Monday, May 23, 2011

Theory and Life

To encourage myself while I go through the qualifying exam process, I thought I would post updated examples of what I've been reading about.  By the very nature of reading for a qualifying exam, some materials may be "essentials" but have very dated examples. So, to connect theory with my life, I will attempt to draw those connections here. 

Currently, I am reading  Understanding Popular Culture by John Fiske and found some of his comments particularly helpful with thinking through my own work on fan cultures.  Fiske says that because we live in a late capitalist society we must act as consumers.  Few of us make our own shoes or build our own houses, in short we live in a society that has made it nearly impossible to provide the basic necessities of life on our own.  We must consume.  It is in the how we consume that makes up popular culture.  The truly popular is consumption made to fit the needs of the people, perhaps in ways the producers did not intent.  The popular can satisfy a need the producers have not filled, or satisfy the need to rebel against impersonal consumer products.

These particular comments by Fiske connected with me because I have been struggling to find a different answer to the idea that consumerism contributes to a system that values things over people and there is no way to escape.  I think Fiske is right, we have to consume, we can't just go hide out in a cave somewhere and weave clothing out of grass and forage for food.  That's not the society we live in.  It is the way we consume that can disrupt our impersonal consumer society.

Updating Fiske, for me, means we have to explore the ways in which the internet, cheap digital technology, and cell phones have helped us take our consumer products and make them popular, by altering them, changing their meaning, and appropriating them.


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