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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Edited By Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.

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Introduction Editor’s Note (Kathleen Glenister Roberts)

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INTRODUCTION Editor’s Note Kathleen Glenister Roberts Theories, Artifacts, and Texts Why do we study theory? There are many reasons. If you remember the “sci- entific method” from high school, you know that traditional theories start out with a hypothesis, and are tested through repeated experiments. If consistent results appear and prove the hypothesis, then you have a theory. Theories exist in all academic disciplines, not just the sciences. In all fields, theories help solve puzzles—including in the discipline of communi- cation. Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that seems to be changing very rapidly. One of the authors in this book, Garret Castleberry, offers a very helpful perspective. Dr. Castleberry uses an analogy relating theorists to “showrun- ners”: The term showrunner is unique in television. The showrunner functions similarly to a filmmaker or a composer with unique vision who steers the program in terms of the language spoken but often the look, sound, and scope of the series as well. In shaping a TV product, showrunners wield dynamic persuasive appeal. Academic theorists have a very similar job. Like showrunners, they shape how we view the world. Theorists offer informed insights based upon long-term research and analy- sis. For this reason, “theory” is often associated with heavy lifting, due to the burden placed on extending language and knowledge. Like the showrunner, a theorist har- nesses potential for longstanding persuasive appeal. Yet whether persuasive appeal occurs through a theory or from a...

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