Course: Popular Culture (MKVN12)

15 credits

MSc Programme course

The course addresses why popular culture matters in the context of media and society. Popular culture highlights the significance of the imagination and storytelling in media genres, and it signals a sense of belonging for various individuals and communities. It also highlights the power relations between media producers and audiences, where meaning and symbolic power in popular culture is constantly in a state of iteration, as it is shaped and re-shaped by media institutions, creative producers and audiences.

The intellectual structure for the course is based on three inter-related themes – media and cultural industries, genre and storytelling, and social and cultural imaginaries. Each theme speaks to the other; so, the production of creative content and its distribution in digital media platforms and entertainment flows connects with how genres of factuality and entertainment are made and engaged with in cultures of viewing and listening, smartphones and social media.

The course starts with the media and cultural industries, where we look at the rise of popular culture and entertainment in historical and contemporary settings, e.g. film, music, television, and entertainment platforms, specifically addressing production and distribution in the digital media landscape. The second theme addresses the genre work of producers and audiences in the co-creation of popular culture, with case studies of political comedy, drama and reality entertainment. Genre work involves the labour of making, marketing and distributing a genre, and it involves the way audiences engage in watching a genre, including processes of reflecting on this experience. We specifically analyse mixed generic modes of storytelling, such as hybrid genres and cross media content, e.g. in web series, YouTube videos and transmedia storytelling. The third theme considers how popular culture is connected to the social and cultural imaginary, e.g. stories and myths we engage with and share with others, thus addressing how various kinds of popular culture work within the broader framework of cultural citizenship. The course will teach a new genre model designed by the course leader, offering a concrete example of how to rigorously and creatively analyse particular examples of popular culture in context.

Selected Reading

Frow, John. (2014) Genre, London: Routledge. ISBN 9781317693222. PP1-194.
Hermes, Joke. (2005) Re-Reading Popular Culture, London: Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-1405122450. PP1-196.
Highmore, Ben. (2015) Culture, London: Routledge. ISBN 9781136472985. PP166.
Hill, Annette. (2019) Media Experiences: Engaging with Drama and Reality Television, London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415625364. PP1-224
Hill, Annette. (2007) Restyling Factual TV: Audiences and News, Documentary, and Reality Genres, London: Routledge.  ISBN  978-0-415-37955-7. PP 1-263.
Howells, Richard and Joaquim Negrerios. (2019) Visual Culture, Cambridge: Polity. (Third edition).
Mittell, Jason. (2016) Complex TV. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814769607. PP1-416.
Phillips, Whitney and Murphy, Ryan. (2016) The Ambivalent Internet, Cambridge: Polity. ISBN 1509501274. PP1-240.
Taylor, Charles. (2004) Modern Social Imaginaries, Durham North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822332930. PP232.


Student testimonials

This course was intellectually stimulating in that it did not focus solely on particular elements of popular culture, but rather on how popular culture can be seen as just that: popular elements of culture. This, of course, leads to questions about what ’culture’ actually is or how it can be understood, which is a discussion the course also engages with. Throughout the course I was able to explore society, in popular culture, through the lens of genre, which proved to be very rewarding and gave me fascinating philosophical insights. Anyone with an interest in structures of meaning and what the latest television series can tell us about the world we live in will enjoy this course.

The course gives me an opportunity to apply a cultural approach to genre analysis, where I get to understand the significance of making choices and defending them during the interpretation of a generic form. The newly acquired genre analysis method and genre model enable me to integrate the research methods I have learned before and give me the capability to generate a more comprehensive and holistic picture of a genre.

Starting with offering background knowledge of cultural industries and labor relations, professor Annette Hill will walk you through all the key concepts with her well-structured lectures and inspiring workshops. Genre work and inter-generic spaces will shed light on the co-creation of popular culture by both audiences and producers, while social imaginary and cultural citizenship will help address a broader framework to examine sense of belonging and recognition from media storytelling. 

You will have a chance to discuss and apply the concepts in your literature during reading group presentations and experience the genre analysis process in the group project before launching your own research. The course leader will also provide valuable guidance during the individual tutorial for your own project to make sure you are on track. If you are willing to dig deeper into the social and cultural values behind pop culture trends and see how genres are formed as cultural categories, Popular Culture will be your top choice

The study of pop culture is not about what’s art and what’s trash. It’s about how we use it to shape our identities, relate to others and find a sense of belonging. All of it figures into the reception and production practices surrounding different media content. And how often do you get to learn about that through a mockumentary about froufrou Kiwi vampires?

It is this context that makes Pop Culture essential for a more nuanced understanding of media, culture and society. Annette Hill puts students to task with thought-provoking lectures and readings, all of which come together in an individual essay that encourages you to think critically about your favorite television shows, movies, internet memes and more. Here, the method of genre analysis allows you to fully comprehend not just media content but the cultural industries, histories and politics behind it.

Hill peppers her lectures with colorful — at times comedic — examples from contemporary culture and her own research; and invites her students to give their own. From her love of Derry Girls to What We Do in the Shadows, it’s hard not to get excited along with her. I wholeheartedly recommend this class.

The popular culture course is an eye-opening investigation of genre studies. The course is very dynamic as it helps me explore various aspects of popular culture ranging from sound to visual productions. During this course, we were not only studied the history of popular culture but also developed our understandings of several concepts such as cultural citizenship, social imaginary, visual culture and cultural industries.

Annette is a very helpful, kind and brilliant professor. Asides from the lectures and its well-complimented reading materials, Annette also passes on an amazing approach to the study of genres and she calls it as a “genre model”. This model explores different elements such as contexts, definitions, forms, themes, values and engagement. A combination of lectures, seminars, group projects and final essay is an effective way of learning, creating more astonishing experiences. Since students came from diverse backgrounds, the course has offered us an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the popular culture through discussions and sharing of different cultural experiences. Additionally, group works have served as a great platform for us to practice the genre model through investigating a contemporary cultural form, chosen from a range of reality TV shows, music, documentaries, YouTube videos, movie series, or podcasts.

Most interestingly, the course contributes to my understanding of contemporary Cambodian music genres. Prior to the study, I did not pay attention to the style of music as I always listened to music based on its popularity and melody. However, this course has significantly changed the way I listen to music. I could genuinely say that “I enjoyed the course and it is highly recommended!”

Popular culture is a rewarding module that I would strongly recommend. It trains you to critically look at popular culture in everyday life through media and cultural studies. 

You will learn the method of genre analysis and contextualise it in a specific cultural context, which will guide you in the investigation of the power dynamics surrounding popular culture. The genre model will further provide you a systematic view in examining popular culture both internally (e.g. styles and themes) and externally (e.g. contexts, definitions, values and engagement). There are a lot of thoughtful concepts that will provide you a fresh view in the study of popular culture, such as genre work, intergeneric spaces and cultural citizenship. 

During the course, Professor Annette Hill offered valuable guidance and access to her invaluable knowledge. Her specialities in media and cultural studies guided us in navigating genres in popular culture. Overall, this is a really helpful course for those who are interested in uncovering the power dynamics in popular culture through genre analysis.

Popular Culture was an interesting and theoretically challenging course. It expanded my perspectives on popular culture and allowed me to discover the broad conceptual possibilities of studying different phenomena around the topic. The course was stimulating with its interactive lectures, group assignments and the final essay, which demanded quite some effort and concentration. However, the course structure was well planned and generated a cumulative development of understanding about the topic, allowing us to build our knowledge step by step.

Annette encouraged us to use our own experiences and interests as a compass in our learning path. We got to explore (popular) cultural phenomena and forms of our own interest, and this freedom was one of the best features of the course. I must say, I was not the most excited about studying popular culture in the beginning, but thorough the course I realized how relevant the subject actually is for anyone willing to understand media and contemporary societies on the whole. Annette’s own passion for the topic truly showed and motivated my own work, as well.

This course really broadened my mind regarding culture in general, and pop culture in particular. Coming from a background in the arts, I had mostly an industry oriented, or individual creator based view of pop culture. In this course you don’t do auteur theory at all. You study culture more as a social phenomenon, something that circulates in society and that people engage with in various ways. You learn to think about pop culture as dialogical, not just something producers create and audiences consume. Genres exist and evolve through an ongoing reciprocal exchange between industries, producers and audiences. This is a new way of looking at pop culture for me, and an enriching one. The course is cross-disciplinary and firmly situated in the humanities. Thus, you’ll make several stops on this journey, in social sciences, cultural studies, traditional and new media studies, visual culture etc. 

Clarity, structure and conviviality are some words that come to mind when thinking about professor Hill’s teaching. Reading groups and case studies are used as a way of practicing and preparing for the essay, a great way of ’getting into it’, and getting to know your class mates (your greatest asset). These sessions were a fun and challenging way to begin applying theoretical concepts from the literature on real cases. With a background in comics and animation, I know what it’s like to be ”below the line”, having no say about anything. The cultural industries are full of such people, with uncertain and temporary forms of employment. The last thing I’d be interested in is ’ivory tower arrogance’. This course is the opposite of that! Professor Hill teaches her students to approach pop culture with respect and curiosity, no matter if that culture is considered ’high’ or ’low’. I warmly recommended Popular Culture

This Popular Culture course was a really enjoyable and enriching experience as I was able to have a more critical look at media that is a part of my everyday life.  We were encouraged to focus on our own areas of interest giving space for everyone to learn from each other. The focus on genre and the introduction of the genre model as a new methodology were particularly interesting as well as being able to apply it to our own case study for the final essay. The literature and use of contemporary examples made it easy to understand how each concept could be applied to different case studies. Annette was a very engaging professor which made the course that much more fun to participate in. Overall, I came out of this course with a much better understanding of the relevance of popular culture

Popular Culture was my first lecture in English and my first course in the Media and Communication Masters and I couldn't imagine any better way to start this programme. During this course Annette Hill explains why popular culture from a cultural perspective matters in media studies and combined with the course readings you will get an amazing overview of this field. She taught us not only different theories and concepts in and around the field of Popular Culture but also a very helpful method to analyse media genres which will be very beneficial for the next courses as well as the master thesis.

Not only is Annette Hill herself enthusiastic and passionate about this field of study and can therefore give a lot of examples from her own research but she also explains all academic concepts and theories in a very understandable way. You will learn a lot from her knowledge and experience in researching this rapid-changing and at the first glance very tangled field. I really enjoyed the class discussions since these highlight the international importance of popular culture as a field of study field and you will hear a lot of different cases from all over the world.

During this course you will do a group presentation where you can practice the method and combine the concepts from the readings in regard to a particular popular culture case. This will make you more confident for writing the essay since the method isn't new to you anymore by then. When it comes to the essay topic Annette Hill is also really open to niche cases if you can explain why this particular case matters. So all in all, this course will give you a perfect start in this programme and you will gather important theories and methods for your future research in Popular Culture and genres in general. 

Popular culture course gets me a fresh perspective on media representation in terms of imagination and storytelling, as well as the power relations between the cultural industry, producers and audiences. With the group project and individual essay, we have freedom to choose various and interesting case studies such as political memes, documentaries, ASMR videos to understand the key concepts and method of a cultural approach to genre analysis. I highly recommend the course for students who want to explore the role of popular culture in the study of media, culture and society.

Popular culture is an inspiring and enriching course. You will have an in-depth understanding of key concepts in the field of popular culture, such as cultural citizenship, cultural industry, and visual culture. There are chances to participate in various learning practices, including lectures, group work, seminars, and individual essay. During the process of reading and researching, you can gain the relevant practical experience of genre analysis, which will lay the foundation for qualitative researches in other course modules and social science studies.

This course is a good beginning for first-year students. Because Annette is so considerate and enthusiasm, she values everyone's ideas and efforts, and never spares to give constructive advice and help. Group discussion is a process of reflecting the reading and getting familiar with classmates. It will provide you insights into different media contexts by sharing opinions and colliding ideas with classmates from different cultural backgrounds. In a word, I strongly recommend this rewarding course to those who want to immerse themselves in the field of media research and popular culture.

Popular Culture is a pragmatic and enjoyable course. As always, Professor Hill has given a clear introduction and helpful guides during both the class and individual tutorial. The course broadens my horizon to understand and study popular culture from different perspectives, including historical and cultural, industry and audiences, visual and sound etc.. The literature and the lectures were challenging and exciting, driving to desiring more knowledge. The concept I learned from this course has given me a lot of inspirations to design my thesis work. I did enjoy discussing the concepts, theories and cases during class and group workshops. Also, in this course, Annette provided with us the method of genre analysis to conduct a case study. The model she gave us helped us to have more creative and in-depth thinking about popular culture.

I will highly recommend this course to you because it is not only helping us to widen our experience in the academic field but also a chance to help us to understand our everyday life better.

Contact Information

Annette Hill
+46 46 222 88 80
Room SOL A212
Sidansvarig: michael.rubsamenkom.luse | 2021-08-24