Free «Media and Popular Culture Taste» Essay Sample

Media and Popular Culture Taste


Cultural consumption has undergone various influences in history. The formal production and consumption of cultural goods in modern times varies greatly from the informal and communal consumption in simple societies in medieval times. Today, culture is produced at the international level using sophisticated technologies. Equally, technology has been used to promote and disseminate the cultural goods through mass communication and formal institutions. The changes in the development and consumptions of cultural goods have attracted the views of various scholars who seek to explain its reception. The current paper analyses three schools of thought that influence the taste and preference of cultural goods as advanced by Bourdieu, Gripsrud and Bennett. 

Dichotomy of the Concepts ‘Elite’ Versus ‘Mass’ as Founded by Bourdieu

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The concepts of elite and mass in cultural consumption find purpose in class as elaborated by Pierre Bourdieu in describing social capital. Bourdieu argues that there are three forms of capital namely economic, cultural and social capital. Social capital emphasizes power and conflicts in societies. According to Lizardo et al. (2008, p.1), cultural capital explains the consumption of culture through audience segmentation.  As a result, tastes are restrained to class differences in the society. According to Lizardo et al. (2008, p.4), the audiences were divided along social divisions of social class, occupation, education and gender.  In accordance with Bourdieu (1984, p.10), certain social resources build a strong cultural capital that allows people to identify with certain cultural goods. For instance, the education system was a strong determinant in defining the preference to association with popular and fine arts (Lizardo et al. 2008, p.4). Therefore, cultural capital builds an unequal distribution in the capacity to identify the content and function of a cultural good. In other words, the social class identify with the cultural good in a form rather than function. Thus, a click of people in the society identify with certain cultural art. Bordieu argues that cultural capital formation is through domestic and scholastic means, where the latter is superior resulting to the elite group. Thus, the elite are associated with popular and fine arts (Bordieu, 1984, p.13).

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According to Lizardo et al., (2008, p.1), the Bordieu work was a critic to mass consumption of cultural goods advanced by German and American theorists. The mass theorist argued that mass political parties disintegrated classical modes of cultural production and association. The resultant society was “one dimensional” that enjoyed homogeneous consumption of cultural goods. The target mass was a status seeking middle class whose taste was subject to market manipulation. In this view, cultural goods were produced to culture producing elites, and the working class. Thus, mass theorists generalized consumption of cultural goods based on commercialization and consumer perception.

Dichotomy of the Concepts Omnivors and Univores as Advanced by Bennett

The terms application of omnivors and univores were first promoted by Peterson in 1992. By analyzing the work of Bordieu in the American society, the researchers found the association of education and preference for fine and popular arts as highbrow omnivorousness. Highbrow omnivorousness is the strong correlation between increasing socioeconomic status and high rate of consumption of all types of traditional and popular arts. However, the consumption reduces with a decrease in social class. In this dichotomy, the elite associate with low genres of culture unlike their colleagues in the mass-elite system. Thus, there is no distinction in the consumption of popular arts and traditional fine arts for the elite (Lizardo et al., 2008, p.9). According to Peterson (1992, p.250) the low class engages in few arts, and are likely to develop a habit for a single genre of art. As a result, the univore description captures the less educated people in the society where their taste for art is aligned towards race, ethnicity, religion and region. The lack of education and cultural capital in low classes accounts for this behavior. Further, certain groups of arts identify and become identical with a given societies such as Orleans jazz, Nashville Country music and so forth (Bennett, 2004, p.2).

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Dichotomy of the Concepts Double vs. Single Access as Advanced by Gripsrud

According to Gripsrud (1989, p.198), people can have access to both low and high culture. However, the majority of the population has access to low cultural commodities. Thus, the ability to consume cultural goods is not evenly distributed in the society. The work builds on economic capital which brings class privilege for the elite to have access to both high and low culture goods. Further, it justifies Peterson’s 1992 observation that the elite can access both low and high arts while the low class is restricted in consuming art. Hence, the single access part of the dichotomy finds meaning in the low class. The open and single access theory anchors on class differentiation.  

Consequences of the Idea that ‘Double Access’ Is Better

Double access provides an opportunity for people to access cultural arts from the low and high divides. The underlying dilemma is the understanding of form and content. However, people have the opportunity of experiencing what is popular within their social class, and, by extension, the art enjoyed by the other people. Even though empirical studies indicate that the elite have double access, improvements in technology, especially communication technologies through the internet allow the low class to access any genre of art. Nevertheless, exposure is an important aspect to that effect.  Both media and popular culture find meaning in leisure and content of the art. The elite, who are few in number but have an access to an array of cultural goods, can associate with the low class to break cultural differences. On the same note, selective cultural consumption is imminent where there is double access. By association, there is a popular genre for a given class and limited access to other art for classes. If tastes are so strong for some cultures, then those weak preferences die out. For instance, if there is preference for hip hop music, jazz will be affected. Double access is likely to keep threatened cultures alive.