Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Uncertainty is a Certainty

Posted by Drake Kizer on April 10, 2017

Today’s selection covered pages 195-228 in our Spreadable Media textbook. The reading continued our look into chapter five, or “Designing for Spreadability”. Yet again, we have switched back into the textbook after a dip into some online essays. At this point, reading the textbook really does not even seem that bad to me as it once did. I think breaking up the readings from the text with the online essays has made both of them a lot more enjoyable and less monotonous.

This excerpt covered a lot of material, but a section labeled “The Uncertainty Principle” was definitely the one that stood out the most to me when I was reading. The section describes the fact that content creators “do not work magic” and therefore cannot predict which of their creations will be the most popular to consumers. The text says that “industry executives all work in a universe in which they know full well that more than 80 percent of what they develop and create will fail commercially”, and that is a reality that I had never even considered before. I cannot imagine the stress associated with creating so many failed ventures.

All the mentions of overproducing content in anticipation of most of it failing definitely reminded me of our discussion of WWE. WWE creates an absolute glut of content for audience members to consume: They have a three-hour show Monday night, a two-hour show Tuesday night, two separate one-hour shows Wednesday night, a four-hour show once a month on Sunday, and that’s not even including specials or online content. It is hard for one human to even consume all of that, much less form an opinion on if it was good or bad. Thus, it is clear WWE showcases as many different stories, characters, and events as possible so that they can increase the likelihood of at least one of the million things they are producing really catching on and becoming transcendentally popular. Like all creators, though, WWE has little chance to accurately predict what will eventually become popular.


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