Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

How Everyday People Shape Media

Posted by nathanpowers22 on January 30, 2017

I think the common theme of this week’s readings is “how everyday people are producing meaning and value in a changing communication environment,” as described on page ix in “How to Read This Book” from Spreadable Media. The author of “In Defense of Memes,” Whitney Phillips, challenges the idea that so-called “viral” media are spread as passively as the term suggests. Using memes as a striking example of active engagement, Phillips emphasizes that the creative input of media consumers is often responsible (perhaps now more than ever) for elaborating on existing cultural events and trends to produce the “scaffolding” for additional memes. Like the Insane Clown Posse snippet, the source material for Pepe the Frog–a webcomic called Boy’s Club–has nothing to do with the countless incarnations that exist today, which are so eclectic in tone and illustration that one would have a rather difficult time tracing the permutations that link them to the original “feels good man” image.

The other two readings, “The History of Spreadable Media” by William Uricchio and “Twitter Revolutions?” by Henry Jenkins, point to historical examples of media texts ranging from “coins, ceramic plates, and religious artifacts,” to the culmination of videos, tweets, and iReports that brought global attention to the Arab Spring and Occupy movements. Though the scope and depth of analysis varies greatly between the two essays, the core message that I took from each was that the power of social networks has almost always outweighed that of the corporate, industrial, and political motivations that have historically driven media production. As Uricchio explains, “While institutional and economic mandates might have defined the initial form and circulation of historical media forms, their acceptance, adaptation, and spread also depended on the populations that encountered them.” For the groups discussed by Jenkins, this has meant the circumvention of governmental attempts to suppress public outcry via Internet competence and literacy, enabling international awareness and investment in political issues of particular import.

One Response to “How Everyday People Shape Media”

  1. emilyjones232 said

    I like how you brought together all three readings! I also like how you elaborated on the fact that sometimes the origins of the meme had no idea of the curation of the meme or its own popularity. Good job!

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