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Popular Culture

Popular Culture. Chapter 8 The Human Mosaic. Characteristics of popular culture . Constantly changing Based in large, heterogeneous groups of people Based mainly in urban areas Material goods mass-produced by machines in factories Prevailing money economy. Recreation and clothing.

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Popular Culture

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  1. Popular Culture Chapter 8 The Human Mosaic

  2. Characteristics of popular culture • Constantly changing • Based in large, heterogeneous groups of people • Based mainly in urban areas • Material goods mass-produced by machines in factories • Prevailing money economy

  3. Recreation and clothing

  4. Characteristics of popular culture • More numerous individual relationships, but less personal • Weaker family structure • Distinct division of labor with highly specialized professions and jobs • Considerable leisure time available to most people • Police, army, and courts take the place of family and church in maintaining order

  5. Leisure time

  6. Popular culture • If a single hallmark of popular culture exists, it is change • Words such as growth, progress, fad, and trend crop up frequently in newspapers and conversations • Some people unable to cope with fast change • Change can lead to insecurity expressed in the term future shock • Vast majority of people in developed countries belong to the popular culture

  7. Popular culture • If a single hallmark of popular culture exists, it is change • Contributions to the spread of popular culture • Industrialization • Urbanization • Rise of formal education • Resultant increase in leisure time • All the reasons popular culture spread caused folk culture to retreat

  8. Placelessness: Anywhere USA • Without the sign, we would not know if these were houses, apartments, or condos. • Their style is no style; a sense of sameness pervades. • Nothing sets these structures apart as being in a particular place; this is placelessness.

  9. Placelessness: Anywhere USA • In fact, the complex is in suburban Columbus, Ohio otherwise known as “Test Market USA.” • Because the demographic character of Columbus offers a representative cross section of American society, it is an appropriate place to try out new products. • Most fast food menus are tested here.

  10. Popular culture • If a single hallmark of popular culture exists, it is change • We and our recent ancestors embraced the free, open, dynamic life-style offered by popular culture • Science challenged religion for dominance in our daily lives • We profited greatly in material terms through this transition • In reality, all culture presents a continuum on which popular and folk represent extreme forms

  11. Popular culture • If a single hallmark of popular culture exists, it is change • Many graduations between the two are possible • Disadvantages become apparent as one moves toward the popular end of the continuum • We forfeited much in discarding folkways • Popular culture is not superior • We weaken both family structure and interpersonal relationships • Tne prominent cultural geographer has said of popular culture “only two (things) would I dislike to give up: inside plumbing and medical advances.”

  12. Popular culture • Popular Culture Regions • Diffusion in Popular Culture • The Ecology of Popular Culture • Cultural Integration in Popular Culture • Landscapes of Popular Culture

  13. Placelessness or clustering? • Superficially, popular culture appears to vary less areally than folk culture • Canadian geographer Edward Relph’s proposal • Popular culture produces a profound placelessness • A spatial standardization that diminishes cultural variety • Demeans the human spirit • James Kunstler speaks of “geography of nowhere” in describing America • One place become much like another, robbed of its geographical essence • Pervasive influence of a continental or worldwide popular culture

  14. McDonald’s in Tokyo

  15. Wendy’s in Idaho

  16. Pampas Grill in Finland

  17. Placelessness or clustering? • Folk cultures, rich in uniqueness, appear to make the geographical face of popular culture seem expressionless • Michael Weiss argues that “American society has become increasing fragmented”

  18. Cappadocia province, Turkey

  19. Placelessness or clustering? • Jonathan Robbin identifies 40 “life-style clusters” based on postal ZIP codes • Says the ZIP codes can tell him what people eat, drink, drive—even think • Each life-style cluster is a formal region with a colorful name, for example: • “Gray Power”—upper middle-class retirement areas • “Old Yankee Rows”—blue- and white-collar older ethnic neighbor­hoods of the Northeast • Norma Rae-Vile—lower- and middle-class southern mill towns

  20. Lifestyle clusters

  21. Placelessness or clustering? • Old Yankee Rowers” typically have a high school education • Like bowling and ice hockey • Three times as likely to live in rowhouses or duplexes • Residents of Norma Rae-Vile • Mostly nonunion factory workers • Have trouble making ends meet • Consume twice as much canned stew as the national average

  22. Placelessness or clustering? • The above examples are to make a point • A whole panoply of popular subcultures exists in America and the world • Each possesses its own belief system, spokespeople, dress code, and lifestyle • Popular culture creates new places • Paul Adams sees television as being a gathering place • Social space where members of a household and their friends assemble

  23. Placelessness or clustering? • Television has become to popular culture, worldwide, what fire and hearth were to folk culture • Must remember region and place exist from micro to macro scales

  24. Cyberspace • Perhaps the personal computer and Internet access have created another new type of place • Certain words we use imply it has a geography—”Cyberspace” • The information superhighway connects not two points, but all points, creating a new sort of place

  25. Cyberspace • Does cyberspace contain a geography at all? • Place, as understood by geographers, cannot be created on the net • “Virtual places” lack a cultural landscape and a cultural ecology • Human diversity is poorly portrayed in cyberspace • Old people, poor people, the illiterate, and the continent of Africa are not represented • On the net, users end up “meeting” people like themselves • The breath and spirit of place cannot exist in cyberspace • These are not real places and never can be

  26. Cyberspace • Still, cyberspace possesses some geographical qualities • Enhances opportunities for communication over long distances • Allows access to rare data banks • Encourages and speeds cultural diffusion • The Internet helps heighten regional contrasts • Uneven spatial distribution of Internet connections creates a new way people differ

  27. Internet Connections

  28. Food and drink • What we eat and drink differs markedly from one part of the country and world to another • Difference in alcoholic drink consumption in the United States • Beer has highest per capita consumption levels in the West • Least beer is sold in the Lower South and Utah • Corn whiskey, both legal and illegal, has been a traditional southern beverage • Californians place more importance on wine

  29. Kitsch Architecture: Lacross, Wisconsin • Kitsch – trivial, showy, designed for mass consumption – it is increasingly common in placeless landscapes. • Much kitsch in North American and Australia is characterized by gigantism • This is purported to be the world’s largest six-pack.

  30. Kitsch Architecture: Lacross, Wisconsin • Gottlieb Heileman, a German immigrant, founded his brewery in 1870 and this region has one of the highest per capita beer consumption figures in the nation.

  31. Food and drink • Foods vary across North America • In the South, barbecued pork and beef, fried chicken, and hamburgers have greater than average popularity • More pizza is consumed in the North • Focus of Italian immigration • Pizza diffused to the southern states only in the mid-1950s

  32. Food and drink • Importance of fast food restaurants varies greatly within the United States • Stronghold is in the South — 57 percent in Mississippi • Northeast has lowest rate of such eateries —27 percent in New York and Vermont • We should not expect geographical uniformity within popular culture • Placelessness has been overstated

  33. Popular music • The many difference styles of popular music all reveal geographic patterning in levels of acceptance • Pop musicians can receive adulation of a magnitude reserved for deities in folk culture • Elvis Presley, a generation after his death retains an important place in American popular culture • Illustrates the vivid geography of the culture • Sale of memorabilia reveals a split personality • Hotbeds of Elvis worship lie in eastern states • Elvis largely forgotten out West

  34. Sports • Abundant leisure time has allowed North Americans to devote time watching or participating in sports • Few aspects of popular culture are as widely publicized as our games, both amateur and professional • From Little League through professional contests, athletics receive almost daily attention from members of popular culture • The further we withdrew from our folk tradition, the more important organized games became

  35. Sports • The nineteenth century gave us football, ice hockey, baseball, soccer, and basket­ball—our major spectator sports • Our folk ancestors played games, but most were limited to children and little time was spent on them • Concept of professional athletes and admission-paying spectators is not found in folk culture

  36. Sports • With diffusion of commercial spectator sports through North America, distinct • regional contrasts developed • “Hotbeds” of football arose in some regions • Basketball became a winter mania in some areas • Baseball came to rule supreme in some states • Ice hockey reigned in still other provinces

  37. Sports • Participant sports reveal similar regionalization • Ten “sports regions,” each with its own special character was developed after a study done by two geographers • These ten regions provide a more definitive identity to regions formerly revealed mainly through intuition

  38. Beauty pageants • Contests are not confined to sports arenas • Nearly everyone participates in one or another less strenuous competition • Provide a typical expression of American popular culture • Began in earnest at Atlantic City, New Jersey in the early 1920s

  39. Beauty pageants • Reveal pronounced areal contrasts • Winners tend to come preponderantly from certain parts of the country • A “beauty queen belt” stretches from Mississippi to Utah • Directly north of this belt lies a sizable block of states that have never pro­duced a major contest winner • As with other culture regions the question arises concerning cause and effect

  40. Vernacular culture regions • Defined as those regions perceived to exist by their inhabitants • Product of the spatial perception of the population at large • Not a formal region based on carefully chosen criteria • Such regions vary greatly in size, from small districts to multistate areas • Often overlap and usually have poorly defined borders

  41. Vernacular culture regions • Example of “Green Country” in northeastern Oklahoma • Name pushed by Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission • Proclaim “where a blend of natural beauty, ideal climate and frontier heritage offers visitors a memorable vacation experience” • News media in Tulsa repeatedly drum “Green Country” into minds of local Oklahomans • Billboards and businesses spread the same message

  42. Vernacular culture regions • These regions can be found in almost every part of the industrialized Western world • Wilber Zelinsky • Compiled province-sized regions in North America • Used most common provincial name appearing in the white pages of urban telephone directories • One curious feature is found in the populous districts in New York, Ontario, eastern Ohio, and western Pennsylvania where no affiliation to province is perceived

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