At times, particularly as communication scholars, we like to engage in a little metacommunication (communication about communication). One of the best places to do that is in the journal Communication Research Trends. Communication Research Trends publishes articles that act as a kind of “state of the union” for different areas in communication research. Prominent scholars in a particular area take these pages to tell us where the discipline has been, where it is, and where it going.
The article I am looking at for this scholar spotlight does not examine specific facets of popular culture as much as it explores what popular culture means across contexts. From issues of high and low culture across journalism to strategic communication, noted popular culture scholars Alexander Buhmann, Lea Hellmueller, and Louis Bosshart examine the important roles that popular culture can play in society and the research we can conduct.
The following figure and paragraph are excerpts from the article Popular Culture and Communication Practice by Alexander Buhmann, Lea Hellmueller, and Louis Bosshart:
Figure 1 illustrates common distinctions between subcultures and their main qualities and authorships. Whereas high culture commonly denotes a general category of intellectual and innovative types of artefacts, which elites produce for elites. . . popular culture—which people regard as “the mainstream” culture consumed by large majorities—is often subdivided into a “mass culture” and a “folk culture” (or folklore). . . [F]olk culture, mainly done by non-elites for non-elites, happens in a decentralized and grass-roots fashion. Mass culture, by contrast, comprises the highly standardized, commercial, and entertainment-focused part of popular culture that has strong ties to a “cultural industry” based on principles of mass production and controlled by elites (p. 6, Buhmann, Hellmueller, & Bosshart).
Central to Buhmann, Hellmueller, and Bosshart’s article is the tension between the role that popular culture plays in socialization and the role that it plays in reifying power. As a cultural context for discourse, popular culture can allow for connection: People can create fan communities around their favorite television programs or just express their shared disgust over a political commercial. In either instance, people are able to relate and either create or reinforce bonds.
While these connections may often seem innocuous or passive, the ways in which we form bonds through popular culture has political, social, and implications beyond just a casual conversation.
Ultimately, understanding the implications of our connections to/through/from/with/about popular culture is the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish with Profs Do Pop.Some might dismiss popular culture as trivial or trite but we see it as a shared space where we negotiate meaning, try to understand others, and craft our own identities.
If you are looking for a recent state of the union on what communication scholars are saying about popular culture, especially as it as it relates to journalism and strategic communication, you can start with Buhmann, Hellmueller, and Bosshart’s Popular Culture and Communication Practice. It is a bit of an advanced read, but I hope you will find the perspectives engaging.