The User Interface of Contemporary Popular Culture

By: Cassandra

The creation of popular culture (today more than ever) is a process in which individuals, regular people like you and I, are involved. It’s also a cyclical process. In other words, the things which are popular now have been informed by the things that were popular in the past. The Gramsci reading talks about how the study of culture cannot be separated from its history. I think a good example of this phenomenon is the “Double Rainbow” video from schmoyoho on YouTube, shown below.

YouTube is an excellent example of how much more we are involved in creating our own culture today than we were even ten years ago. YouTube has given anyone the ability to broadcast themselves to an unending audience; therefore, anyone could put up content which thousands and perhaps millions of people can see and become familiar with. The Double Rainbow video began as a home video put up by a YouTube user, Yosmitebear, of a double rainbow that showed up in his yard. This video is shown below:

Yosemitebear’s reaction to that rainbow was humorous and so intense, another YouTube user (schmoyoho) then appropriated that video, altered it by autotuning his voice, and re-posted it as a piece of entertainment. The popularity of this video was enormous; it helped that schmoyoho already had a following on YouTube for doing the same thing to newsclips and other pieces of already existing media. By recombining these various pieces of media into catchy songs (using a method, autotuning, which is a big part of current popular culture and references a whole other set of popular culture phenomena today), schmoyoho created a niche. In the case of Double Rainbow, it spawned dozens of spin-offs within the YouTube community, furthering the propagation of the original video while still being completely dependent on the widespread knowledge of the original video to function. One of those spin-offs is included below:

This particular spin-off is interesting because it is an example of the Postmodern tendency to not differentiate between high and low culture. An actress auditioning for a role in a show is traditionally considered a “high culture” context, but she has clearly taken something from popular culture and given it a “high culture treatment”. The video of her performing a mass culture piece in a high culture context was then returned to YouTube, and thus to mass culture. This clearly demonstrates the interplay between high and low culture that is so central to the concept of hegemony.


About psupopa

I like to run.
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