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Chapter 5: Culture, Media, Communication

Pages 110-136
Modern culture has shifted in ways that have made this dramatic change in the way we live
More people live alone now than any other time in history
Meaning of living alone has changed
Thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread, visions of loneliness
Now, most privileged people use resources to separate from one anotherbuying
privacy & personal space
Living alone fits w/ modern values
Promotes freedom, personal control, self-realizationprized aspects of
contemporary life
Humans have been able to experiment in solo living b/c global societies have
become so interdependent
o Dynamic markets, flourishing cities, open communications system made
modern autonomy more appealinggiving us capacity to live alone &
engage w/ others when & how we want and on our own times
Living alone can be easier to social
o Single people have more free time, absent family obligations, can engage
in social & cultural activities
o Compared to married counterparts, single people are more likely to spend
time w/ friends & neighbors, go to restaurants, attend art classes/lectures,
Signs suggesting that living alone will become more common in future
1. What is culture?
Many meanings of culture
People use culture to refer to all sorts of thingsart to traditions to individual learned
In everyday language, culture is often synonym for art or artistic activities
Modern Western history of concept of culture begins w/ rise of world travel in 18th & 19th
centuries when merchants from Europe came into contact w/ non-Europeans for the first
Merchants were struck by the physical differences b/w themselves & nonEuropeans as well as differences in how they behaved
o Includes everything from how they dressed to way their families were
Scientists in 19th century connected physical differences w/ behavioral differences
arguing that peoples biology (not race) determined how societies were
Toward end of 19th century, anthropologists began to criticize idea, arguing that
race wasnt responsible for differences

Argument held today is that differences b/w groups of people are more than just
biological & we learn how to behave

3 basic conclusions about culturewhich continue to influence cultural sociology today:

1. Culture is characteristic of individuals NOT groups
2. Culture is way of understanding differences b/w groups & similarities w/n groups
3. Culture is aspect of social life different from nature or biology
o Culture is social phenomenon b/c it isnt natural
o Cultural things are not relatively constant throughout history (ex: kind of
food we eat, how we eat)
Defining culture in terms of sociology:
Shared system of beliefs & knowledge (system of meaning) shared among group
Transmitted to individuals via social interactions
Culture is a system & culture is a practice

Culture as system: Balinese cockfight

What are some collective symbols of contemporary U.S. culture?
Every society is full of symbols that communicate an idea while being distinct from idea
Ex: In contemporary American society, red heart implies love; green traffic light
means you can drive
Symbolswhether simple or complexare things that communicate implicit meaning
about an idea
Taken together, groups symbols can be considered its culture
Culture is a system of collective meaning
Ex: Balinese cockfight in 1950s Indonesia
o Cockfightsboxing matches b/w roosterswere outlawed by national
government but important events in local communities
o Multiple pairs of birds fight over course of afternoon while hundreds of
residents would watch, cheer & place bets
o Participants in cockfights often gambled far more money than seemed to
be rational from economic perspective
o Betting wasnt about winning or losing money
Was way to indicate & rework hierarchies
Those who bet aggressively & successful were
simultaneously securing & displaying high status in eyes of
other participants
Cockfights allowed Balinese to collectively interpret their own
status hierarchies
Symbols always exist in specific social contexts
Studying symbols help us understand things about society that are not often
discussedlike distinctions of honor, inequality, competition
Ethnography: research method based on lengthy & intimate observation of a group
Super Bowl: most-watched cultural event in country

Features familiar rituals & symbolsbetting outcome, Super Bowl parties w/

friends & family, elaborate half-time show, block buster TV ads
Rituals demonstrate common values (judgments about what is intrinsically important or
meaningful)like patriotism, competitiveness, consumerism
Different cultural events would uncover different America
Sites like Youtube display our new collective symbols by allowing people to share
& interpret culture together

Sociological perspective: what is the meaning of this?

To uncover culture, need for thick descriptions
Thick descriptions: detailed accounts of the context that allow us to understand
the meaning behind behaviors
Depending on cultural context, wink might mean flirting w/ someone or sharing a secret
w/ someone
Same symbol can mean very different things in different cultural contexts
Culture as practice: habitus & tool kit
How is culture actually practiced?
Culture is out there in world expressed through collective meaning given to objects &
Culture influences the kinds of decisions we make in our liveswhether we are aware of
them or not
Some sociologists use culture as guiding our behavior by establishing goals for us
Values we develop in our lives may lead us to earn a lot of money, make a positive
difference in the world, raise a family, travel
Sociologists now usually study cultures effect on means of our behaviormore on
how not why of social life
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued that we all develop certain sets of assumptions
about the world & our place in ittastes, preferences, skills
We develop habitscalled habitus by Bourdieuwhen we grow up & socialize
w/ others
Kind of habitus we develop depends upon our upbringing
o Poor Americans are much less likely to have bank accounts than middleclass & rich Americans
If you are born into a poor family, you will have less money than
someone born into a rich family & different education and
assumptions about how to handle money
Bourdieus concept of habitus explain how our future choices & opinions area always
guided by our past experiences
People are exposed to all sorts of different cultural systems & forms of meaning
Tool kit: set of symbolic skills or devices that we learn through cultural environment we
live in & apply to practical situations in our own lives
People have better tools for certain situations
Some people have better tools for others

2 people who hang out in similar social circles might have same basic set of
conversational tools in their cultural tool kits, but the one who keeps to
himself/herself will be less comfortable using them than one who frequently chats
Two most important cultural tools: love as voluntary choice & love as commitment
Most Americans have both of these tools available to them, but personal
backgrounds might affect which one they tend to reply on & which one they are
more competent w/
Culture doesnt just establish differences in how we interpret the world & give it meaning
Culture influences the kind of strategies & actions that are practically available to

Culture & communication

In what ways is culture a form of communication?
Culture as system & culture as practice describe forms of communication (sharing of
meaningful info b/w people)
Language: any comprehensive system of words or symbols representing concepts
Doesnt necessarily need to be spoken, ex: hundreds of different sign languages
used around world
Language is a cultural universalcultural trait common to all humans
o All human groups throughout history have used language to communicate
w/ each other
Culture & language are closely related
Groups language is directly responsible for many of its cultural symbols &
Just b/c people speak the same language doesnt mean that they share the same culture
Canadians & Americans both speak English but there are cultural differences b/w
& w/n both countries
Language influences culture w/o completely determining itview of linguists & cultural
We have developed different ways of communicating concepts
Ex: using maam or sir when speaking to elder
Communication can occur b/w individuals or occur at large w/n society
Mass communication: communication occurring at large w/n society
In recent history, mass communication has occurred primarily through mass
media: TV, radio, newspapers
In recent years, Internet has emerged as main medium for mass communication
o People increasingly access traditional media sources online via newspaper
websites or video sources (Hulu, YouTube)
o In doing sotransforming media consumption into something they can
participate in by writing comments, reposting stories, & creating own
Old media & new media now blur together

But Internet has created whole new set of communication possibilities only
loosely tied to previous forms of mass communicationesp. via social networks
& instant messaging
Social media has altered the way children, adults, & (increasingly) elderly engage w/
each otheronline and in person & at distances near and far
Changed the way that corporations or anticorporate activists operate; ways that
charitable organizations raise funds; way that political officials campaign/govern;
ways that social movements organize
Affected ways we get & sometimes make news & entertainment
Cultural sociologists are curious about how & to what extent social media have
transformed everyday life for people at different ages & in different places
Social theorist Manuel Castella argues that are participating in new form of Internetcentered communicationmass self-communication
Can potentially reach global audience but content is self-generated & self-directed
Internet offers both large scale & ever-present nature of mass media & individualized
content of interpersonal communication
Ex: Facebook has exploded in size
Last decades marked by most rapid period of transformation of information &
communication in history
Access to technology might be creating new divisions of haves & have-nots in
form of social, economic, & cultural gap b/w those w/ effective access to
information technology & those w/o access (digital divide)
Divide occurs b/w those who are connected & those who are not
o Those w/ education & media literacy to navigate around more innovative,
independent sites and those who mainly visit big commercial sites
o Those w/ high-speed access & those in slow lane
As computers & Internet become more important to everyday life, understanding causes
& effects of digital divide will become one of most important tasks for sociologists of
culture & communication

2. How does culture shape our collective identity?

Culture & group identity
We all think of ourselves as belonging to numerous different groups
Some of these groups are easy to define (nationality, religion) but others are less clear
(university students, football fans)
Cultural is central to group identitydefining & maintaining group
Some sociologists say that we should only use culture to refer to differences &
similarities that form the basis for groups coming together or clashing w/ each
Way of thinking about identity in cultural terms:
Group style: set of norms & practices that distinguishes one group from another
Different groups have different normsshared assumptions about correct
Most people belong to many groups, ex: school, national identity, gender

o We learn to adopt the right style for the right occasion

Adopting the right style is not always a simple matter
Difficult to fit in if you were transported to a different time or place
Group style is way for people to communicate belonging or not belonging
Culture is a practice of communicationaccording to account of identity

Mainstream culture, subcultures, countercultures

What distinguishes subculture from the mainstream?
Mainstream culture: most widely shared systems of meaning & cultural tool kits in
Some groups deliberately set themselves off from the mainstream culture
Subcultures: relatively small groups of people whose affiliations is based on shared
beliefs, preferences, & practices that exist under the mainstream & distinguish them from
the mainstream
Ex: rock climbers, hunters, ballroom dancers, chess players
Hippies in 1960s were considered deviant, but contemporary sociologists refer
them as subcultures
Most likely to emerge in citieswhere large, concentrated population allow these
groups to flourish
Some subcultures may have a clearly articulated sense of common purpose or
definition while others may be only loosely connected by mutual interests
Tend to exist in harmony w/ mainstream culture
Some subcultures express differences in political & economic power-which sets yourself
apart from cultural mainstream and is considered act of resistance against rituals
Subculture called counterculturegroup whose ideas, attitudes, behaviors are in
direct conflict w/ mainstream culture & actively contest dominant cultural
practices in societies of which they are a part of
Ex: Hippies considered counterculture; contemporary militias & recent Tea Party
and Occupy Wall Street movements considered countercultures
Sociologists consider culture an arena of struggle w/n which different mainstream
cultures, subcultures, & countercultures are unequally ranked & often stand in opposition
to another
Each are fighting for supremacy in determining what counts as culture & seeking
to reap the rewards that come from it
Ex: countercultures like punks use appearance & behaviors to deliberately set themselves
off from mainstream culture
United States: hegemony, culture wars, or multiculturalism?
How is the concept of culture wars at odds w/ the multicultural landscape of the U.S.?
Subcultures & countercultures make sense only when there is a dominant mainstream
culture to challenge

Argued by Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramscidominant classes in society maintain

their rule by encouraging certain moral & cultural understandings that are favorable to
Movements seeking to radically transform a society needed not just to win
political power but to overthrow cultural hegemonyto fight common sense w/
good sense
Culture is warnot just entertainment
When elites gain legitimacy & power from widely shared yet taken-for-granted beliefs
about what is right or wronghegemony
Can be proper or improper or valuable or not
Culture wars in U.S. refers to arguments over proper role of family & religious values in
certain questions of state policy
3 most important questionsabortion rights, immigration rights, gay rights
Argued by sociologist James Davison Hunterpeople tended to line up on the same sides
of many issues
Positions that are labeled progressive & orthodox didnt necessarily
correspond to social class or political affiliation
In 1990s people tended to line up on the same sides on many of the issues of
abortion rights, immigration rights, gay rights
Main battle of American electrical politics was shifting from economic questions
to moral questions
o Voters came to identify w/ Republicans & to see Democrats as party of
elite, even though Republican economic policies are more elite-driven
Idea of culture wars suggests that there are 2 dominant cultures squaring against each
other: liberal vs conservative
At odds w/ multiculturalism (another way to describe contemporary groupidentity landscape of the U.S.)
Multiculturalism: beliefs or policies promoting equal accommodation of different
ethnic or cultural groups w/n society
o Immigrant societies like U.S. have to reckon w/ considerable number of
different cultural backgrounds & systems of meaningmakes simple
liberal vs conservative understanding of culture an insufficient one
Melting potstandard metaphor to describe model of cultural accommodation in U.S.
Immigrants come from all sorts of diverse cultural backgrounds but gradually
assimilate into America society until they become genuinely America (being able
to speak English at the minimum)
Melting pot ideal is generally recognized by sociologists as problematic
o Privileges a specific notion of what it means to be America (white,
English-speaking, middle/upper-class)
o In actuality:
40% Americans are actually nonwhite
30% Americans dont speak English in their homes

o Has perhaps declined somewhat in mainstream discourse during 21st

century but still thrives in right-wing political discourse, esp. concerning
immigration & English-language-use policy
Example of ethnocentrisminability to understand or accept cultural practices
different from ones own
Problem w/ ethnocentrism (not understanding/accepting cultural practices different from
your own)leads to incorrect assumptions about others on basis of our own experience
Will misinterpret shared meanings or fail to grasp what is important in a given
We can never escape ethnocentrism fully b/c we all have been raised in specific cultural
contexts that will influence our thinking in acknowledged ways
Kinds of assumptions make it difficult to understand other cultures
Practicing cultural relativism (evaluating cultural meanings & practices in their own
social contexts) can reduce ethnocentrism

Multilingual United States

English is Americas dominant national language
America always had history of multilingualism, w/ every new wave of immigration the
linguistic diversity of U.S. Continues to grow
Percentage of Americans who dont speak English at home varies widely
Immigrants come to U.S. from all sorts of national, ethnic, cultural, linguistic
Global culture
Existence of subcultures demonstrates that cultural practices can help define group
identity for very small groups
Global culture incorporates cultural practices common to large parts of the world
Sociologist Max Weber attempts to explain rise of capitalism as consequence of largescale cultural & religious transformation
Observed that Calvinism (variant of Protestant-ism) preached that an individuals
salvation or damnation was predestined by God & people couldnt directly affect
their chances to go to heaven through prayer or good deedsas Catholics
Calvinists were anxious to look for signs of whether God had chosen them for
salvation & came to believe that practicing hard work & thrift was a sign
According to Max Weberprotestant ethnic (when applied to emerging money economy
like 18th century America) encouraged savings & investment instead of luxury & had
unexpected consequence of launching capitalist cycle of investment, production,
When capitalism subsequently spread around the world, it was an economic &
cultural system that spread
In Webers time, cultural values associated w/ Protestant ethnic only spread as far as
Western Europe & North America (culture didnt spread well)

Todays world is culturally connected on a planetary scale in a way that has no precedent
in history
Dominant role of U.S. in global cultural landscape eroded substantially
B/c of globalization, certain cultural systems have become global
Microsoft Windowsused by hundreds of millions of people worldwide
provides basis for common technological vocabulary that transcends language
Some aspects of global culture are more abstract
o Ex: citizenship, economic development, human rights
o Human rights achieved b/c of global culture of individualismwhere
individual (and not some larger social grouping like the family or nation)
is held to be most important
Global cultural interconnection means complex relationships b/w place & culture:
Homogenous cultural events & products, ex: McDonalds has restaurants in over
120 countries
Heterogeneous cultural events & products, ex: number of indigenous languages
that were dying out have seen revivals in recent decades in part due to
Global culture should be thought of as a set of flows (some ideas, people, commodities
that circulate smoothly & others that dont)

National cultures
What produces & reproduces global & national cultures & what effects do they have?
Even in era of globalization, most important group identity in modern world is the nation
Entire world is divided into nation-states
Most people are aa citizen or subject or a single one of them
National culture: set of shared cultural practices & beliefs w/n a given nation-state
Important principle for sociology
Nationalism: people think of themselves as inherently members of a nation
Was large-scale cultural transformation
Perhaps a sign of a new global culture
Nations are imagined communities
Members share an assumption of commonality w/ each other, even though they
come from diverse class & ethnic backgrounds & most never meet
National communities came about w/ origination of print capitalism
Print capitalism: mass production of books & newspapers written in local
languages for simultaneous mass consumption by an increasingly literate public
Ex: When French people read French newspapers & German people read German
newspapers, they learn about whats happening in their respective countries as
well as confirm membership in 2 different shared national cultures
Peoples networks are generally national & unilingual
In contemporary life, cultural sociologists generally study differences b/w national

Americans are generally thought to be more individualistic than people in other

Combination of different factors (economic prosperity, rising status of women,
communications revolution, mass urbanization, longevity evolution) influence whether
people want to & are able to live along
Factors vary widely across national contexts
Americans are less likely to live alone than residents of apparently less
individualistic nations (like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark)
Many important social, political, economic, cultural institutions are organized along
national lines & have systematic effects on the way people live theirs live & kinds of
attitudes & worldviews they develop
Effects are not always uniform
Ex: social security policies vary substantially b/w countries
Different worldviews can in turn have big impact on other features of national life
o In Japan, CEOs are paid on average 16x more than workers
o In US, CEOs are paid 319x more than workers
Early childhood is important area of researchwhere many of our cultural assumptions
are formed
Preschools play role in forming cultural identities
o American preschools put emphasis on creativity & respect
o China preschools put emphasis on instilling order & discipline
o Japanese preschools left children to their own devicesforcing them to
learn to get along respectfully w/ others
Preschools reflect national cultureteachers & parents are influenced by certain
ideas & try to pass along/reproduce them

Culture of living alone

Truth is that people living alone are not isolated & are well-connected
Compared w/ married people, people living alone are more likely to spend time w/
friends & neighbors
More likely to volunteer in civic organizations
More likely to live in citieshighly populated & have high concentration of
restaurants, coffee shops, social groups
3. How do our cultural practices relate to class & status?
Class, status & culture
Cultural signs (way someone dresses, how they speak, sports they play, music they like)
can indicate if someone is wealthy or powerful
Taste: cultural preferences
Plays crucial role in setting & maintaining class distinctions
Argued by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieutaste is fundamentally the distaste
for taste of others
Cultural capital

What is cultural capital & in what ways have American elites become cultural omnivores?
U.S. is an intensely class-bound society, second in developed world only to U.K.
Ex: Someone who is born into the working class is very likely to stay working
class for his/her entire life
o Occurs partly b/c of the resources people can bring to bear in their lives,
ex: money, economic assets, social connections, networks of friends &
o Bourdieu refers to money & economic assets=economic capital; social
connections & networks of friends & acquaintances=social capital
o Also due to third type of resourcecultural capital (education, attitudes,
preferences)which collectively confer whether you are a higher or lower
status in the eyes of others
We use cultural capital all the time in interactions w/ others unconsciously
Bourdieu emphasized various ways that people display taste in everyday life
o Tastes will influence the kinds of people you want to spend time w/ or
o Tastes help maintain status boundaries b/w different groups
Cultural capital requires scarcity
Cultural experiences that everyone can share cant serve as basis for status
Issue is not money but difficult
Ex: Before IKEA began selling inexpensive furniture, its aesthetic was considered
a sign of high status. But since the middle class can afford IKEA furniture &
shops there extensively, the aesthetic is no longer an embodiment of significant
cultural capital.
U.S. has more pervasive mass culture than many other countries
American elites today are becoming less snobbish & behaving more like cultural
Cultural omnivores: cultural elites who demonstrate their high status through a
broad range of cultural consumption, including low-status culture
American elites today are more likely than average to consume high & popular
Elite tastes are not that inclusive
Symbolic boundaries
How do symbolic boundaries relate to culture?
Symbolic boundaries includes:
Kinds of distinctions that people make b/w themselves & others on the basis of
Socioeconomic status: amount of money you make
Morality: moral considerations that guide the way you live (or appear to live)
your life
Some moral boundaries in U.S. are more important for indicating status than they are in
other countries and cultural boundaries are less important

Symbolic boundaries often take geographical form

Person dressed a certain way or w/ certain skin color can appear perfectly normal
in one neighborhood but perfectly strange or threatening in another
Symbolic boundaries associated w/ cultural practices have spatial boundaries as well
Artwork of graffiti artists in public places were in violation of the law & middleclass norms of public space usesymbolically & spatially beyond set boundaries
o 2 main responses to graffiti movement:
Attempt to portray graffiti as deviant & criminal
Enthusiastic embrace of graffiti by trendy art galleries in some NY

How culture reproduces class

What explains class & status reproduction over the long term?
Class reproduction: process that causes class boundaries & distinctions to be maintained
over time
Bourdieus theory of taste attempts to explain short-term class reproduction
In everyday interactions, we remind ourselves & others about our relative statuses
& ensure that our status differences stay prominent
Study comparing middle-class & working-class families in U.S. showed how different
class positions affected parents approaches to childrearing
Concerted cultivation: fostered childs talents, instilling sense of entitlement;
followed by middle-class parents
o Sense of entitlement makes them more likely to push to succeed
socioeconomically when they are older
Accomplishment of natural growth: cared for children but left them to fend for
themselves, instilling sense of constraint; followed by working-class parents
o Sense of constraint makes them more likely to stay in the class that they
are born in
Class is reproduced through the money you have & the culture you practice
4. Who produces culture & why?
Conditions of cultural production
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels arguedpeople who have most wealth & power in society
generally also have the greatest ability to produce & distribute their own ideas & culture
Ex: in 19th century Europe, people were capitalists (factory owners, bankers) who
valued their rights to private property & freedom to run their businesses
o Used influence w/ newspaper owners & intellectuals to make liberty &
freedom dominant ideas of age
Argument allows us to see cultural production as a historical phenomenon
o Ideas & fashions dont change randomly over timethey respond to other
changes in a societys political & economic circumstances
In 19th century it was much more difficult to spread ideas than
compared to today
Today we have Internet & social media

Conditions of cultural production: who controls population of ideas in society & to what

Public sphere
How does the concept of the public sphere explain how culture is produced in society?
Basic premise of public life in democracy in U.S.: everyone is allowed to participate
In practice, public participation is massively unequal
o Ex: former felons are stripped of their right to vote in many states & its
very hard to attract an audience for your ideas or your art if you dont have
a fair amount of money
Vision of equal participation in public life is powerful ideal
o According to sociologist Jurgen Habermasideal is called public sphere
Most influential sociological account of how ideas are produced &
exchanged in modern society
In 18 century Europe-when public sphere began to emergeit centered in a range of
institutions like newspapers, pubs, social clubs, coffee shops
Could be any location where people gathered & discussed news of the day
Public sphere stood apart from state & offered citizens a way to criticize &
influence governmentnovel idea in age of absolute monarchies
In modern welfare states like U.S., public sphere is where different social groups
organize to become political actors & compete for influence
Ex: Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street movements, lobby groups (like National Rifle
Association or AARP)
Compete by trying to shape public opinion via production of ideas, ex:
newspapers, TV, advertising
According to Habermashighest form of public life in capitalist society is private
citizens assembled in public body to confer about matters of general interest
Citizens set aside their own interests, wealth, statusmeet as equals to
collectively debate & generate ideas about how to govern collectively
Sociologists that criticized Habermas theory of public spherefor ignoring power
differences that inevitably prevent all citizens from participating equally in public life
Same things that give some people power over others in private life (race, gender,
class, education) give some people more power in public sphere
Never have been overarching public sphere
Subordinated social groups/subcultures frequently constitute their own counterpublics
alternative public spheres through which they produce & circulate their own values,
beliefs, ideas
Ex: network of black churches forming backbone of civil rights movement, bars
& clubs where gay liberation movement began
Fragmented publics dont necessarily need to be subordinate either
Concept can be applied to any subculture
Networked public: online public sphere
Ex: Facebookusers of social networking sites

Networked publics attract participation b/c of things they offer that face-to-face
public settings
o Allows for persistence (browsing through friends profiles), searchability
(seeking out other people w/ similar interests & connecting w/ existing
friends), replicability, invisible audiences
Make networked publics distinct from public spheres

Culture industry vs cultural democracy

Is population culture an industry or a cultural democracy?
German sociologist/philosopher Theodor Adorno arguedpopular culture that dominants
public sphere encourages passive, conservative public
Culture industry: popular music, movies, & other types of mass culture
Popular culture encourages audiences to passively consume what they are
watching, reading, listening rather than participating or engaging creatively w/ the
Kind of culture that culture industry produces I standardized, commoditized,
doesnt challenges status quoadvertising rather than art
Other sociologists arguedpopular culture provides arena through which we all debate
the meaning of good life & conditions for attaining it
Explicitly cultural version of Habermas public sphere
Popular culture is user driven
o Cultural producers attract audience by tailoring their art to reflect popular
Popular culture is element of cultural democracy
Lots of different tastes (including the ones that subcultures of elites disapprove of)
are accommodated
Culture jammingpeople passively accept corporate culture & intentionally disrupt &
subvert it in reaction to the common view that corporations have too much influence in
social life
Most of us cant avoid constant exposure to corporate mediaTV, Internet,
signs/billboards in public spaces
Relies on constant exposure in order to mock (perhaps by directly modifying
billboards w/ graffiti)
Culture jammers reject idea that marketing has to be passively accepted as oneway information flow
Medium is message
Does communication change w/ the form or medium?
Deciding if popular culture if democratic, conservative, etc. depends on content & form
Different media encourage different ways of communicating, organizing power,
centralizing/decentralizing social activity
Web offers richer experience than radiocan follow hyperlinks & look up
unfamiliar things on Wikipedia

Radio dominants your senses (hearing) & prompts you to devote most of your
attention to hearing whereas a website provides you w/ more ambiguous sensory
Different forms of communication can provide very different experiences even when
communicating exact same content
Media is biasin sense that different types of engagement that different forms of
communication encourage
Different media can actually change our notions of truth & our values
Cultural production in U.S. is increasingly occurring online
Great transition from age of typography age of television
We become used to passively receiving info w/o expecting to be able to act on it
in any meaningful way
Info we receive via TV tends to arrive in series of short, disconnected sound bites
making it difficult for us to put them in any coherent context
Bias of television as medium is toward stimulation & entertainmentpossibly at
expense of understanding
Our media consumption habits have changed
Americans watch more television than ever before
o American households have TV turned on 8.5 hours per day on average
Percentage of American adults who have read a novel, play have shrunk
Entertainment we watch on TV is of higher quality than it used to be
Increasing popularity of high-brow TV shows on channels like HBO
Increasing trend is cultural multitasking
Ex: checking facebook while watching TV
Contemporary media environment is torrent: nonstop flow on info that we rarely if ever
disengage from
Doesnt command our active attention
Forms sensory background for our lives

5. What is relationship b/w media & democracy?

Media & democracy: changing landscape
3 most widely read newspapers in U.S.Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York
USA Today: national newspaper
Wall Street Journal, New York Times: nominally based in New York City
Media is arguably most important form of cultural production in our society
Newspaper citizens
Before TV & Internet, newspapers provided only practical means for immigrants to keep
track of goings-on at home

Foreign-language newspapers were important institution in Chicago & reading

was generally elite practice in countries where immigrants had previously lived
but became common & necessity in the U.S. city
Foreign-language newspapers gave link to home countries & addressed experience of
new groups to which immigrants belonged
Immigrants were changed through process of immigration
Newspapers provided new set of common themes, stories, characters &
vocabulary for making sense of the new world
New American metropolises of early 20th century were enormous, chaotic, & mysterious
Newspapers were seen as vehicles of social integration
Some newspaper publishers (like William Randolph Hearst) saw news as a form
of entertainment & created urban imagined communities
Some newspaper publishers (like Joseph Pulitzer) saw news as information &
created urban imagined communities
Benedict Anderson emphasized role of newspapers in creating national imagined
Newspapers created a mental world for migrants moving from countryside city
For migrants, urban environment could be cruel & fascinating, mysterious &
Newspapers helped close the social distance b/w readers & emphasize their
common circumstances
In large cities, newspapers helped to make people citizens by reporting on events of local
If we are to have politics built on public opinion & informed debate, newspaper
must tell us about ourselvesinforming us who we are by letting our experiences
& ideas surface on its pages

Making the news

How do journalists make the news?
Journalism: form of communication
Production & dissemination of information of general public interest
Journalists dont just report on newsthey help to create & change it
Plenty of arguments about power of media
Common left-wing critiques suggest that mass media support corporate power,
militarism, & interests of wealthiest
Common right-wing critiques suggest that media make culture liberal & spread
feminism, environmentalism, acceptance of homosexuality
Political insiders on all sides believe the media exerts agenda-setting power that
can change the course of political events & determine careers
Difficult to prove that media actually has influence to change events
According to media scholar Michael Schudsonmedia acts as cultural system
Set context for making events in the world intelligible
Help construct a community & public conversation

Regardless of your opinions on a given issue, if you hear about it in the news you
are more likely to treat it as important
News amplifies issues & makes them publicly legitimate
Why some public relations experts sayTheres no such thing as bad press.

Media bias: domination or framing?

Why do certain topics get very little news coverage?
Media covers certain topics more than others
Ex: abortion & tax breaks for businesses are hotly debated but not desirability of
Edward Herman & Noam Chomsky developed propaganda model of media
Role of media is to inform, entertain, ingrain citizens w/ national values &
suppress dangerous oppositional perspectives
In case of state-run media in nondemocratic countries, propaganda role is obvious
Private-sector media in countries like U.S. give sustained attention to stories that
are useful to powerful institutions but little attention to stories that odnt for 5
o Concentration of media ownership is small number of wealthy hands
o Advertising is primary source of revenue for media
o Media reliance on government officials, corporate leaders, & public
relations as sources for reporting
o Power of governments & big business to discipline & threaten media that
is too critical
o Ubiquity of anticommunist sentiment to be aroused
Example of media domination argumentmedia can tell the public what to
believe & message they communicate is biased
News is slanted b/c of media framing
Reports cover diversity of topics but they tend to do so via certain existing
storylines & narratives
Local news consistently shows higher percentage of blacks as perpetrators of crime &
recipients of public assistance
Coverage fits & helps confirm frame of African Americans as prone to criminality
& poverty
Explanation for framingdue to institutional factors rather than personal ones
Journalists themselves tend to be economically conservative, upper middle class,
socially liberal
Minorities & poor are underrepresented in newsroom
Journalists tend to cover stories in ways that make sense to white upper middle
classassuming the virtue of individualism & political moderation
Some institutional factors impact how news gets made
Media are generally for-profit enterpriseswanting to tell exciting stories to sell
newspapers & attract viewers
News tends to focus on visible events, action, conflict, personal drama
Media tend to focus on bad newsif it bleeds it leads

Corporate media concentration

How much choice do U.S. media consumers actually have?
Free press in democracy means that citizens will be exposed to a variety of perspectives
& sources of info in order to participate meaningfully in public life
3 trends in U.S. media landscape suggest that the relationship b/w media & democracy is
only likely to grow more troubled:
Consolidation: fewer & fewer corporations own more & more of media outlets in
given market
o Consolidation limits consumer choice, makes it difficult for new entrants
to break into marketincreasing likelihood that media market will stay
dominated by same players
Conglomeration: firm controlling multiple types of media functions
o Ex: Walt Disney Company (on of big 6 U.S. media corporations) owns
ABC, ESPN, hundreds of radio stations, various print media operations
o Disney is master of synergy (relying on subsidiaries to promote movie on
its stations & television programs to ensure that coverage is positive)
Hypercommercialism: blurred lines b/w advertising & editorial content in
o Defining feature of todays corporate media
o Ex: 2010 romantic comedy Valentines Day featured produce placements
for 60 different productsone for every 125 seconds
*According to scholar Robert McChesney3 trends have put enormous
commercial pressure in journalism
o W/n bounds of profitability & corporate acceptability, media produces
wide range of content
Media, democracy & internet
In what ways have the Internet created new opportunities & new dangers for the free media &
for democracy?
100 years ago, journalist Walter Lippmann was skeptical of media ability to provide
public w/ info necessary for democracy
Argued that news & truth are not the same thing
o Democracy requires truth but news can only describe & discuss events
from day to day
Believed that democracy required collective intelligencecould only be w/
extensive social organization & press plays small, necessary part
Notion that press is vital to democracy is old one
Many First Amendment scholars believed that media was necessary to provide
forum for debate (constitute public sphere), give voice to public opinion, serve as
citizens eyes & ears in politics, serve as public watchdog over government &
Relationship b/w media & democracy looks different in age of corporate media
consolidation & Internet

Corporate consolidation means that media are less responsive to local

communities they are serving & quality of democratic politics & cultural life
Less local staffing, less local news gathering, less interaction w/ local community
less ability to play democratic role Park & Lippmann believed was necessary
People are fighting back & increasingly doing so online
Citizen journalism exploded in last decade
Internet has lowered bar for entering into public spaceallowing people to assert
their own voices
Governments in Egypt & other parts of Middle East use social media in attempts to
repress civilian uprising
Internet empowers people to easily post & share content w/ each other
Readership online follows roughly the same pattern as readership offline
Large majority of people get theirs news from tiny number of sites
Large majority of sites get virtually no traffic at all
Internet has not necessarily made it easier to monitor activities of the powerful
Corporations are increasingly finding ways to subvert apparently democratic nature of
social media by hiring people to post & monitor content
Internet has created both new opportunities & new dangers for free media & democracy

Conclusion: culture online & offline

Nature of culture is that it changes dramatically over time & across locations
Dramatic cultural transformation occurred in recent decades in U.S. & throughout world
due to rise of Internet & global cultural flows
Many of most pressing questions for cultural sociologists are concerned w/ cultural
implications of Internet & other forms of interconnectivity