? Or, role of identity tourism – despite real-world constraints and biases that are brought into and replicated in digital or “fantasy” realms.

% Tool Tip: https://cel.ly/

Private Twitter-like social media –

% Scaffolding – focus semester on the interpretation of ONE cultural item

  • Production contexts – where did this thing come from, social contexts
    1. Specify journals, TV shows – trade journals, what’s being said behind the scenes, titles of people they want to track (news, journals, twitter – ex. Executive producer) – get a sense of where this text is coming from – *** Remind students – what executive producer is not always true – messages may be manipulated – take with grain of salt
  • What is the content of this – what are people finding in this text, personal interpretation
  • What the fans themselves say – “fan ethnography” – unsystematized chat boards
    1. Remind students that fan ethnographies may be biased- focus on patterns of conversation – around what issues do people congregate? Where are the clusters of meaning making? How do people make more of what is already existing?

% Use fan-fic forum as a point of divergence in meaning-making – what would you have done differently? How would you take up different characters or POVs differently? Making students create something about something that they’ve taken in. (Short story about these characters in a different context, followed by reflective assignment as to why their paper developed as they did – rationalizing decision-making, based upon content and context — pressing alternative explanations)

% Making students define terms where they use them – laymen’s explanations; dissecting and estranging ourselves from popular culture, then slowing ourselves down

% Compare apples to apples – utilizing multimodal examples where students are able to generate patterns for themselves, rather than having patterns explained to them


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