The media, globalisation & popular culture

Topic 2 from the Mass Media topic of AQA A level Sociology


Popular culture

A global village refers to the way that the media and electronic communications now operate on a global scale and so shrink barriers of space and time so the world has become like one village. Many people are now exposed to the same messages through media which cut across all national frontiers

The differences in cultures

Popular culture is culture liked and enjoyed by the majority of people such as TV soaps. This mass culture which is enjoyed by the majority is highly commercialised involving mass produced and short lived products seen by many as having no artistic value. Low culture is a derogatory term used to suggest popular culture is of inferior quality compared to the high culture of the elite such as ballet, opera etc. These are cultural products seen to be of lasting artistic value being admired by intellectual elites

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Popular culture

The changing distinction between high and popular culture

Postmodernists argue that the distinction between high and popular culture is weakening. Changes enable original music and art to be consumed by the mass of people in their own homes without having to visit specialised institutions. Examples include the broadcasting of the Oscars and the internet making it easy to view works of art.


  • Marxists see mass culture as simply mass produced by global businesses for financial profit. It gives an illusion there is a wide range of content but really it all just maintains the ideological hegemony and prevents revolution
  • Soaps are more than just mass culture as they deal with taboo topics such as depression and drug addiction
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Popular culture

Global popular culture

Kellner argues that the media has the power to globally produce images of lifestyle that increasingly become part of everyday life. Cultural homogenisation is the process whereby the separate characteristics of two or more cultures are lost or erased and become blended into one uniform culture such as the American series Friends leading to a rise in coffee shops in the UK

The largely American based media spread news, entertainment etc and sell across the world ideas associated with what is presented as an idealised, happy and satisfying lifestyle. This encourages acceptance of the dominant ideology of western capitalism known as the culture ideology of consumerism. An example showing this is the Gucci advert promoting a lavish and sexualised lifestyle. Television shoes predominantly from the US and UK sell products all over the world such as in China 160 million people watch dubbed episodes of Downton Abbey and Big Brother appears in 64 countries

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Views of popular culture

Cultural/media imperialism

Fenton points out that global rarely means universal as most media conglomerates are based in the US and American transnational corporations dominate global communications. This has been described as cocacolonisation which involves cultural imperialism which is the media led ideology of consumerism has led to American cultural values being forced on non Western cultures and this is highlighted through the top 10 worldwide IMBD films being American

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Views of popular culture

Pluralist view

Pluralists argue that there is no such thing as a mass culture. The internet, television etc and the global reach of modern technology all offer a huge range of media products giving consumers all over the world a wide diversity of cultural choices. For example Netflix is available in most countries worldwide and has content from countries worldwide which people can freely choose to watch. Tomlinson argues that globalisation does not involve direct cultural imposition from the western world but there is a hybridisation of cultures. People pick n mix and draw on both Western cultures and their own cultures. Audiences don't just passively accept western culture but they respond differently to it such as McDonald's in India not serving beef due to the Hindu religion

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Views of popular culture

Critical view

The globalisation of popular culture is of great advantage to the media owners who gain colossal profits from exporting and advertising their products across the globe. 70&% of movie annual revenue from Hollywood films at the box office now comes from international markets. This has impacted how films are made as they have fairly universal ideas and themes with actors being chosen according to whether or not they will resonate with audiences in targeted markets. Thussu argues that the globalisation of TV and competition for audiences has led news across the world becoming more tabloidised. Media coverage often focuses on entertainment gossip such as Leonardo DiCaprio giving Lady Gaga a supposed dirty look at the Oscars but not on real issues which could threaten capitalism such as anti immigration protests in Germany

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Postmodernist view of the media

Baudrillard argues that we now live in a media saturated society in which media images dominate and distort the way we see the world making us unclear on what reality is. Hyperreality is a view of the world which is created and defined by the media, with the image of an event more real than the event it is meant to be depicting such as news showing a sanitised image of war with no blood or corpses.   Simulacra is media images or reproductions and copies which appear to reflect things in the real world but have no basis in reality.

Reality shows like Big Brother are blurring the distinction between reality and hyperreality leaving audiences confused about what is real and what is media created. The media can also shape our consumer choices such as the popular culture of celebrities bombard us daily through magazines. With society being so media saturated we get increasingly caught up in hyperreality such as in Coronation Street in 1998 people protested in real life when Deirdre was sent to prison for a crime she did not commit in the show

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Postmodernist view of the media


  • It assumes audiences are passive even though people can discuss or reject media imagery such as on Twitter
  • Those who are poor don't have access to the new media so cannot afford to make free choices between media promoted lifestyles and consumer goods associated with them
  • Marxists say there is no choice with the capitalist media conglomerates controlling the major media and forms of communication such as Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox news as well as Sky broadband
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