What is popular culture? When you think of popular culture, do you think of the hottest new movies, musicians and artists? Or do you think of the latest fashion or dance craze, the latest YouTube video or internet meme gone viral, your Facebook or Twitter account, or the latest slang? Although all of these are fine examples of pop culture, for sociologists, there is much more to be revealed by peeking behind the curtain. The lens of sociology is focused on the ever-changing media and technological environment that we are increasingly immersed in, and the consequences for society and for human relationships. Beyond these largely unseen impacts, we also critically examine the organization of contemporary media.
This course has been designed to introduce you to the media process, but also to media production and consumption, including a critical look at who controls the media and the current dynamic between private, multinational media conglomerates and non-profit, free speech media. Media messages are also examined from a social constructionist vantage point to better understand the exchange of attitudes, values and beliefs between media systems and the rest of society. What do various media messages say about us as a society? How is society shaped by these messages? We’ll also examine how popular culture, expressed through media and other social institutions, actually reflects and perpetuates social inequality, including differing effects by class, race and gender. We will actively examine these impacts of popular culture by engaging in observational activities designed to reflect responsible democratic citizenship in the U.S. through this more critical sociological lens, the sociological imagination.