Pop Cultures: Cultural and Creative Industries, Concepts and Problems
A Global Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
Saturday 18th March 2023 – Sunday 19th March 2023
Prague, Czech Republic
Key Words and Abstracts
Memefication as Pop-Cultural Self-Preservation: Television, (pre-)Internet Memes and Referentiality
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
memes, memefication, television series, pop culture, autopoiesis, (self-) referentiality
“Memefication”, i.e., the extraction of images from their original (or even secondary) contexts and their re-appropriation, is a ubiquitous and unruly practice in contemporary popular culture. Any reasonably expressive image from the visual arts, photography, film or television, can be picked up and remixed, making memes “contested cultural capital” (Nissenbaum/Shifman 2017) in a variety of communicative contexts – depending on the meme’s creator (individual, institutional or corporate actors) and purpose (private, commercial, political or else).
‘Behind’ a meme many referential cross-connections as well as thoroughly complex intertextual relationships can be found. Recognising and classifying them is as much part of part of digital (meme) literacy – as is ‘mastering’ the memetic vocabulary and grammars in order to generate resonance in the intended target group. Memes often mix “everyday discourses” and “special discourses” (Weich/Othmer 2016), i.e. they simultaneously process intersubjectively comprehensible situations or collective experiences and demonstrate with ‘insider knowledge’, respectively. This ambivalence is exemplified by memes that emerge from television, which has always been an essential part and catalyst of audio-visual reproduction and re-appropriation.
NAZI GOTHS, F*CK OFF!: Reflexions on “cancelling” Subcultures. The Case of Brandon Pybos, Singer of Sonsombre Gothic Rock Band
Adriana Amaral & Stella Caetano
UNIP and Universidade do Vale do Rio deo Sinos, Brazil
Goth Subculture; Subcultures; Politics; Fans; Cancel Culture
Goth Subculture has its roots in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, influenced by punk and post-punk music genres and having radical statements in diversity and respect. Throughout the years, the goth community has been using digital platforms and social media to continue exchanging information, experiences and sharing tastes (AMARAL, 2007; BADDELEY, 2005). In this configuration, goth music fans have more relations with their idols due to their identification of feelings and belonging to the scene (AMARAL; MONTEIRO, 2013; HENNION, 2007). This proximity allows fans to be more critical about their adored artists and also discuss more their behaviours. In this sense, fans can be more vigilant (ANDREJEVIC, 2008; SHEFRIN, 2004). These actions can open a space to the exercise of practices of “online cancelling” or virtual prosecution of the artist. (ALMEIDA, 2020; MARTINS, 2015).
In this paper, we try to understand the media processes around the “so called cancelling” of Brandon Pybos, singer of the American goth rock Sonsombre, how were the processes evoked and organized by fans and members of the goth community, as much as their motivations for his online cancelling. The case was discussed through Content Analysis (BARDIN, 1977), where 84 Facebook comments from the band official page were analysed. The two main categories thar have emerged from this process are “racism/racist” and “questioning cancel culture” that were discussed in relation to the theory. The main result of this discussion is that the “cancelling” of Brandon Pybos has served as an instrument of protection of the community and their ideological values, being a part of the fight for society ideals and to keep the goth community as a safe space for freedom and diversity, connected to their political and countercultural roots.
Jab Jab is all of we ‘ting
St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies
Jab jab; Grenada carnival; Devil masquerade; The Caribbean, subversion and adaptation
This paper explores the reasons for the prevalence of the jab jab J’ouvert tradition in Grenada. Traditionally, in this form of Ole Mas, horned revellers blackened their bodies with molasses/tar /paint, and danced in the streets on Carnival Monday. In recent times, this event has entered the domain of popular culture and is the major drawing card to Grenada’s carnival. In its examination of this newly popular cultural activity, the paper seeks to answer these three questions: Who are the main participants in jab jab ole mas? What are the socio-political features particular to Grenada that allow this tradition of black masquerading devils to flourish? Jab Jab, in its marrying of creativity and subversiveness, was once read as an expression of social resistance. Can it now, with its popular culture status, carry the same degree of radicalness? In its engagement with those questions, the paper probes the ways in which this form of carnival, in its challenging of orthodoxy, serves as an assertion of a Black Grenadian aesthetics. It concludes with a consideration of how Grenada’s jab jab is causing a revival of this ole mas tradition in other Caribbean carnivals
Cine Quebrada Collective: Urban Daily Life, Ancestry and Meanings of Pop Culture in Bixiga (São Paulo/Brazil)
Simone Luci Pereira & Fabio Ranzani de Paiva
Universidade Paulista UNIP, Brazil
identity; urban communication; audio-visual production; race/ethnicity; Global South; Bixiga
This paper focuses on the activities of CineQuebrada collective, dedicated to audio-visual production, and which presents itself as an independent action that arises through the community articulations in the Bixiga neighbourhood, producing and showing audio-visual content that dialogues with the local daily life (such as football championship lives and stories with ancestral personalities of the region), as well as bringing elements of global pop culture: Afrofuturism, rap battle, among others. The collective is based in the neighbourhood of Bixiga, which contains aspects of the periphery even though it is located in the central region of São Paulo, where we perceive forms of urban communication, an analytical perspective useful to understand flows and networks of people, imaginaries, collaborations, dynamics of production/consumption, activisms, uses of digital media that are articulated in some nodes of the city.
Bixiga is a territory that was first a black quilombo of refuge for the enslaved at the 19th century, but which was instituted in the hegemonic memory as an “Italian neighbourhood”, due to the many migrants from Italy present there. During the 20th century, the region was also occupied by migrants from the northeast of Brazil and, more recently, by immigrants and refugees from Syria, Palestine and Congo. The Bixiga region is currently experiencing a process (in which the collective is active) of affirmation of silenced and peripheral identities that brings together urban, ethnic-racial and artistic activisms in the search for forms of re-existence and strategies of audio visibility of this multiplicity of identities built, claimed and performed. We are interested in discussing Cine Quebrada through the monitoring of its actions, formation of networks in the city and audio-visual production (concentrated on its YouTube channel), understanding how the languages used by them expand senses of peripheral cosmopolitanism understood between local and global flows, triggering repertoires of pop and digital cultures among elements of local and community ancestry, and building meanings of intercultural negotiation and aspects of pop in the Global South.
“Oh, shit. Should I Be Joking at a Time Like This?”: Generation (Sincerit)Y, Trauma, and Performance in Bo Burnham’s Inside’
University of York, United Kingdom
Adam Kelly, Bo Burnham, COVID-19, David Foster Wallace, Irony, Millennials, New Sincerity, Performativity, Pop culture, Race, Trauma
In a 2006 piece for TIME, Lev Grossman asks, ‘Who’s the Voice of this Generation?’ Grossman lists the ages of various Generation X authors, each white and male. ‘You can walk from the beginning of the 20th century,’ writes Grossman, ‘stepping safely from decade to decade, and find one writer after another anointed as the Voice.’ However, this ‘comforting’ strolling has been disrupted because ‘the world has changed, and the novel has changed with it. Fictional characters just can’t get away with being generically white and middle class and male anymore, the way they used to.’ In 2006, Bo Burnham was 17 and just beginning a career as an Internet personality. Ten years after Grossman’s essay, Burnham would debut Make Happy (2016), a comedy routine exploring themes of sincerity and pop culture. Following Make Happy, Burnham took an extended break from performing, citing it as a source of debilitating anxiety. Around the time Burnham considered returning to performing live, most of the world had gone into government mandated lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, Burnham created Inside (2021), a comedy special referred to as a ‘claustrophobic masterpiece’ that ‘sets the bar for quarantine art’ and ‘resonates deeply’ with his generation. Citing works by Mieke Bal, Lee Konstantinou, and James Wood, my paper expands on Adam Kelly’s theory of new sincerity by addressing the specific way millennials experience sincerity at the intersection of irony. By closely analysing Burnham’s work alongside scholarship such as The Culture of Narcissism and Laughing to Keep from Dying: African American Satire in the Twenty-First Century, I reflect on the continued whiteness of ‘the Voice,’ the precarity of authenticity, and situate what I refer to as ‘Millennial Sincerity’ within Bret Easton Ellis’s discourse on ‘Generation Wuss.’
Typography as Image and Construction as Seen in a Science Fiction Book Cover
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
typography, science-fiction, typeface, Data 70, materiality
My presentation will focus on the role of typography in popular culture. Text is not an abstract phenomenon without a body – it can be seen as an image and as a construction. To support this argument, I will analyse the book cover of a science-fiction story for children, The Last Human (2019) by Lee Bacon. It is based on the popular science-fiction trope “the last man on earth,” only here it is the last girl on earth, since the protagonist is 12-year-old Emma. Humans are supposedly extinct, exterminated by the robots that now rule the planet. On the book cover, the title is set in a customized version of Data 70, a typeface inspired by the magnetic ink character recognition typeface E13-B, designed for the banking industry in the 1950s. This clunky typeface gave rise to a number of typefaces that came to be strongly associated with science-fiction.
The purpose of my analysis is to show how the typography of the title is integrated in the overall design of the cover and the illustration. The title becomes part of the construction of the flying vehicle on the top of the cover, both due to the position of the letters and their three-dimensional and angular design. These qualities make the title palpable and highlight the material aspect of typography. Furthermore, letterforms can be seen as constructed artefacts in themselves; the drawings made by type designers resemble architectural drawings and engineering drawings. My presentation will draw on Johanna Drucker’s work on text and image, as well as on the theories of WJT Mitchell regarding the multisensory aspects of visual media.
Dancing About Architecture: Pop Music Writing in the 21st Century
Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts, USA
Music, writing, teaching, affective, critical, books, race, gender, genre
Riffing on the feminist slogan “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” numerous pop musicians are credited with the mocking claim that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” While a dance about architecture could resolve in several valid ways, such as an exploration of the areas’ shared interest in the use of space, for many musical artists and consumers, writing about music is still a hard pass.
This paper uses a few different lenses to investigate current evolutions in writing about pop music in the early 21st century. Through the first lens, I discuss my second-year college class “Writing About Music.” The class is intended to offer students an arena to explore their relationship with popular music, allowing them to develop a non-technical vocabulary that better expresses their affective relationships with popular music and popular culture. As with, say, film studies and analysis, this can “spoil the fun” for some students, but for others it allows for a better understanding of the music they like (and don’t like) through both self-reflection and a more critical analysis of popular music.
The second lens is through my development of a book series that explores popular music artists and/in culture. The individual books in the series (first round: Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Pink Floyd) also allow for self-reflection and a critical analysis of popular music, although from writers perhaps more set in their ways. For the series as a whole, this endeavour enters into debates about cannon building: how is the / is the cannon of popular music evolving in terms of race, gender, and genre? How is it policed? What qualities does it share with other pop culture cannons, such as film and TV?
Hosts or Humans: The Anthropomorphisation of Robots in Westworld
Julia Barroso da Silveira
Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), Brazil
Westworld; science fiction; cyborg; technical objects
Considering Science Fiction’s abundance of dystopian realities in which humans are explored by machines or machines are tools used by humans in questionable ways, HBO’s Westworld (2016-present) is not the first television show to highlight the dichotomy technology-humans that lives in the pop culture imaginary, but its development allows a unique view of social and ethical questions brought up by an extreme scenario: theme parks inhabited by robots where humans can do whatever they want.
This research investigates how the essentialist view on technology and human actors reinforces boundaries that are weaker or no longer exist, since postmodernity has popularized the man-machine hybrid. Critics and defenders of technology seem to agree that technics and nature are separate, but humanity not only created artifacts, but were altered by them even before computers – the language being the main example. The symbiotic relation between technology and humans is shown in Westworld through themes like consciousness, data breach and memory, besides the physical indifferentiation between hosts (the robots) and humans.
The series has already been studied (BUSK, 2016; JEFFS; BLACKWOOD, 2016; MARTÍN, 2018), but debating with the technological perspective is relevant because the duality man-machine is only one of many separations that begin with the idea of an “other”. The questions presented by Westworld and underlined by this research are a starting point to a discussion about race, gender and anthropocentrism, whatever the “other” may be.
The methodology used is the filmic-comprehensive analysis of serialized narrative, developed by Azubel (2018), with the theoretical support of Simondon (1958) and Sibilia (2015), to understand human’s relation to technical objects and the non-organic, Haraway (1985), thinking about less rigid boundaries and the cyborg development, and Baudrillard (1981), to compare the park (host’s narratives) and the human reality in Westworld, among others.
Social Representation in Pop Culture: An Intersectional Analysis of LGBTQIA+ Characters from the Netflix series 3%
Clarice Greco & Tomaz A. Penner
Paulista University and Mackenzie University, Brazil
LGBTQIA+ characters. Series 3%. Social representation. Intersectionality
This essay aims to discuss the diversity of characters in the Netflix series 3%, in order to address issues concerning social diversity in Brazilian audio-visual. The relevance of the representation of each minority group in pop culture products has been discussed by different strands of political-identity movements (AMARAL, 2016), whether on ethnic-racial issues (GONZATTI, 2021); concerning LGBTQIA+ groups (PULLEN, 2012) or feminist claims (ZEISLER, 2008; GONZATTI, 2021). Thus, this research is part of the debate over social transformations and adaptations of culture, which end up being incorporated by the audio-visual sector and also permeates discussions about the social responsibility of TV and its ramifications (such as streaming platforms).
The series 3% premiered in 2016 and was Netflix’s first Brazilian fictional production. The plot narrates the conflicts surrounding a selection process for 20-year-olds who have the chance to leave the Continent – a devastated and precarious territory – to enter the Maralto – a prosperous region full of opportunities. However, only 3% are selected. The series ended in 2020 with four seasons. The LGBTQIA+ characters are present on the second and third seasons of the series.
We begin with a theoretical debate on gender theories, queer theory and the analytical bias of intersectionality, both from a sociocultural point of view (CRENSHAW, 1989, 2019; FERGUSON, 2018) and from the perspective of power relations and subalternity (SPIVAK, 2010). Then, we present an overview of the LGBTQIA+ characters in the 3% series, in order to analyse the representation of characters and their intersectionalities. Finally, we deepen the analysis of the character Joana, the only black and bisexual protagonist of a Brazilian series produced by Netflix. We consider the analysis of the characters of such series relevant since they meet the demand for different representations in the spaces of television and pop culture.
Contemporary Outdoor Pop-Rock Festivals: The Counterculture Hippie Transformed into a Mainstream Commodity
Cristina Pérez-Ordóñez & Miguel de Aguilera
University of Málaga, Spain
music festival, counterculture, pop culture, collective imaginary, music industry, cultural and creative industries
In recent years, outdoor pop-rock festivals are becoming a global phenomenon due to their power for attracting tourists and encouraging the economic development of the area that hosts them, but also because they have adapted to the cultural practices of the younger generations, which are dominated by speed, condensation and the search for experiences. Nowadays, it can be argued that festivals, especially outdoor festivals, are products elaborated, designed, planned and commodified by the current cultural and creative industries, in particular by the music business, but also by other actors involved in the process of their development. As a result, festivals have proliferated all over the world, whose organisers have used the collective imaginary of the Counterculture festivals of the 70s and 80s in order to produce commercially marketable, saleable, experienced products that are more typical from the entertainment economy than from culture.
Using an in-depth documentary review and interviews with experts, this paper aims to offer a conceptual delimitation that describes the current nature of the phenomenon, which is heir to the hippie counterculture, but is more like an experience and leisure destination. The results suggest that contemporary outdoor pop-rock festivals have transcended beyond the musical product to convert themselves into ecosystems where the players involved —organisers, sponsors, artists, festival-goers, authorities, mass media, etc.— develop their own narratives, rooted in the collective imaginary of popular culture regarding rock festivals, in order to create a product that can be consumed in an experiential way. In the same way, the study shows that, despite the differences and specificities of each event, we are faced with a truly uniform and global phenomenon that responds to common and recognisable characteristics in each one of them.
Allow Me to Play for You the Song of my People: Qualities of Global Pop Anthems
Around the World in 80 Playlists
pop music, pop culture, musicology, data science, community, functional music
Song has long held a role in enriching relationships and community bonding — from tribal dance rituals to parents singing lullabies to children to colleagues belting out modern day hits at karaoke. Most datasets available on music popularity, however, tend to focus on performance at a particular moment in time (Spotify streams, record sales), elite perspectives (top 100 lists from magazine/website editorial staff), or artists in major media markets (US in particular). This project draws in a more representative global pool of representatives to create a human-curated list of global pop anthems.
To understand “anthems”, this project first builds a Global Pop Anthem Corpus (GPAC) by conducting a global survey of 1000 respondents to ask them to identify popular songs with three characteristics of “pop anthems”: (1) familiarity, (2) affinity and (3) meaning. High familiarity are ones where you can count on others to know the words; high affinity songs are broadly popular within a community; high meaning songs maintain some deeper connection to a group of people. The database of these songs is then enriched with genre and style metadata for songs from various public sources and APIs, such as from Spotify, YouTube, MusicBrainz, Wikidata and more.
This GPAC is then explored from three dimensions to understand what creates an “anthemic” effect in popular music: lyrics, harmony and rhythm. Lyrically, Natural Language Processing (NLP) analysis is used to assess what topics and sentimental patterns are common within pop anthems. Harmonically, computer audition is used to identify whether certain tonal qualities or chord progressions are more common within pop anthems. Rhythmically, metadata is used to understand how genre and tempo play a role in making a song an anthem. Drawing on this analysis, we make recommendations for how music can be utilized to improve cross-cultural understanding and further drive social cohesion.
Alternative Music in Global Networks: Magazine Uni in Czech Postsocialism
Centre for the Study of Popular Culture, Prague, Czech Republic
Alternative Music; Czech, PostSocialism; Global Networks
The paper will focus on local reflections of global cultural processes in the context of the reception of musical production based on rock, alternative and electronic dance music in the selected Czech magazine and the period 1991-1997. Czech postsocialism is understood through the emphasis on the multiplicity of cultural experiences as ultimately consonant with the postmodern situation. The absorption and commodification of various modernist motifs, often including those critical of consumer society, played a significant role in late capitalism, and the hybrid cultural forms that emerged were even seen as key contemporary expressions. At the same time, there was also an increasingly profound reflection on cultural globalization. The core material of this paper is the qualitative and quantitative analysis of geographical references in the cultural magazine Uni. The research of spatial references is presented through visualisation in the form of the Google map. The authors reflected diversity of social groups, cultural practices and strategies that can be associated with alternative cultural tastes, such as psychedelic rock, punk, electronic dance music, new wave, reggae, ska and many others. Despite writing in Czech, geographical references in the journal, such as addresses, references to fanzines published elsewhere coverages of visiting music acts and reviews of away concerts, as well as on addresses of records distribution labels, enabled them to position themselves within more widely defined taste-based scenes.
American Rock Music’s Influence in Czech
Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan