In his article “Pop Culture: An Overview”, Tim Delaney illustrates the main elements of popular culture, using a wide range of examples to help the reader appreciate how various forces contribute to shaping “the culture of the people” (Delaney, 2007, p. 6). Delaney is an Associate Professor of Sociology at SUNY Oswego, where he teaches various courses related to sociology, sports and leisure. He has spent the past decade conducting extensive research on sports, sociology and popular culture, thus gaining recognition within the academic community. In 2016, he co-authored a book titled “Lessons Learned from Popular Culture”, in which he and Tim Madigan demonstrate that popular culture plays a key role in uniting people on ideals of acceptable social norms. “Pop Culture: An Overview” was published in 2007 by Philosophy Now, a bi-monthly magazine that seeks to introduce its readers to fresh, informative and enjoyable content pertaining to various aspects of Western philosophy.

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The article opens with a broad definition of popular culture, which the author presents as a collection of actions, attitudes and ideas. Besides being heavily influenced by people’s daily interactions – e.g. what they eat, how they dress, how they communicate and so forth – popular culture is also shaped by mass media. Examples of popular culture include advertising, leisure, television, sports, popular music, popular films and cyber culture, all of which are fueled and “consumed” by members of all social strata. In order to avoid any confusion, Delaney points out that popular culture is not the same as folk culture and high culture. Despite sharing a number of elements with popular culture, folk culture refers to the traditional way of doing things, which makes it a static and rigid force – whereas popular culture is dynamic and amendable. Folk culture is particularly common in rural areas, whose resistance to change and homogeneity make it nearly impossible for new ideas to emerge.

In most cases, folk culture is associated with a simple and conservative lifestyle, which is usually embraced by those who oppose technological innovation, behave in a way that is considered acceptable by the entire community, and are against anything that might disrupt or destabilize their lives. High culture, on the other hand, encompasses all those forms of expression (e.g. opera, the fine arts, theater) that are not meant for mass production or mass consumption. High culture is commonly associated with the social elite, whose members tend to look down on popular culture. With regards to the formation of popular culture, Delaney argues that industrialization and urbanization made it possible for popular culture to emerge. After all, it was the Industrial Revolution that prompted thousands of people to migrate to culturally diverse cities, where they came up with new common forms of expression. Industrialization also resulted in mass production, more efficient modes of transportation, higher literacy rates as well as the emergence of commercial printing. Throughout the 19th century, mass-printed newspapers and periodicals played a key role in providing the masses with information about current social and economic events, thus shaping their perception of the world.

Analyzing the way in which popular culture has evolved since the late 18th century, Delaney identifies four main sources of popular culture that are worth investigating in greater depth. These are the mass media (especially books, music, films, TV shows and the Internet), technological advances (i.e. especially mobile communication devices), information providers (such as reporters, scholars and experts) and, last but not least, individual choices. Besides providing the masses with a common ground, urban culture has prompted people to follow their dreams and individualistic aspirations. As a result, individualism has become a key element of popular culture. The author concludes his article by noting that individuals who refuse to participate in popular culture may also influence the masses by setting new, unique trends.