Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

A Fragile Medium

Posted by Sean Hull on February 1, 2017

Having read the assignment for tomorrow, most of what I’ve seen echoes the articles from Tuesday. Corporate media producers, accustomed to strict control over both production for and communication with their audience, would naturally be slow to acclimate to today’s increasingly unmanageable media environment, particularly when the traditional stickiness-oriented metrics of success presume nothing but loss of both profits and control, should consumers engage with media via increasingly diverse and decentralized means.

This is not to imply that the reading was unenlightening. Where previous assignments may have only touched on the above, this reading more methodically gave sight of conflicts between audiences and media producers, and the blurring of borders between the two. The example of fan-run Twitter accounts created to impersonate characters from the television drama Mad Men was the most interesting to me, due to the complexity of the conflict between the show’s fans and AMC, the network to which Mad Men belongs; Though in a vacuum a nonprofit venture, the work running these Twitter-based facsimiles eventually built significant reputations for some of the men behind the masquerade, aiding them in other enterprises. If done with ulterior motives, should this still be treated as fan engagement? The answer from AMC was “no.”

Having addressed one of the cases given, I’d like to briefly cover the penultimate segment of the introduction, “Papyrus and Marble.” Though the focus of this part was on discussing the accessibility of modern channels of communication by drawing comparisons to the portability of papyrus, this analogy has disturbing connotations. Papyrus is a notoriously weak form of data storage, and it is mostly in dry desert regions that ancient papyrus texts can be found intact. Though perhaps modern media does not map exactly to papyrus’s qualities, the requirements of power generation, technical knowledge, and a suitable operating system needed to access today’s most common medium for data is evidence of an even greater fragility. Though not an immediate concern in any of our lifetimes, this comparison to papyrus seems an admission of our utter lack of empathy for future historians.


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