Welcome to SOC 331: Mass Media & Popular Culture
Albright College – Reading, PA
Tentative Syllabus for Spring 2017
Instructor: Charles M. Brown, Ph.D.
Office: Selwyn 203
Mailbox: Located in Selwyn 211
Office Phone: 610-921-7865
Office Hours: T&Th 12:30 - 2:00 – and by appointment
E-mail: [email protected]
Home Page: http://faculty.albright.edu/sociology/brownc/
Turnitin.com: Class ID- 14441847 Password- becker21
Class Meeting Time & Location: Selwyn Hall 208 : Tuesday & Thursdays 11:00-12:20
A Little About Your Instructor
I thought it might be nice to provide a small introduction to myself since we will be spending the interim
together. A certain amount of mystique is always good, so I won't tell you everything (besides, I'm sure that
you wouldn't be interested anyway). For starters, I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and
Washington). I received my Bachelors degree in sociology from Oregon State University, my Masters
degree from the University of South Florida, and my Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. I also spent
two years as a visiting assistant professor at Ohio University before accepting a full time tenure track position
here at Albright College. My major research interests in sociology include culture, religion, and popular
culture. My master's thesis was a formulaic analysis of the lyrics and major themes of Conservative Christian
speed/thrash metal music. My dissertation (the book that is written for the Ph.D.) incorporates interviews,
participant observation, and secondary literature to analyze the production of contemporary evangelical
Christian culture, especially popular culture, and how various tensions within the industry are recognized and
mediated. I enjoy snow skiing & boarding, mountain biking, playing softball, listening to music (everything
from classical although to industrial techno), reading, and playing my acoustic and electric guitars.
"Sociology, what's that?" I have been asked this question numerous times as an undergraduate sociology
major and a Ph.D. student. Most confuse sociology with social work (a field that is actually an offshoot of
sociology) or some type of counseling. Although sociologists may participate in these activities, the field is
Sociology is the study of social life and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. It
investigates the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, their information, development, and
interactions. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate
family to the hostile mob, from crime to religion, from the divisions of race, gender, and social class to the
shared beliefs of a common culture, from the sociology of work to the sociology of sport. In fact, few fields
have such broad scope and relevance. This is nice because sociologists are largely free to conduct research in
any area that interests them. It is a field that synthesizes from all of the other social sciences including
psychology, philosophy, anthropology, political science, economics, and history. Furthermore, sociology has
generated other disciplines including social work, criminal justice, and communication studies. All of these
were, at one time, part of the field of sociology.
Although there are many subspecialties in sociology (religion, crime, science, etc.) this class will be focusing
on popular culture in society, how it affects society and how society has affected it. The study of popular
culture is a relatively new area of exploration. Most scholars up until the 1960's viewed the study of popular
culture as irrelevant since popular culture was seen by many as "uncouth," and "vulgar."
This course is designed to provide an opportunity for the student to develop a general sociological
understanding and perspective with which to evaluate, interpret, and understand popular culture. We will
begin by discussing how and when the academic study of popular culture began and what theories have been
instrumental in the field. Then, we will discuss popular culture and social change, locating popular culture
within its historical context. After this, we will investigate the social meaning of popular culture, trying to
understand the content and messages in various forms of popular culture. Finally, we will consider the social
organization of popular culture, exploring how it is created, produced, distributed, and consumed. The
lectures, readings, and discussions will use examples from several of the popular arts.
Text & Other Readings
1. David Grazian. Mix it Up
2. Various articles on Moodle
3. Readings from the internet
There are no prerequisites for the course other than an open mind and a desire to participate in class.
Students in this course will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic sociological terms, concepts, and theories for
analyzing popular culture.
2. Display basic knowledge of how popular culture reflects and contributes to social change.
3. Interpret the meaning of popular culture.
4. Apply an organizational approach to analyzing the creation, production, distribution, and
consumption of popular culture.
Each student is responsible for completing all class assignments, exams, and readings. This means that if you
are absent, you should check with me as soon as possible to make sure that you did not miss any assignment
changes, etc. Each student is also responsible to attend each class period. The instructor reserves the right to
move exams and assignments at his discretion. Missing an exam or assignment because it has been moved
IS NOT A VALID EXCUSE! IF YOU MISS AN EXAM OR ASSIGNMENT FOR THIS REASON
YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO MAKEUP THE WORK AND YOU WILL FAIL TO
RECEIVE ANY POINTS!
Each student will take three term exams worth 50 points each. The term exams will most probably consist of
multiple choice questions and an essay question. I warn you, my lectures will deviate from the text from time
to time. The exams will cover both the lecture and reading material. Therefore, you must read the material
and attend the lectures. LATE EXAMS WILL NOT BE GIVEN unless the student receives prior
permission or an emergency warrants the situation. Students who miss an exam for these reasons must
contact the instructor within 48 hours of the exam in order to schedule a makeup. Make up exams will be
all essay in format. You will need a pencil for the exams.
Research Paper and Assignments
An important part of your grade will be participating in a group project and writing up a 10-15 page
research paper worth 80 points. While many students do not like group projects (it's sometimes difficult
to get together with other members, someone in the group slacks off and effects the work of the rest of the
group, etc.) I feel that such projects are reflective of the actual challenges you will face when you go to
work at your first "real job." In short, this assignment is not just a way to earn points, but to learn
valuable skills that can be put to use outside of the classroom. You will learn, for example, how to deal
with conflict, how to work cooperatively to achieve goals, how to become a better communicator, and
how to interact with others that may be different from you ethnically, socially, culturally, etc. Groups will
consist of three members and will be formed by the instructor. No one is allowed to work independently
on a research project. Furthermore, each group will be expected to turn in assignments designed to
provide me information on your progress. Although you will not receive points for assignments; failure to
turn in assignments will cost each group member 5 points off of their total score for each assignment that
is not turned in. More details regarding the paper and the assignments will be presented in a few weeks.
Extra Credit Assignment
We are living in an age of computers and it is obvious that anyone who wishes to succeed in today's world
needs to feel comfortable using them. Because of this, and because I may need to contact you at some point
in the semester, I am providing you an opportunity to gain an easy 2 points. NOTE: This will be the only
extra credit assignment given, so be forewarned! Begging and pleading at the end of the semester will do no
good!!! Here's what you need to do: email me using your own email account. In the "subject line" please
type your first and last name and be sure to provide the following in the body of the message: (1) the class
number (Soc. 105); (2) your name; (3) phone number; (4) your major; and (5) email address. You must
complete this assignment within the first four weeks of the first day of the class. Late emails will not be
credited. This assignment is worth 2 points.
Methods of Evaluation
Grades will be determined by percentages in the following manner:
You can calculate your current grade at any point in the semester by dividing the number of points you have
earned by the total amount of points possible and referring to the scale above. Thus, if you achieved a “15”
on the quiz and a “40” on the first exam, then you would calculate your current grade as follows: 15 + 40 =
55 divided by 65 (15 possible points for the quiz and 50 for the first exam) = .85 Using the scale above you
can see that you are currently earning a “B”.
Some students require special needs from time to time or throughout their college career. Below are some
important resources that you should take advantage of if you require assistance. I would encourage
anyone who has special needs to drop by and see me (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that I can better
understand your situation and work with you more effectively.
Overall Statement on Academic Support for Traditional Undergraduates
Overall statement on academic support for traditional undergraduates Students have academic support
resources available to them at no charge. The Academic Learning Center offers course - specific tutoring,
academic skills workshops, hands on learning strategies instruction, and academic counseling to
supplement faculty advisement. The Writing Center offers tutoring to assist with writing and reading
support for any class. The Disability Services office provides impairment - related accommodations
consistent with the ADA and its amendments. All three offices are in the administration building. For help
or further information, contact the ALC at [email protected] or 610-921-7662 or; the
WC at [email protected] or 610-921-7540; and the Disability Services office at
[email protected] or 610-929-6639.
Academic Learning Center
The ALC offers various resources to assist Albright students with their academic success. Students have
academic support resources available to them at no charge. The Academic Learning Center, in the
Administration Building, offers course-specific tutoring, academic skills workshops, hands on learning
strategies instruction, and academic counseling which includes one-on-one consultations on study skills,
time management, note-taking, and learning strategies to supplement faculty advisement. The ALC is
located in the Administration Building, and can be reached at 610-921-7662 and
The Writing Center
You are encouraged to visit the Writing Center early and often throughout the semester to help build a
strong foundation for writing in this course and in all of your courses. The center’s peer tutors and
director will work with you at any stage of the writing process, from developing and organizing ideas to
revising and editing drafts. Rather than editing your work for you, writing tutors will actively engage you
in meaningful conversations about your writing and help you learn new strategies. Tutors are also
available to discuss and practice approaches to managing the college reading workload and reading more
effectively. The center is located on the first floor of the Administration Building and can be reached at
[email protected] or (610) 921-7540. Appointments are strongly recommended to ensure
availability. You can view the current schedule and make an appointment through our online appointment
system at http://alb.mywconline.com or visit our center in person for assistance.
Services for Students with Disabilities
Consistent with the ADAAA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Albright College welcomes
students with disabilities into the college’s educational programs. If you need impairment-related
academic adjustments in this course, please contact Yuriko Beaman, Director of Disability Services, by
email at [email protected], by phone at 610-929-6639, or in her office, on the first floor of the
Administration Building. Students who use accommodations should meet with course instructors
privately and in a timely manner to discuss their Academic Accommodation Letter (AAL). Please note
that IEPs and 504 plans do not apply to college level courses.
Some Further Guidelines
First, if you have any questions, please ask. Chances are if you do not understand something, half the class
does not either. I will not think you are stupid because you ask questions. On the contrary, if you knew all
about sociology, you would not be here in the first place. Also, your questions tend to liven up the class and
make it more interesting for all of us. If for some reason you do not feel like asking the question during class,
stop me after class. If you do not have time after class, please make an appointment, we can find another
Second, I expect you to exercise proper manners while in class. This means that you should not talk during
class to another student while I or another student is addressing the class. This means that you should arrive
on time and not leave early. This means that you should not sleep in class, read the newspaper, listen to
music, etc. NOTE: THE INSTRUCTOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SUBTRACT POINTS FROM
ANY STUDENT WHO REFUSES TO EXERCISE PROPER MANNERS IN CLASS.
FURTHERMORE, POINTS MAY BE SUBTRACTED IN THE AMOUNT THAT THE
INSTRUCTOR SEES FIT. IF MEMBERS OF THE CLASS LEAVE EARLY, THE INSTRUCTOR
MAY, AT HIS DISCRETION, BEGIN ADMINISTERING POP QUIZZES TOWARD THE END OF
THE CLASS PERIOD.
Third, I consider your class participation to be very important. Please feel free to ask questions offer
suggestions and/or comments, etc. If you disagree with me, fine. Feel free to say so. I only ask that you
provide a rational and/or evidence for your position. In other words, don’t simply say, “I disagree with you
because I just don’t think you are correct,” give me a reason why you disagree.
Fourth, cheating of any kind is not allowed. Any student who appears to the instructor to be cheating will
receive an automatic "F" for the entire course and s/he will be turned in to the appropriate academic
Fifth, each and every class is important. My lectures do not always follow the text. I may disagree with the
text and may present material not found in the text. Lectures count more than text on exams. Therefore,
YOU SHOULD ATTEND EACH AND EVERY CLASS.
Finally, I do not grade on a curve. This means you have more to gain by cooperating rather than competing
with each other. I would like you to get to know the students in your discussion group really well. You
should exchange addresses and telephone numbers with each other and try and form a study group. As a
group you can help each other with the class material, particularly in studying for exams. You also can come
into my office as a group and we can talk over things that are not clear.
Majoring in Sociology
Some students may be interested in sociology as a major. I would be happy to talk to you if you have any
questions. I also have a pamphlet that I can give you published by The American Sociological Association
that can tell you what sociology is, what sociologists do, and where sociologists can be employed. It is an
interesting (not to mention useful) field, and worth checking out!!!
B= Book (David Grazian 2010. Mix It Up)
I = Internet Readings
M = Moodle
UNIT 1: INTRODUCTION
Week 1 (Taking Popular Culture Seriously)
B 1. David Grazian Chapters 1
Week 2 (Perspectives on Popular Culture)
B 1. David Grazian Chapters 2 & 3
I 2. Dwight McDonald “A Theory of Mass Culture”
UNIT 2: SOCIAL CHANGE
Week 3 (The Historical Emergence of Popular Culture)
M 1. Joseph Gies "Automating the Worker"
M 2. Madonna Marsden "The American Myth of Success: Visions and
Week 4 (The Historical Emergence of Popular Culture)
B 1. David Grazian Chapters 7
Week 5 (Fads & Fashions: How Something Becomes Popular)
B 1. David Grazian Chapters 4
Week 6 (How Popular Culture Reflects Social Change)
M 1. Rita C. Hubbard. "Magic and Transformation."
M 2. Jan Harold Brunvand "New Legends for Old."
M 3. Jan Harold Brunvand "The Classic Automobile Legends."
*********** EXAM 1: THURSDAY ***********
UNIT 3: SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
Week 7 (Creation of Popular Culture)
M 1. George H. Lewis. "Uncertain Truths: The Promotion of Popular Culture."
M 2. Howard Becker "Art Worlds."
B 3. David Grazian Chapters 5 & 6
Week 8 (SPRING BREAK: NO CLASS)
Week 9 (Production & Distribution)
I 1. J. Michael Strazynski. "What is an Executive Producer?"
I 2. J. Michael Strazynski. "The Lifecycle of a Script."
I 3. Summary of the Barnes & Noble Lawsuit
I 4. ABA, Independent Bookstores Sue Barnes & Noble and Borders
I 5. The Clayton Act
I 6. The Robinson-Patman Act
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Assignment 1: Topic & Bibliography Due (Thursday) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Week 10 (Production & Distribution, Continued)
M 1. Stephen Powers, David J. Rothman, & Stanley Rothman. "Hollywoods'
Week 11 (Production & Distribution, Continued)
I 1. Paul Resnikoff. “Two-Thirds of All Music Sold Comes From Just 3 Companies”
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! First Meeting With Group Mediators (Monday or Tuesday) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*************** EXAM 2: THURSDAY *************
UNIT 4: SOCIAL MEANING
Week 12 (Methodological Perspectives on Meaning)
I 1. Andrew Welsh & Laurier Brantford. “Sex and Violence in the Slasher Horror Film”
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Assignment 2: Thesis & proposal due (Tuesday) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Week 13 (Determining The Meaning of Cultural Objects)
M 1. Charles M. Brown. "Musical Responses to Oppression and Alienation."
B 2. David Grazian Chapters 8 & 9
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Second Meeting With Group Mediators (Monday or Tuesday) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Week 14 (Gender, Racial, & Ethnic Stereotypes in Popular Culture)
M 1. Jane Caputi & Susan Nance "One Size Does Not Fit All: Being Beautiful,
Thin and Female in America."
M 2. Christopher Geist & Angela Nelson "From the Plantation to Bel-Air: A Brief
History of Black Stereotypes."
*************** PAPERS DUE: THURSDAY, 11:59 P.M. *************
Week 15 (Consumption & Media Effects)
M 1. Carl M. Cannon. "Media Violence Increases Violence in Society
M 2. Brian Siano. "Evidence Connecting Media Violence on Society is Exaggerated."
!!!!!!!!!! Reading Day: No Class !!!!!!!!!!
Finals Week Begins: !!!!!! Cumulative Exam #3 Sometime During Finals Week !!!!!!
Finals Week !!!!!! Cumulative Exam #3 Sometime During Finals Week !!!!!!
Please answer the questions below and write your answers on the 3x5 note card provided by the
3. Major (spell out please)
4. Class standing (Freshman, Sophomore, etc.)
5. Where are you from?
6. Do you know anyone that has taken this course before? If so, who?
7. Have you transferred from another college or university? If so, which one?
8. How many semesters have you attended Albright?
9. What other sociology courses have you taken?
10. Do you belong to a fraternity or sorority? If so, which one?
11. Are you involved in Albright sports? If so, which one(s)? (Don't include Intramural sports)
12. Do you work? Where? How many hours per week?
13. E-mail & phone number
14. Why did you take this class?