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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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9. Postmodern Theory and Hip-Hop Cultural Discourse

Extract

CHAPTER 9

Postmodern Theory and Hip-Hop Cultural Discourse

Hunter H. Fine

Human communication is a fundamental aspect of cultural and public life. It also shapes the many ways we view the world. The way we talk about life influences the forms it takes. In this chapter, we examine the lyrics of hip-hop music. In doing so, we will delve into the symbolic structure that creates our experience of reality. Hip-hop, or rap music, occupies an important place in American consciousness, and many of you have grown up in a musical and communicative landscape heavily influenced by hip-hop discourse. A discourse is a collective “conversation,” concerning a public topic or subject matter. Consequently, our worldviews have been influenced by the shared awareness and discussion of hip-hop in our culture.

Hip-hop first emerged in the 1970s, rising from New York City’s Bronx borough. Hip-hop developed as a complete American culture. Culture is a system of shared meanings and assumptions that draws people together within a social context of power. We can call hip-hop a total culture, because it includes visual (graffiti), oratory (MC), physical (dance), and auditory (DJ) elements of expression. These cultural practices developed political language, contextual rituals, and historical norms. Over the years, these all came to present a counter-discourse, to mainstream American values. The counter-discourse shapes identity, the individual and collective understanding of oneself that emerges from cultural interaction. As the culture expanded, the discourse came simultaneously to resist and represent...

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