The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Pop culture. the true change in America?

    David Taintor

    My name is Ted, and I will be writing a weekly pop culture column here in the Showcase section.

    I wiki’d the term and found that ‘pop culture,’ on a semiotic level, is a current and prevalent system of signs that is regulated and modified by funded interest groups (media). Put another way, ‘pop culture’ is like a familiar language, complete with dialects and degrees of fluency. But rather than use it to communicate with one another, we use it to consume and respond to our world.

    The essential difference between a human language and pop culture is that with pop culture, a wealthy few have the authority to introduce new ‘signs’ and the chance to make a lot of money from it.

    Not surprisingly, new ‘signs’ are introduced frantically as they each vie to become trends. It’s no wonder why some, who prefer the quality of longevity in information, become detractors of pop culture. Not only do they have to put up with Uggs and Crocs, but what’s ‘in’ becomes ‘old’ quite impatiently, and the next isn’t any better.

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    Still, nobody seems to get enough of it here in the Information Age, and that’s a good thing according to corporations. Without something new to consume, the money flow ceases, and the capitalist economy plummets. It becomes necessary to change the state of popularity in order to ensure a trend of

    increasing profit.

    Plugged in to pop culture, it’s possible for certain groups like mass media to use money to spread ideas that encourage consumption, which in turn provides more money for the group. It’s a cycle that’s as convenient as this Economics 101 lesson. As we become dependent on media exponentially, this structure proves to be a crucial tool for corporations. Our culture and lives are a result of mass media, so take a wild guess at who’s in charge.

    But hold it right there! Don’t write me off as just another grouchy Marxist just yet! I’m talking specifically about pop culture. Not all culture. You can’t deny that pop culture is literally a product of mass media. Without outlets such as the TV, Radio, and the Town crier, culture would remain localized and virtually exclusive. Going to Superior would induce culture shock, if it doesn’t already.

    It’s also true that much of our culture is intrinsically tied to the implements themselves. For example, without the TV set, “The Simpsons” would not be physically possible, nor would their famous “couch gag.” After all, what else would our favorite animated, quasi-typical American family rush into the living room to sit in front of?

    For those detractors among you, here’s the optimistic conclusion: The Internet has made rapidity even more commonplace among trends since its coup in the 90s. However, it’s also been whipping the rug out from beneath major media groups, since basically anyone can own and operate a Web site without much help or money. The power struggle would extend downward in a bureaucratic pyramid if the function of money were to be so intrinsically devalued. The ideas of the common folk aren’t rising to the top, but having the bar of relevance lowered toward them. So, does the maturation of the Web mean the ironic end of pop culture? Or will it simply be redefined as the looser Web of niche ideas and interests? It’s a wild thing to ponder, and so I will try to incorporate that dynamic with my time here.

    Waldbillig is a senior English major, with a creative writing emphasis, and guest columnist for The Spectator. Pop Itself appears in the Showcase section every Monday.

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    Pop culture. the true change in America?