Sociology of Popular Culture

Sociology 245
Fall 2013
CRN 37616

Grise Hall 134
TR 9:35-10:55

Professor:  

Douglas Smith
126 Grise Hall Phone:  (270) 745-3750
Department of Sociology Email:  Douglas.Smith@wku.edu
Western Kentucky University Webpage:  http://people.wku.edu/douglas.smith/
1906 College Heights Blvd. #11057
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1057
Office Hours:   TR 8:00-9:00am or TR 1:00-2:00pm by appointment

Course Description:

The popular culture that surrounds us is as poorly understood as it is ubiquitous. This class focuses on major theoretical perspectives, empirical work, and methodological issues in the sociology of popular culture. What is the difference between popular culture, low culture and high culture? Where does popular culture come from and what role does it play in society? What do people do with popular culture? How does popular culture intersect with race, class, and gender?   Overall, we will try to understand the social significance of popular culture using the major theoretical perspective of sociology.

Course Objectives:

There are four primary objectives for this class:  

This course is an elective for the Sociology major and required for the Popular Culture Studies major.  The Popular Culture Studies program offers WKU undergraduates the chance to broaden their understanding of the arts and culture of everyday life including such areas as television, film, music, sports, advertising, customs and rituals. Through innovative interdisciplinary coursework the major helps students critically analyze a wide range of popular cultural forms, their uses by audiences, and their impact on the broader social, political and economic landscape. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting and innovative program, contact your instructor or check out the Popular Culture Studies website at www.wku.edu/pop.

Honor Code: 

Students are expected to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct published in the Western Kentucky Undergraduate Catalogue, p. 327-331. Persons violating the Student Code of Conduct (in particular but not limited to the section on academic conduct) in any assignment or exam in this class will receive a minimum penalty of a grade of zero (0) for the assignment, and may receive an "F" for the course at the instructor’s option.  In particular, no form of cheating or plagiarism will be tolerated (see page 339 for details; if you wish further clarification consult the course website or the instructor.) Know your Regulations!

Classroom Norms:

Required Course Materials:

Grazian, David. 2010. Mix It Up: Popular Culture, Mass Media, and Society. New York: W.W. Norton.  (NOTE:  I got this ordered late, so I'll post section on the Blackboard until folks have a chance to get their copy.).

Additional reading material will be posted on the Blackboard website for this course. Follow the course outline to know which articles you need to read for which class meetings. 

Course Requirements:

There will be 2 exams, 3 assignments, and a final exam in this class. Material for the exams will be taken from the textbook, lectures, films, and class discussion.  

The weighting is as follows:

Class Attendance and Participation 12.5%
2 Quizzes 25% (12.5% each)
3 Assignments 37.5% (12.5% each)
Comprehensive Final 25%

Grading Scale:

90.0 to 100.0 A
80.0 to 89.9 B
70.0 to 79.9 C
60.0 to 69.9 D
Below 60 F

Extra Credit:

If you get 1 million likes on Facebook, I'll raise your grade.    After successful completion,  there will be cake (NOM, NOM, NOM!).  

Resource Information:

Tentative Course Schedule:

This is a general schedule of quiz dates  and readings to be done in preparation for class.

8/27

Tuesday

Introduction to the Course

8/29

Thursday

What is Popular Culture and Why Does it Matter?

Defining Culture and Defining Popular

Griswold, Wendy. 2008.“Culture and the Cultural Diamond,” Cultures and Societies in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. 

Grazian, David.  2010. "The Straight Story: The Social Organization of Popular Culture." Pp. 3-21 in Mix It Up.  New York: W.W. Norton.

Danesi, Marcel. 2012. "What is Pop Culture?" Pp. 26-34 in Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

9/03

Tuesday

Levels and Types of Culture

Shils, Edward. 1960. "Mass Society and Its Culture." Daedalus 89(2):288-314.

Danesi, Marcel. 2012. Pp. 2-8 in Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

9/05

Thursday

Popular Culture and Social Class

Grazian, David, "The Rules of the Game: Cultural Consumption and Social Class in America." Pp. 134-151 in Mix It Up.New York: W.W. Norton. 

Barnett, Lisa A. and Michael Patrick Allen. 2000. "Social Class, Cultural Repertoires, and Popular Cuture: The Case of Film." Sociological Forum 15(1):145-163.

9/10

Tuesday

The Sociology of Popular Culture: Major Conceptual Approaches

Functionalism

Grazian, David. 2010. "Friday Night Lights: A Functionalist Approach to Popular Culture." pp24-43 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

Kidd, Dustin. 2007. "Harry Potter and the Functions of Popular Culture." The Journal of Popular Culture 40(1):69-89.

9/12

Thursday

Foley, Douglas E. 1990. "The Great American Football Ritual: Reproducing Race, Class and Gender Inequality." Sociology of Sport 7(2):111-135.

9/17

Tuesday

Critical Theory

Grazian, David. 2010. "Monsters, Inc.: A Critical Approach to Popular Culture." Pp. 46-65 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

Adorno, Theodor W. and Anson G. Rabinbach. 1975. "Culture Industry Reconsidered." New German Critique 6:12-19.

9/19

Thursday

Controlled and Controlling Images

Klinenberg, Eric. 2005. "Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 597:48-64.

Massoni, Kelley. 2004. "Modeling Work: Occupational Messages in Seventeen Magazine." Gender and Society 18(1):47-65.

9/24

Tuesday

[Movie] Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class

9/26

Thursday

Quiz 1

10/1

Tuesday

Interactionism

Grazian, David. 2010. "Something to Talk About: An Interaction Approach to Popular Culture. PP. 68-87 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

Danesi, Marcel. 2003. "Talking like Teenagers." Pp. 51-74 in Forever Young: The 'Teen-Aging' of Modern Culture. University of Toronto Press.

10/3

Thursday*

NO CLASS - FALL BREAK  http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/106/887/backpain-1292835351.jpg

10/8

Tuesday

Chen, Katherine K. 2009. "Authenticity at Burning Man." Contexts 8(3):65-67.

Rose, Randall L. and Stace L. Wood.  2005. "Paradox and the Consumption of Authenticity through Reality Television." Journal of Consumer Research 32:284-296.

Grindstaff, Laura and Emily West. 2006. "Cheerleading and the Gendered Politics of Sport." Social Problems 53(4):500-518.

10/10

Thursday*

[Movie] The Merchants of Cool or The Bro Code

10/15

Tuesday

Studying Pop Culture Sociologically: Production and Reception

Popular Culture as a Social Creation

Grazian, David. 2010. "Bright Lights, Big City: Creating Popular Culture." New York: W.W. Norton.

Evening Event: David Lavery (MTSU) speaks on "Caveman vs. Astronaut: Joss Whedon vs. Michael Bay, Weapons to be Determined"

10/17

Thursday

Youth Creation of Culture

Corsaro, William A. and Donna Eder. 1990. "Children's Peer Cultures." Annual Review of Sociology 16:197-220.

Garner, Roberta, Judith Bootcheck, Michael Lorr, and Kathryn Rauch. "The Adolescent Society Revisited: Cultures, Crowds, Climates, and Status Structures in Seven Secondary Schools." Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35(6):1023-1035.

10/22

Tuesday

Industrial Production of Culture

Grazian, David. 2012. "Risky Business: How the Media and Culture Industries Work." Pp. 112-131 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

10/24

Thursday

[Movie] Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

10/29

Tuesday

Audiences and the Social Interpretation of Meaning

Grazian, David. 2010. "The Searchers: Audiences and the Quest for Meaning in Popular Culture." Pp. 154-173 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

10/31

Thursday

Interpretive Communities and Audience Research

Radway, Janice. 1984. "Interpretive Communities and Variable Literacies: The Functions of Romance Reading." Daedalus 113(3):49-73.

Shively, JoEllen. 1992. "Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of Western Films among American Indians and Anglos." American Sociological Review 57(6):725-734.

11/5

Tuesday

Quiz 2

11/7

Thursday

Consumer Culture: Buying as Being 

Grazian, David. 2010. "Scenes from a Mall: Cultural Consumption and Style in Everyday Life." Pp. 176-193 in Mix It Up. New York: W.W. Norton.

Pugh, Allison J. 2011. "Distinction, Boundaries or Bridges?: Children, Inequality and the Uses of Consumer Culture." Poetics 39:1-18.

11/12

Tuesday

Culture Jamming

Carducci, Vince. 2006.  "Culture Jamming: A Sociological Perspective." Journal of Consumer Culture 6(1):116-138.

Sandlin, Jennifer A. and Jennifer L. Milam. 2008. "Mixing Pop (Culture) and Politics": Cultural Resistance, Culture Jamming, and Anti-Consumption Activism as Critical Public Pedagogy" Curriculum Inquiry 38(3):323-350.

11/14

Thursday

Popular Culture, Social Problems, and Social Change

The Dark Side?

Sternheimer, Karen. 2013. "Media Phobia #1: Popular Culture Is Dumbing Down America"

11/19

Tuesday

Sternheimer, Karen. 2013. "Media Phobia #2: Media Violence Causes Real Violence”

Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, “Key Facts on TV Violence,” 

11/21

Thursday

Sternheimer, Karen. 2013. Chapters 4 (“Media Phobia #4: Popular Culture Promotes Teen Sex”) and 5 (“Media Phobia #5: Popular Culture Promotes Teen Pregnancy and Single Parenthood”)

11/26

Tuesday

The Light Side?

Phillips, Laurie M. 2013. "Offering Hope and Making Attributions through YouTube: An Exploratory Ethnographic Content Analysis of the Social Change-Oriented 'It Gets Better Project'" The Journal of Social Media in Society 2(1):30-65.

Guo, Chao and Gregory D. Saxton (forthcoming) "Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

Bekkers, Victor, Henri Beunders, Arthur Edwards, and Rebecca Moody. 2011. "New Media, Micromobilization, and Political Agenda Setting: Crossover Effects in Political Mobilization and Media Usage." The Information Society 27:209-219.

11/28

Thursday

NO CLASS - THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY (I'm in your house, eating your turkeys! NOM! NOM! NOM!)

12/3

Tuesday

Les Visiteurs de Berea

12/5

Thursday

Johnson, Steven. 2012. "The Peer Progressives." Pp. 3-52 in Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. New York: Riverhead Books.

Finally, my standard disclaimer:

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The syllabus for any class is a road map. The readings in the course calendar are places we are scheduled to visit.  Anyone who has taken a preplanned road trip or vacation knows that the trip is not fun unless you stop at the interesting roadside attractions even though they might divert from your original route or time table.  It's the process of getting there that is fun and relaxing and intriguing.  In that light, the above schedule and procedures for this course are subject to change by the Professor in the event of extenuating circumstances.

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