Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Popular Culture and Communication Practice

Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Popular Culture and Communication Practice

Article excerpt

1. Popular Culture and Communication Practice: An Introduction

Within the domain of communication research, popular culture constitutes an important object of analysis because media and communication technologies serve as a central catalyst for its success. Especially in western capitalist societies, popular culture increasingly affects people as modern mass media embed it into people's lives and routines. "Since popular culture today is so closely bound up with the mass media ... it is almost impossible to look at one without the other" (Strinati, 2004, p. xi).

At the same time, in modern history, the discussion of popular culture has a century-old tradition. The leitmotifs that guide the academic discussion of popular culture, which have run through the modern era, remain important even today. As early as 1950, an expert on the sociology of literature and mass culture, Leo Lowenthal, conducted a survey to understand radio listening habits as an expression of popular culture during that time (Lowenthal, 1950). The responses reveal the dilemma that has guided popular culture research since then: Some respondents remark excitement about the social benefits of the radio, that "I have heard village people discussing the merits of Mozart and Chopin," while other respondents refuse to have a radio set at home, "Because once there is a set in the house, one cannot resist. Everybody listens idiotically, the kids and the others too. When we stay with my friend G., my husband plays with the radio all the time" (p. 324). We can understand the conflicting stances over the benefits and threats of radio listening habits in light of today's social media as well: "On the one hand, a positive attitude toward all instrumentalities for the socialization of the individual; on the other hand, a deep concern about the inner fate of the individual under the impact of the leveling powers of institutional and other organized forms of leisure activity" (p. 324).

The same discourse about the same kind of dilemma still appears 60 years later, referring now to new popular media, pitting social media against risk prevention, for example, in the way children learn to adopt popular media but also face risks on social network sites (Khan, Swar, & Lee, 2014; Livingstone, 2014; Vanderhoven, Schellen, & Valcke, 2014). On one hand, new media and new forms of technology provide a new platform and opportunity to engage with popular culture for the socialization of the individuals. On the other hand, the change in technology comes with risks such as the loss of privacy and lack of control when dealing with online communities. Going back to the results from the 1950s, Lowenthal's study does not only provide a historical context to the dilemma of popular culture as it is somehow a conflict between the psychological and the moral approaches to popular culture, but also the study reveals the various meanings and contexts of what popular culture entails, coupled with the fear that the "indiscriminate outpouring of music and talk over the radio lowers everyone's intellectual level" (p. 324). The multifaceted approaches in discussing the phenomena of popular culture products and their consumption have formed the various definitions and cultural meanings that can be found in the literature to define popular culture.

Hence, this essay aims to examine the production and reproduction of popular culture through communication processes, how they define and redefine what the concept of "popular culture in communication practices" entails. We pay particular attention to popular culture and journalistic practices as a well developed scholarly field and compare it to the integration of popular culture into strategic communication practices--a rather new field affected by narratives and practices of popular culture. The empirical questions that guided the literature review and analytical conceptualizing of popular culture for this essay included the following questions:

* What is popular culture and how is it applied and reproduced in communication practices? …

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