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What Is Pop Culture?

Pop culture is everywhere. You know it when you come to the Internet, listen to music, watch television, app-gaming or go to a movie, concert, or stage show. You know the artists, the actors and actresses, sports personalities and the games they play. Today, anything with a buzz is deemed pop culture. The book definition says pop culture is a collection of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, perspectives, images (you name it) preferred by the mainstream population, which is a sort of common denominator.  

The most common pop culture categories are entertainment (movies, music, TV), sports, news (as in people/places in news), politics, fashion/clothes, and technologySlang has also become popular in our culture as each year seems to have its own slang signature, especially with tweens and teens. Terms such as “going viral” are new pop culture – not only the term but the viral product itself.

Each one of us has our own pop-culture menu. Look at your apps, your bookmarks, your songs playlist, TV shows, movies: what you ‘re saying on your favorite social networks. Smartphones today are the center of your pop culture. If you want to know more about pop culture, read on as we are going to give you its history and different definitions.

History of Pop Culture

It was in the 19th century when the term “popular culture” was coined. Traditionally, it was associated with poor education and with the lower classes, which is the opposite of the “official culture” and higher education of the upper classes. During the Victorian-era, Britain experienced social changes with the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, which caused an increase in literacy rates. And with the growth of capitalism and industrialization, people started spending their money on entertainment, such as sports and the commercial idea of pubs.

Reading also gained traction, and the Penny serials were published. These were cheap popular serial literature in the United Kingdom. Those were like the Victorian equivalent of video games. It was the first taste of mass-produced popular culture for the young in Britain. With the growing consumer culture and increased capacity for travel via the newly built railway that opened in 1825 in north-east England, a market for cheap popular literature was created with an ability to distribute on a large scale. With this, the first Penny serials were published in the 1830s due to the growing demand.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the stress in the distinction from “official culture” became more pronounced. It is a usage that became established by the interbellum period or the period between wars.

The meaning of popular culture began to be connected with those of mass culture, consumer culture, media culture, image culture, and culture for mass consumption from the end of World War II, following major cultural and social changes, which were brought by mass media innovations.

The abbreviated form “pop” for popular, like in pop music, dates back from the late 1950s. Although not used in our lexicon back then, modern pop culture (as we know it) began with the baby boomer generation and “buying power.” As boomers came of age with their disposable incomes – that influence led to the pop culture revolution. It began during the 1950s with rock n’ roll, TV, Dick Clark and the hoola hoop, transistor radios, into the 1960s and beyond.

The term “pop culture” became mainstream during the 1980s. Before this, we used “popular” to describe things such as top song playlists or “pop” as in art or “best” or “top” selling, as in books.

Different Definitions of Pop Culture

people playing on arcade machines

Based on the author of Cultural Theory and Popular Culture named John Storey, popular culture has different definitions. The quantifiable definition of culture has the problem that much “high culture”, such as television dramatizations of Jane Austen, is also “popular.” Aside from that, “pop culture” is also defined as the culture that is “leftover” when we have decided what high culture is.  But many works overlap the boundaries, such as William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, and Charles Dickens.

The third definition of pop culture associates it with “mass culture” and ideas. This is seen as a commercial culture, which is mass-produced for mass consumption by mass media. If you take it from a Western European viewpoint, this can be compared to American culture. Pop culture can also be defined otherwise as an authentic culture of the people. However, this can be challenging because there are a lot of ways to define the “people.”

According to John Storey, popular culture emerged from the urbanization of the Industrial Revolution. For example, studies of Shakespeare locate much of the characteristic vitality of his drama in its participation in Renaissance popular culture. Other examples are contemporary practitioners like Dario Fo and John McGrath, who use popular culture in a sense that links to ancient folk traditions.

Folk culture is at the opposite end of one spectrum from mass culture. As mentioned earlier, mass culture is mass-produced and mass-marketed on a large societal scale. Folk culture, on the other hand, is typically crafted individually, and it is produced and distributed on a local level. This can include folk art, folk music, folk crafts, and folklore. They usually originate from small, regional, or local groups of people, and are considered as representing only those small groups, and are propagating by word of mouth and not via mass media.

Pop Culture Through the Decades

Pop Culture is like a unifying bridge across time, which brings together generations of diverse backgrounds. Whether looking at the rock ‘n’ roll revolution of the 1960s or the thriving social networking websites of today, each period in America’s cultural history develops its own exceptional take on the qualities that define our lives.

Here’s an overview of the pop culture from the 1950s to the 2010s:

The 1950s Pop Culture

The 1950s were a decade marked by the post-World War II boom. It was also the dawn of the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement in the United States. And during these times, the United States was the world’s strongest military power. The economy was booming, which led to the availability of new cars, suburban houses, and other consumer goods.

Also, in this decade, televisions became something that the average family could afford. With this, the Golden Age of Television was marked by different shows, including “The Twilight Zone,” “I Love Lucy,” and “The Honeymooners.”

Aside from television, many important films were also shown in the 1950s that not many people talked about. The major rise of cinemas in the 50s was because of narrative storytelling and amazing directors. Some of the best films of the 1950s were “Cinderella,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and “All About Eve,” to name a few. It was also the decade when rock and roll music was created along with other popular genres like swing, pop, blues, and jazz.

The 1950s decade was also referred to as the century of literature because many writers and novelists emerged and gave the world amazing creations. Some of the popular books published in the 50s include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Invisible Man,” and “The Fellowship of the Ring,” to name a few.

To know more about the 1950s pop culture, you can read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 1950s.

The 1960s Pop Culture

The 1960s is more of a cultural decade because a lot of changes and happenings in these times were more significant in terms of culture and aesthetics. This decade is also filled with a youth-driven cultural revolution that is focused on the relaxation of the various types of social taboos. Those are some of the reasons why it’s called the “Swinging Sixties.”

The 1960s was the decade when the Hollywood and film industry changed and evolved. Top films were released, such as “The Sound of Music” and “Easy Rider,” which were quite helpful in reshaping Hollywood and experience for the audience. It was also the decade when the first films having sensitive contents were publicly released.

Music was also in revolution during this decade. From pop and folk music, everything changed to a wide range of music that was more in the Rock ‘N’ Roll genre. One of the most important phenomena of the 1960s was The Beatles Revolution, as they were most influential for the decade. Aside from that, introspective music, like those of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, became new music. Elvis Presley was also one of the most famous singers of the 1960s.

Aside from these, there are many other popular events and things that happened and were introduced in the 1960s, which includes Science and Technology, Sports, Fashion, Television, Dance, and News. To know more about the 1960s pop culture, you can read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 1960s.

The 1970s Pop Culture

The 1970s was a decade marked by the activism of all sorts. The society during these times has become more awakened, free to the individual sense, and more politically driven.

It was in this decade when Hollywood became the brand it is today. It saw the rise of different male and female performers who dominated the world of acting. Some of the best movies released in the 70s include“A Clockwork Orange,” “The Godfather,” and “Rocky,” to name a few.

The 1970s was also an iconic age for the American music industry. Progressive rock became popular and saw different bands and solo artists create mayhem through this genre. Listeners also had a range to choose from, and there were different genres available for all types of music listeners. Some of the most popular bands and artists in this decade include Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, and more.

The American television industry also gained success on sitcoms and family shows in the 70s. Some of these shows were “All in the Family,”“Happy Days,” and “Bridget Loves Bernie,” to name a few.

If you are looking for information about the pop culture in the 1970s about fashion, art, science and technology, cars, sports, and more, you can read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 1970s.

The 1980s Pop Culture

The 1980s is a decade that is difficult to forget. In fact, television shows during this decade were being rebooted in the present time, and remakes of some 80s movies are out or in the works. Aside from these, fashions, styles, and other aspects of the 80s are also attractive to a lot of people. It was a simple decade that everyone enjoyed. That’s why looking back on the 80s is always fun.

The 80s was the decade when MTV or music television was launched, which was one of the most iconic moments in music history. Madonna has been very popular in this decade, and as well as Michael Jackson, whose career was at its peak in the 80s.

When it comes to fashion, the big hair of the 80s was a symbol. Aside from that, other fashionable items during this decade include jelly shoes, shoulder pads, leather and denim jackets, and parachute pants. The workout videos of Jane Fonda also contributed to the popularity of aerobics outfits.

The 1980s also saw the popularity of the arcade game Pac-Man. Aside from that, the Rubik’s Cube also debuted in this decade, which became a worldwide craze. The Sony Walkman also first appeared during the 80s.

To know more about the popular things and events that occurred in the 1980s, read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 1980s.

The 1990s Pop Culture

There were many important events that happened in the last decade of the 20th century. In fact, it is still considered an essential part of the current standards and modern era we live in. It was considered to be the decade of relative peace and prosperity largely because of the fall of the Soviet Union, which was having a long drawn Cold War for decades. Aside from that, the use of the internet also contributed to the significance of the 1990s.

During the 1990s, the Hollywood industry became more fascinating. It focused on the different types of multicultural as well as action and thriller films. It was a time when fun-filled adventure films became popular. Some of the best movies that were released in the 1990s include “The Titanic” and “The Armageddon,” to name a few.

In the 1990s, music was more in the grunge, “gangsta” rap, teen pop, R&B, and electronic dance genres. These were brought by different types of musicians in the decade, such as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Fatboy Slim, Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, D’Angelo, and more. But the most famous group of the 1990s were the Spice Girls.

If you want to know more about the 1990s pop culture, read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 1990s.

The 2000s Pop Culture

The 2000s decade was filled with iconic pop stars, fashion statements, trends, technology, and unforgettable films and music. It was the era when pop culture was on peak. During this decade, there was lots of news and gossips about Hollywood, and American Idol was also very popular.

When it comes to music, the 2000s saw a rise in rap songs, making it the best decade of music and beats. During this decade, Eminem won an Oscar, and Lady Gaga entered the industry. It was also in 2000 when Britney Spears released her second album titled “Oops!… I Did It Again.”

The rise in filmmaking was also seen by the 2000s. It was the era when the film industry flourished and produced great movies, such as “28 Days,” “Monster Inc..” and “102 Dalmatians.”

It was also in the 2000s when bookcrossing was introduced. It was the practice of leaving the books you don’t need in one place to be picked up by others. A very popular novel titled “Life of Pi” was also published in this decade, which was later made in a Hollywood film.

To know more about the 2000s pop culture, read our detailed post: Pop Culture in Review for the Years 2000 to 2009.

The 2010s Pop Culture

The 2010s was the decade where technology surpassed the human imagination. It created new ways for artists to share their music with listeners and fans. Aside from that, the Television and Film industries have spent the most amount of money on their projects.

In the world of music in the 2010s, some of the most popular artists at the start of the decade include Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kesha, and Lady Antebellum. But 2012 was the major year for music in this decadewhen Katy Perry emerged, followed by Adele. Other artists that became famous in the 2010s include Justine Timberlake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Camilla Cabello, Kendrick Lamar, and more.

The popularity of the film industry in the 2010s started with the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” which continued till “Alice in Wonderland.” For those who love animation, “Frozen” and “Despicable Me 2” were released in this decade, too. And for action movies, “Fast & Furious 6” and “Man of Steel” and “Thor: The Dark World” were released.

If you want to look back on everything that became a trend in the 2010s, read our detailed post: Highlights of the Major Pop Culture Trends of the 2010s.

Pop Culture and Technology

vintage radios

Pop culture played a crucial role in the advancement of technology in each decade. In fact, technology is becoming more and more important and prevalent in all aspects of our culture. Pop culture has inspired and continues to inspire technological innovation. It draws connections between interpretations of technologies from the past and their modern counterparts. With this, let us look into the technologies that became prevalent from the 1950s to the 2010s.

Technology in the 1950s

When it comes to technology, the 1950s was a crucial period, especially in the world of radio and television. It has brought about the advancement in the viewing and listening experience of people at home.

This decade was a breakthrough year for television. It was this time when the first commercially available color TV was introduced. Aside from that, the first commercially available computer in the world was also presented in the 1950s.

In the music industry, the 45rpm vinyl records became as common as 78rpm records. In fact, it became popular due to its compact size and durability. The 33rpm vinyl record also became popular, and it replaced the 78rpm as the most common vinyl record size in the world.

Aside from these, many other innovations were introduced in the 1950s, such as the first accurate atomic clock, the videotape, stereo vinyl records, and more. To know more about the technology in the 1950s, you can read our 1950s Technology News In Review.

Technology in the 1960s

The 1960s was also a great decade for television, as there were also many enhancements done to make the experience of watching TV shows at home better. Even though this decade was dominated by television, there were also improvements done to the radio industry.

During the 1960s, the television served as the gateway for Americans to know the presidential election candidates, which were Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Their debates were broadcasted, which helped the people decide who they’ll vote to be the next US president.

It was also in the 60s when the push-button telephone was invented and introduced by the Bell System. This replaced rotary phonesand was faster and easier to use. The first compact cassette was also released in this decade.

Radios with transistors also became more popular in this decade. Their durability helped the radio industry have a surge in listeners in the same era where the British Invasion was at the peak of its popularity. FM radio was also becoming the number one choice of listeners who were looking into listening to classical music.

To know more about the technologies introduced in the 1960s, read our 1960s Technology News In Review.

Technology in the 1970s

The 1970s was a prime period for television because a lot of manufacturers tried to push the boundaries of color TV to produce better reception and clearer resolution.

But aside from television, computers also had a significant advancement in this decade. It is because of the introduction to the Xerox PARC, which was the first computer that was designed to support an operating system or OS based on a graphical user interface. This computer would later become the inspiration behind some of the most iconic computers in the history of technology. It was also in this same decade when Microsoft was formed by Bill Gates and researcher Paul Allen.

Another important creation in the 1970s was the Universal Product Code or UPC. It allowed systematic pricing and tracking for products in grocery stores and other establishments. The first product to be UPC scanned was a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum in Ohio.

If you’re craving to know more about the technologies invented and introduced in the 1970s, then you should read our 1970s Technology News In Review.

Technology in the 1980s

The 1980s, when it comes to technology, has been a great decade for the computer and the music industry. Both of these fields have benefitted from the technological advancements brought by engineers and scientists who wanted to make life more convenient.

It was in the 80s when Bill Gates agreed to provide the operating system for IBM’s personal computer. That operating system was the PC DOS 1.0, which was modified to be compatible with the IBM Personal Computer. Aside from that, this decade was also important for the creation of the internet. Tim Berners-Lee, a previous independent contractor at CERN, started experimenting on improving the communication between researchers from different places. His experimentation led to ENQUIRE, which was a software project that serves as the predecessor for the World Wide Web.

Aside from these, many other developments for the computer were introduced in the 1980s. Some of these include the creation of Apple computers, Macintosh personal computer, and the introduction of the Power Windows by Microsoft. To know more about these, you can read our 1980s Technology News In Review.

a retro computer

Technology in the 1990s

The 1990s has been a turning point in the computer industry. This decade brought major technological advancements to the personal computer. Aside from that, it also showed how Microsoft became a powerhouse in the world of software.

At the start of the decade, Adobe Inc. released the Adobe Photoshop 1.0 software. It was a graphics editor programmed by Thomas Knoll. The third iteration of the Windows OS, Windows 3.0, was also released by Microsoft in the 1990s, together with a new presentation program called Microsoft PowerPoint, bundled with Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.

The World Wide Web was also formed after Tim Berners-Lee utilized and tweaked the ENQUIRE system. This was considered to be the first web browser. The first Pentium chip was also released in this decade by the Inter Corporation. It would eventually include some of their best-selling microprocessors.

In 1994, Amazon was launched by Jeff Bezos, and would eventually become one of the biggest companies in the world. In the same year, Sony released its first home video game console, the PlayStation, first in Japan, and in the US after a year.

There are many other wonderful technological creations that were introduced in the 1990s. If you are curious about them, read our 1990s Technology News In Review.

Technology in the 2000s

When it comes to technology, the 2000s was a groundbreaking decade. It was the time where certain inventions have revolutionized the different sectors of technology, such as web browsing, gaming, and as well as mobile communications.

Before the year 2000 came, people were afraid of the Y2K Problem. This was a proposed event wherein computers may not be able to handle the change from 1999 to 2000 because of an error in the algorithm. With this, people believed there would be a collapse in the economy as most companies and agencies rely on computers. Fortunately, a lot of organizations were able to upgrade their computer systems, which eliminated the threat.

This decade was great for gaming because Sony released the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation 3, while Microsoft launched the Xbox and the Xbox 360. People also had a new way to listen to music when Apple Inc. successfully launched iTunes, which was a media player and library. After that, Apple also released the first-generation iPod.

During these times, Google was becoming a big company, but Yahoo was still at the top as the number one search engine in the world. There are also media services providers who were experiencing a rise in profits, and one of those is Netflix. It was also in the 2000s when YouTube was established.

There are many other innovations that were introduced in the 2000s. If you want to know more about them, read our 2000s Technology News In Review.

Technology in the 2010s

The 2010s decade was not as impactful as the previous decades when it comes to technology, but there were still a few breakthroughs that have been introduced.

At the start of the decade, Apple was already selling over 250 million Apple iPods. Google, on the other hand, started expanding its business when they announced that they’d be selling their own mobile phones.

Social media has been prevalent in the 2010s, and Facebook has surpassed Google when it comes to website visits per year. But Facebook eventually found its competitors when Instagram and Pinterest were launched in the same year.

In the world of mobile phones, the 4G broadband cellular network became popular. Cloud services were also becoming popular in 2011. With this, Apple released its own Cloud service called iCloud. But it was also in the same year when Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, passed away.

In the gaming industry, Sony released the PlayStation 4 in 2013and eventually became the second best-selling video game console of all time next to PlayStation 2.

There are many other developments in technology that have been done in the 2010s, aside from what we’ve mentioned here. To know more about them, read our 2010s Technology News In Review.

Conclusion

Pop culture is something that constantly evolves and occurs uniquely in place and time. It forms currents and swirls and represents a complex of equally inter-reliant perspectives and values that influence society and its institutions in different ways.

Pop culture has affected and is continuously affecting all of us. We may not think about it that much, but it is everywhere around us. From the way we dress, the gadgets and technologies we use every day, the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and more.Pop culture is fun, fascinating, and is at the center of our lives. Test yourself. The last time you spoke to your good friend, wasn’t pop culture part of that conversation?