Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Facebook Class Discussion

     Although the website Facebook seems to be a positive way to socially connect with others, I have found the theory of Karl Marx and his ideas on capitalism and class conflict imbedded within the evolution of Facebook. The website was first launched February 4, 2004 and since then has acquired 750 million users worldwide. I still find ideals of capitalism, class and globalization main factors towards the website's production. Which leads me to the question; does Facebook have part in mass culture? Although Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg did not have capitalistic intentions like many other websites, Facebook is beginning to be driven by a capitalist economy.
     According to an online source Facebook’s revenue comes from advertisements. Microsoft is Facebook’s exclusive partner for serving banner advertising and Facebook serves only advertisements that exist in Microsoft’s advertisement inventory. According to Marx, capitalism is an exploitative order that gives rise to social relations of class conflict. For instance, “find us Facebook” is something you hear on almost all commercials, radio stations and on the web. There is the idea that organizations are trying to tie you to their labels by social networking. Organizations say “find us on Facebook,” but what they are really doing is following the user. Starbucks, Frito Lay, your local hair stylist, take for an example; all want to be part of your Facebook page. So that your friends can see what your interest are and it gives organizations like these a reassuring feeling that their label is being viewed. Facebook did not originally begin its site with these ideals. Originally Facebook began as a college site for students to network and to get to know one another better, relate to each other based on similarities.
     Currently Facebook is available to any person 13 years of age or older with valid email account. Another question I like to ask is does Facebook appeal to an overall class? For the most part, yes it does. According to Marx class is defined as a relationship to the means of production. Although Facebook is for most ages, it has been noticed that young adults from 18-25 years of age are a majority of the individuals using the site. In relation to class status, aside from owning a valid email account, one must have access to the Internet via desktop, laptop, Smartphone etc. Advertisements that appear on Facebook appeal to modern consumers and Internet savvy individuals. Car advertisements, insurance or consumables can all be advertised on Facebook. These items are not always available to individuals with insufficient means; therefore, Facebook has already appealed to a certain class. According to an online source “Facebook users are more technologically savvy and therefore use ad blocking software to hide advertisement, that users are younger and therefore better at ignoring messages and that My Space users spend more time browsing through content, while Facebook users spend their time communicating with friends and therefore have their attention diverted away from advertisements”. For the most part, organizations like Starbucks maintain a Facebook page for means of advertising.
     Social networks like Facebook carry notions of globalization. Facebook has connected much economic, social, cultural and political awareness throughout the world. For example, from an economic perspective Facebook is available almost to anyone everywhere; therefore bringing awareness, uniting, and connecting individuals globally. In some countries the government uses Facebook to summons people for court. Another example, Facebook has socially impacted the globe by becoming the number one used social network. Facebook has been acclaimed for its low CTR, spam, and advertisements. Also, the growing number of users shows the sites ability to connect people and close the gap between foreign, or ‘shrinking world’. Another example, Facebook culturally distinguishes itself upon the masses. The Unites States makes up almost 50 percent of Facebook’s users. Among other countries are Indonesia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which also make up a large percent of Facebook users. On other global aspects, Facebook has been criticized for possible security breaches and the site is banned from many countries and work places. Many people believe that Facebook, My Space, Twitter and social networking is one of the worse things to happen to people and culture.
     The first question I asked earlier was does Facebook hold a place in mass culture, or popular culture. In my opinion it is both because I feel that Zuckerberg initial intentions were harmless and good. Facebook as the leading way to connect with old, new friends, people with the same interest and an overall feel of what people like. However, according to Barker and Cyber capitalism, “the Internet exists within a capitalist world driven by profit seeking and dominated by a powerful consumer culture. The concern regarding democracy is that the World Wide Web will become a commoditized sphere of entertainment and selling rather than of political discussion”. It has been obviously seen and stated that Facebook does serve as an advertisement catalyst within mass culture. The idea of Facebook is still very new and evolving in both negative and positive aspects of culture.

The following clip is a homemade attempt, but still an attempt to promote Facebook and the creators own website.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter 11: Digital Media Culture. Sage, 2008.

“Facebook.” Wikipedia. 2011. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 17 August 2011.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


     I found that themes from Guy Hamilton’s film Goldfinger 1964 could be compared to ideas from Chris Barker’s Cultural Politics and Cultural Policy. Barker argues that “cultural studies consistently claims to be centered on issues of power, politics and the need for change.” The themes from the film Goldfinger share similar ideas. The character James Bond is a dashing, intellectual of a spy and dabbles in danger, politics and for higher power. Barker also argues that “cultural studies is a body of theory reflexively produced with the idea that this process is a political practice.” Moments from Goldfinger like the black tie, smoking cigar, and drinking alcohol scene is a good example of cultural studies within this film. The men in this scene portray wealthy, elite and sophisticated white males discussing politics, power and money. Again you see a group of wealthy men playing golf and again placing high bids on the game of gin. The film focuses in on these ideals and as a culture we take it all in to our lives. Another example from the film is for higher power. Goldfinger wanted the most power, or thought he did have the most power at one point. By trying to diminish the value of the United States gold supply was one attempt at gaining higher power. Also, by working with people from European backgrounds he was able to own powerful explosives and devices to help him accomplish his evil plans. He insisted on the need for change by wanting to be the first to succeed in the venture of crime. Lastly the idea of politics is another obvious theme within the film. The character James Bond is described as the Cold War hero. The Cold War is heavily involved with politics, economy and the highest power. Bond to has access to expensive high-tech spy equipment, which portrays him as a powerful war hero…

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter14: Cultural Politics and Cultural Policy. Sage, 2008.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Rules of Attraction

     The novel The Rules of Attraction is a clever and amazing book about the encounters of a few individuals from a small college. Their stories intervene with one another placing the reader in bedrooms, parties and diners with precise detail about how these few people know each other. It makes sense the way the author Bret Easton Ellis forms his text on the young adults, the story starting in the middle and not ending at all. The students of Camden are cliché and stereotypical in my opinion. They put people in genres according to what they wear, how they act, what they listen too. They all have American Express, drink coffee, chain-smoking, drug addicts, party animals and egotistical. No one wants to go home alone on any one night without being laid. They talk about love, but they don’t really know what that is.
     They are self-centered in my opinion, up-class, snotty rich, Caucasian, confused about their existence. I kept thinking as I read, this isn’t going anywhere, the plot I mean. The story begins in October and ends in December and I honestly think that amongst this group of classmates, they have all at one point slept with one another. I thought this was careless behavior and that as young adults they were pathetic.
Lauren is going on and on about some guy Victor who never even mentions her name while on his travels to Europe. She supposedly is goo-goo-gaga over this guy, yet she sleeps with Sean and Paul and some other guy she can’t remember…
Sean seems really cool, laid back, you know, “rock n’ roll.” He is Bisexual and most the men there were bisexual too. They had either slept with Sean, or another male classmate. Sean slept with almost all the girls he encountered although he claimed to be in love with Lauren. What ever happen to Candice?
Paul was he in love with Sean, or Mitchell, or someone else maybe? He sleeps with men mostly and although I feel he did love Sean he gets over him and the many others instantly. Also he took big offense when his friends brought up parents and the fact that they were all getting divorces, yet he claimed that his parents were still hanging together. His mother drags him to Boston to tell him that she hasn’t spoken to his father in a month and that they would divorce soon. (Cliché, stereotypical, to be expected, cultural?)
     I called the novel amazing because I understand what Ellis is getting at about this culture. Here is a college campus with students who should be preparing for their futures, but they don’t’ even know what that is. They don’t know why they are going to school. They change their majors frequently. They only talk and wonder about themselves. All the terrible things that happen in so many individuals’ lives and this self-centered bunch of young adults think that what they are doing is life. It’s pathetic. “They are pathetic.” I visualized their dorms with the popular culture references. Everyone had posters on their walls, owned stereos, drink tab, drive Saabs, smoke parliaments, smoke pot, take acid, swallow mushrooms, swallow pills, swallow booze, swallow cough syrup, wear sunglasses at night and attend Dressed to Get Screwed Parties. Yeah, “it’s pathetic.”
Victor seems to be more down to earth than everyone. Maybe I only think this because he did not speak as much as the other characters; however, while he was in Europe he was not eagerly trying to get back to Camden, back to what everyone was doing. He mentions he is not into guys, or being with them in bed. He is away most of the time. Away from this campus that gives me a hangover just thinking about it. In the end, at the REM concert he mentions that he smiled at a pretty girl and she gave him a nauseated look. His reaction was, “what is her problem?”
“Why couldn’t she just smile back? Was she worrying about imminent war? Was she feeling real terror? Or inspiration? Or passion? That girl, like all others, I had come to believe, was terminally numb. The Talking Heads record was scratched maybe or perhaps Dad hadn’t sent the check yet. That was all this girl was worried about” (273). This is the impression I got from Lauren, Judy, Susan, Katrina, Deidre, Mary, Paul, Sean, Steve, Stuart, Mitchell, Harry, Bertrand and all the other irresponsible individuals...but not Victor.
     What was any of their problems?
     “Rock n’ roll.”

(273) Ellis, Bret Easton. The Rules of Attraction. First Vintage Contemporaries Addition. New York, 1987.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Love For Jerry Maguire...

     I originally viewed the film Jerry Maguire in the theatres with my mom and sister. I was only eleven and I really did not care what the film was about. All I remember was the famous line “Show me the Money!” and the critical acclaim the film was praised for. When I am asked to define love and, or what makes it possible within this film, I became puzzled. Perhaps the possibility of love within the film goes further than man and woman.
      For example, the love for friends, for our jobs, for sports, for money, for our children, and for our parents, these are all possibilities of love topics to be analyzed within this film. The film begins with Jerry writing a statement on how his company can connect better with its clients. The statement was to cut back on some clients to become closer to a smaller amount, thus enabling them to care and love for their clients better. He gets fired shortly after and then bigger conflicts and competition arise. He learns who his real friends are. The woman he originally is engaged to loses all interest in him when he becomes a softer and a more caring individual. During his bachelor party, several women made comments on Jerry’s love life. Comments like Jerry needing to have a woman by his side and that he couldn’t be alone. When he tells his fiancé that it is over she overpowers him by making him weaker. She does a TKO on Jerry; however, this just furthers the fact that the two of them were not truly in love. Dorothy Boyd works for Jerry and agrees to work for him after he is fired. She told Jerry prior to him being fired that she was captivated by his statement and truly loved his ideas. He begins to see her more importantly, and her son, and begins to love them. All this love is being thrown around, but not necessarily stated.
     Rod Tidwell is Jerry’s one and only client besides Frank Cushman who lets his daddy make all his decisions as far as game playing. Rod gives Jerry inspiration and the two of them really connect and pull themselves out of the shadows. Frank’s daddy and family can be described, in my opinion, as rednecks or trailer trash. They string Jerry along making him believe that they were going to sign with him, but instead they sign with Jerry’s new enemy and former employer Bob Sugar. Frank’s daddy didn’t like the idea of Jerry working with Rod because the color of his skin. That’s not love, just pure hate.
    Both Rod and Frank share love for the game of football; however, Rod is looking for endorsements, Not just any endorsement, but the big ones; Nike, Reebok, Coca-cola, etc. He is subject to endorse blow up mattresses of some sort and goes on and on about being neglected by Jerry’s people. In other words, he is not getting any love. Nearing the end of the film Rod is injured during a touchdown he makes and Jerry runs to the field from the skybox. He calls Rod’s wife and talks her through the hard time. If this isn’t love than I don’t know where else to find it within this film. Jerry began as a self-centered businessman making big dollars and ignoring the people that were truly important. A simple change of heart is what made love possible in the film Jerry Maguire.


   Ethnography: The Coffee Bean, Valencia, CA
       It is Monday, July 25 and I am sitting in the Valencia Town Center Coffee Bean kiosk. I arrived at 1pm, ordered a drink and a doughnut, and had a seat by the entrance. When I walked in, there were two young associates working, there was a young woman on a laptop, there was a man listening to music on an ipod, another woman appeared to waiting for someone and there were two men conversing in French. I gazed outside from time to time and I would notice the many people that walked by. They were on their cell phones, they would glance at their reflections in the shop’s windows, they were mothers with children, they were elderly couples, they were families, they were purchasing things, they were wearing flip-flops and sunglasses, they were all doing the same thing.
     The Coffee Bean is set up like most modern coffee kiosk. It has a soft urban setting and played soft Indie music. The smell of coffee is not as accurate as Starbucks but there is the slight aroma. Every now and then blender would be the only thing you could hear besides the men conversing in French. There was a television over the area that has the items like napkins and coffee stirs. On the television were zodiac analogies, movie trailers, health tips and music. The traffic began slowly at first, and then it would get very busy. Most people did not have a seat except two women that were at least fifty. By the time I left there were six associates working. The same woman with her laptop remained in her seat. The woman that appeared to be waiting for someone was waiting to be interviewed by a nearby employer. The man listening to the ipod was joined by two acquaintances and the two men speaking French were also greeted with another acquaintance.
     It began to be amusing noticing all the similarities in the sixty to seventy people I observed inside and outside the Coffee Bean. The sandals, the sunglasses, the cell phones, the laptop, the ipod, the prepared coffee drinks, the entire shopping experience are all part of the norms within this setting. According to Chris Barker, “Meanings are generated not by individuals alone but by collectives. Thus, the idea of culture refers to shared meanings” According to Carl Marx "the first priority of human beings is the production of their means of subsistence through labour. As humans produce food, cloths and all manner of tools with which to shape their environment, so they also create themselves" (Barker).
     The television I mentioned earlier presented the normal type of cultural signs that relate to this popular culture. The type of popular culture who shops at high fashion retailers and purchase fancy prepared coffee drinks. Zodiac analogies were on display, which is something that people can access on ipods, in magazines, and on the web. Movie trailers are previewed promoting the film industry. One of the biggest cultural ideals in America is movie-going as well as music listening. Health tips are also displayed, one being that America has a high population of overweight individuals and two being that America has been referred to as the fast food capital of the world. Again, zodiacs, film, music, health etc., these are the same topics brought up in The Insider, US Weekly, Cosmopolitan, daily news broadcasting, AOL welcome screen etc. Barker refers to text by Raymond Williams and cultural materialism. Williams mentions that there are three different levels of culture. The first one he states is “the lived culture of a particular time and place, only fully accessible to those living in that time and place”(Barker 45). This “lived culture” and “culture materialism” is what I observed and analyzed within my seat at the Coffee Bean.
     Another analogy is from a feministic approach. Of the six associates that were working at the kiosk, only one was a male. Besides the three men that were inside the kiosk the entire time, only two men walked in within the hour. The number of women who walked into the kiosk was almost twenty.  Women were often with women when shopping outside; whereas, the men that walked outside were alone and walked at a fast pace. The mothers with their children were not with their husbands, or children’s fathers. What does this mean in popular culture? According to Barker, "gender is historically and culturally specific, subject to radical discontinuties over time and across space. This does not mean that one can simply pick and choose genders, or that gender is a matter of random chance. Rather, we are gendered through the power of regulated and regulatory discourses." The women I observed were doing the same thing women were doing ten, twenty and even fifty years ago. According to de Beauvoir, And yet we are told feminity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. Women make up one half of humainty. Although men do work in coffee shops and go shopping, women as constructed by gender are usually assoiciated with these ideals. De Beauvoir's The Second Sex was written over sixty years ago, it is relevant today as much as it was sixty years ago.
     Whether the children’s father is at work, at home, or not around at all; whether men do not gossip, shop and drink fancy prepared coffee or; whether men do not want to be employed at a coffee kiosk; these analogies all play into de Beauvoir’s women as Other. Was I engaging myself in a feminine activity, or do men avoid what I was doing because it is feminine? I did not mention that the stores that surround this kiosk are Macy’s, Sephora, Roman Holiday and Diane’s Swimwear to name a few. These people, out of the sixty or seventy, were ninety-five percent female. They were shopping, pampering and indulging themselves while there are hardly any men around. These are the "merits" of being "truly feminine" as described by de Beauvoir’s in her text. “[Truly feminine] women are frivolous, infantile, irresponsible and the submissive women.” Although the feministic view is not the best analogy to be observed, one can point out the obvious women being treated as ‘the Other’ and as the weaker sex. However, there are women that will prove otherwise.     

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter2: Questions of Culture and Ideology. Sage, 2008.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter2: Questions of Culture and Ideology. Sage, 2008.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, Introduction Woman as Other, (1949). Accessed online:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


     Hello and welcome to Alex’s Pop Kiln. This is an introduction to Alexandra Johnson’s Popular Culture Blog for English 313: Popular Culture. I first would like to say my main interest is photography and fine arts as well as film and computers. I find that this course is relevant to prior art courses that I have taken reflecting on pop culture, pop art, mass media and American lifestyle as a commodity.
First, I would like to state what popular culture is from my perspective.
·      Popular culture is what is popular now (current at the time).
·      A mix of art, media, television, film, computer and other unveiling technologies,
·      that is exercised (or emphasized, or expressed) within a culture.
After reviewing some of the courses text, I found that my perspective on popular culture is much too narrow. Although the ideas that I have expressed do coincide with the ideals of popular culture there is more to popular culture’s meaning.
According to the text of Chris Barker, Raymond Williams describes culture as “a whole way of life” (Barker 41). Which is then referred to as the anthropological approach to culture. Up above I listed only five ideals that derive from popular culture; however, popular culture consist of more that just five. It seems that politics, church, gender, classes are among many other ideals that develop within a culture. Barker states, “the idea of culture refers to shared meanings” (Barker 42).  Basically when two individuals can share the same meaning from the same source, there is an understanding that is achieved. If the understanding (meaning) can be shared through out a vast number of people then it becomes popular in culture.
In reference to Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan’s The Politics of Culture, it was stated that, “anthropologist have always used the word [culture] in a much broader sense to mean forms of life and of social expression” (Rivkin). Barker’s text also states, “William’s concept of culture is [anthropological] since it centers on everyday meanings: values, norms and material/symbolic goods (Barker 42).  Both views are derived from how people behave during social settings.
Both readings mention Marxist theory and the idea of culture being political. Although we learn from our own experiences and are taught most of the things we say, do and think. The everyday images we see on television or in magazines, for example, are controlled to a certain degree. They too control our social order.
Other aspects I found that interested me in the writings of Rivkin and Ryan’s text was John Fiske’s remarks on audiences being able to “decode” cultural messages. This enables audiences to think about their lives culturally without hesitation. As an audience do we receive these messages subliminally? Another aspect I found of interest was the remarks by Pierre Bourdieu and “social systems”. “Bourdieu argues that culture is a way of distinguishing between positions in the social hierarchy and that the social system thus tends to reproduce itself through culture and through schooling” (Rivkin). This being stated, culture is controlled to a certain degree by usage of selective imagery and subject matter.

 (41) Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter2: Questions of Culture and Ideology. Sage 2008.

 (42) Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter2: Questions of Culture and Ideology. Sage, 2008.

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden:  Blackwell, 1998.