An Evaluation of the Link between Popular Culture and Media Education

An Evaluation of the Link between Popular Culture and Media Education


Today’s young people regard popular culture to be stylish and fashionable. Young people’s growth and learning experiences are profoundly influenced by popular culture in a variety of ways. Popular culture is a word used to define the relationship between music, art, media, the internet, television, radio, and fashion among young people (Zinn, 2019). It includes anything from video games to television shows. Individuals are given the chance to express themselves via many means such as creativity, problem-solving, involvement, and engagement. To a large extent, many education students are familiar with popular culture; therefore, their exposure to this material has the potential to enhance literacy development in a formal educational context. Others, particularly those working in the education sector and learning-related businesses, are suspicious that this level of expertise should be recognized in a formal educational context, according to the report. The use of atypical readings in the classroom is typically regarded as weak and lacking in academic prestige, despite the fact that there is a considerable body of evidence to support their usage in this setting (Dahlström & Damber, 2020). A common belief among educators and researchers is that popular culture has had a substantial influence on students’ home literacy practices, in which they demonstrate a wide range of literacy abilities that are desirable in an academic setting. It is true that mainstream media and school systems are important institutions in the reproduction of several social inequities, yet there are areas where adults and kids may challenge dominant, harmful depictions and improvise alternative ones, both within and outside of these institutions.

A key consideration while studying contemporary popular culture is the type of lyric employed by various artists, which may be highly explicit while also reflecting the changing times. Nowadays, youth are constantly bombarded and confronted with incredibly sophisticated concepts and (sometimes adult) material in what is the information age. The information age is a rapidly pacing, easily accessible, consumption-driven society that bombards and assaults them on a continuous basis (Flores-Koulish, 2020). Media education has a significant impact on each and every one of us in a similar way to that described above. This information is, in fact, both surprising and worrisome at the same time. By way of the news media, entertainment media, as well as marketing messages, we are continuously being inundated with sounds and pictures that affect who we are and how we think on both a conscious and subconscious level. A considerable lot of controversy has erupted among those who write about media education in general, and they have voiced a diverse variety of opinions on the matter. This study will explore such debates and make a recommendation on the future of media education vis-à-vis the popular culture.

Research Questions

What is the relationship between popular culture and media education?

Is there a role that popular culture plays in influencing how society operates regarding media educationWhich popular theories support or refute the link between popular culture and media education?

What are some personal experiences of popular culture in media education?

Popular Culture

Popular culture is a collection of habits, ideas, and artifacts that communicate the most popularly held meanings of an entire social system in a popular fashion. The term encompasses a wide range of items such as media products, entertainment and leisure activities, fashion and trends, as well as linguistic and grammatical standards. Popular culture, in contrast to high culture and diverse institutional cultures, is distinguished by its association with either mass media or popular culture, as opposed to the latter (political culture, educational culture, legal culture, and so on) (Asimow & Sassoubre, 2018). A focus on the relationship between popular culture and mass culture results from the connection between popular culture and a capitalist economic framework. Popular culture is viewed as a collection of commodities that are created through capitalistic processes with the purpose of making a profit and then sold to customers, according to this economic perspective.

However, when there is a linkage between popular culture and folk culture, it results in an emphasis on subcultures such as youth culture or ethnic cultures, among other things. Performances and goods are produced in popular culture as a result of a series of actions taken by artists or other types of culture producers, which are then received and experienced by audiences both within and outside a particular subcultural group, all through the lens of the subculture in which they were produced. Researchers such as Arıkan, Ekici, and Tutal (2021) analyze how popular culture emerges through a subculture’s collaborative evolution and is then appropriated by the market system through the use of holistic techniques. Specific groups and topics are represented in the nature of cultural items or activities in popular culture.

Culture and its role in influencing human social life have been discussed extensively by classical sociologists throughout history. Nevertheless, they drew no difference between popular culture and other sorts of culture in their debates. A society’s habits and material culture are generally referred to as its popular culture. Generally speaking, when it comes to popular culture in the modern Western world, it refers to cultural products that are consumed by the majority of a society’s population (Jester, 2021). Some examples of pop culture items are musical and visual arts, literature, fashion and dance, cinema and video games, cyberculture, television and radio, to name a few. A popular culture term refers to material that is easily accessible and appealing to a wide range of audiences (Takeda, 2020). Popular culture may be found all around us, influencing (and being influenced by) our everyday lives in both positive and negative ways, and it can be found in every genre. In spite of the fact that popular culture is ubiquitous in the lives of children and adolescents, the function of popular culture in educational curricula is up for discussion.

People from all around the world are involved in and contribute to popular culture in one way or another. Item, behavior, meaning, and cultural settings that are often manufactured and consumed by large numbers of people are included in this category. Speaking about different local or national popular cultures in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized looks to be more difficult in today’s world (Morrell, 2002). In terms of originality, geographic dispersion, commercial diversity, and political complexity to name a few traits, popular culture differs from other forms of culture. As well as other factors, it is strongly associated with indicators of social and economic disparity. It is less obvious today than it was for nineteenth- and early- to mid-20th-Century critics, but advancements in popular culture and media education outputs can give important information about the status of power in current society.

Through history, pop culture has changed and affected people’s perceptions of the world and their place within it. Although it reflects the way in which society views itself, it also has the ability to be utilised to achieve positive social change. Since the emergence of social media, it has been simpler to transfer culture over the world, leading in the transformation of the world into a single global civilization. Pop culture has invaded many other elements of society during the course of this time period as well (Marsh, 2005). Pop culture has a wide range of ramifications on society as a whole, each with its own set of effects. With regard to pop culture, the first and most important effect is the way it stimulates and builds relationships with individuals who have similar interests. Gatherings centered on pop culture, such as Comic-Con, help in the formation of ties between people from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds. As a result of this occurrence, pop culture has emerged as a unifying element for young people all around the world. As far as a more personal level is concerned, pop culture may assist individuals in growing and being more accepting due to the large amount of representation found in pop culture’s different genres, which makes it a wonderful tool for personal development (Burbules & Torres, 2013). Teens who became interested in chemistry as a result of watching Breaking Bad or those who developed interest in history as a result of watching Dr. Who have been claimed to have performed well academically as a result of popular TV programmes. The influence of pop culture is evident even in the education sector.

Mass Media

Mass media is a term used to describe technology that is meant to reach a large number of people at the same time in a general sense. General communication is used as the primary mode of transportation by the great majority of individuals when it comes to general communication. According to Coy and Garner (2012), newspapers, periodicals, radio, television, and the Internet are the most commonly utilized mediums of mass communication in the modern era of information. Media reports on political concerns, social issues, entertainment, and pop culture news are regularly accessed by the general population, who frequently rely on them for their information. There has been a substantial shift in the mainstream media throughout the course of time. Prior to the invention of the Internet, television, and radio, there was a time when people relied on the newspaper for their news and information (Arthur, 2001). As a primary source of information, the internet has eclipsed conventional mass media in terms of popularity. It has the power to reach millions of people in a matter of seconds and to recognize and influence new trends as they emerge.

The media, whether written, spoken, or transmitted, has a huge impact on the general public and exerts significant influence over them. Advertisements on television, billboards, and social media platforms are all excellent methods for companies to raise awareness of their products or services (Silberman-Keller et al., 2008). The most successful means of communicating a firm’s message are websites, social media channels, blogs and forums if the organization is concerned with branding. When they select the most appropriate type of mass media source for their company, they will be able to communicate their ideas and carry out branding initiatives more effectively and efficiently. Individuals may be informed, educated, and amused in a number of various ways thanks to the media (Marsh, 1999). Customers who get brand education on how to get the most out of their purchases may find it beneficial. The vast majority of businesses currently utilize social media platforms, blog entries on their websites, and YouTube advertisements to emphasize their most essential features, difficulties that their goods can answer, and step-by-step instructions for their consumers and prospects, among other tactics.

Popular Culture and its Role in Influencing how Society Operates Regarding Media Education

It is the sociology of popular culture and mass media that analyzes the relationship between mass communication and society. It does so by applying sociological analytic techniques and their variants within the so-called media and cultural studies. The media, which serve as both a framework and a source of content for popular culture, are regularly investigated in the context of broader cultural developments (Peacock et al., 2018). It has long been recognized that the study of the identity component of cultural consumption, and more broadly, the study of the relationships between communication and popular culture, has played a significant role in academic research.

The difference between interpersonal and mass communication is not dictated by the nature of the message. What matters is the way the message is communicated, as well as the interpersonal ties that exist between the sender and the intended recipient(s) (McRobbie, 1986). There is a junction of interpersonal and mass communication structures on networked communication platforms, but first, it is necessary to describe another sort of communication that is frequently studied in academic contexts: interpersonal communication (Taylor & Ballengee-Morris, 2003). In formal organizations, organizational communication is defined as the symbolic exchange of messages that has unique importance for the members of the organization. Internal communication is essential for the proper operation of government agencies, enterprises, schools, and hospitals (Fisher, Harris, & Jarvis, 2008). In order to complete tasks, people who work in organizations regularly contact directly with one another or in small groups to accomplish them. Organizations are unable to function properly if they do not communicate effectively. In business and other social organizations, the quality of organizational communication has a significant impact on the success or failure of the company as a whole. As a result, communication is no longer just a function of organizations; it is also an intrinsic part of their whole structure.

Mass media is any kind of communication that reaches a huge number of people, whether it be written, broadcasted, or spoken. There are several instances of this, including television, radio, advertising, movies, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and so on. The mass media, particularly in the United States, is a significant factor in contemporary civilization (Giroux, 2012). Sociologists refer to this as a mediated culture, in which the media simultaneously reflects and develops the culture in which it exists. In today’s world, people and communities are constantly bombarded with messages coming from a multitude of sources such as television, billboards, and print publications, to name a few. Not only do these messages sell products, but they also promote positive emotions and attitudes, as well as a sense of what is and isn’t important in life (Koh & Benson, 2011). The ability of movies, magazines, and news media to reach people over thousands of miles would prevent many individuals from being famous in the first place. In truth, only politicians and business executives, as well as a handful of renowned outlaws, were well-known in the past. Actors, musicians, and other members of the social elite have only recently achieved the status of superstars.

Theories Explaining Different Perspectives on Societal Movement and Popular Culture and Media

Popular culture is a movement that began in order to give the average people a voice through a variety of media, including television shows, sports, films, current periodicals, artwork, fashion, and popular music, among other forms of expression (Hosseini, 2010). Initially, it was established in contrast to the pre-existing culture of the upper class.

1. Limited-effects theory

The limited effects argument holds that media has a little impact since people choose what they watch or read based on what they already believe. During the 1940s and 1950s, this concept was developed and tried in several settings. According to studies that looked at the ability of the media to influence voting, well-informed people depend more on personal experience, previous knowledge, and their own reasoning than uninformed people (Toftness et al., 2018). Those who were less knowledgeable, on the other hand, were more susceptible to being influenced by others (especially experts and professionals) in the media. In contrast, research studies found some issues in this point of view for instance, Lyons (2018) contend that limited effects theory fails to recognize the role of the media in framing and restricting debate and discussion of themes. The outcome of the discussion and the conclusions that people may reach are impacted by the way the media frames the debate and the questions that members of the media pose to the participants.

2. Class-dominant theory

According to the notion of class dominance, the media reflects and communicates the thoughts of a minority elite that is both powerful and influential. Media companies are owned and controlled by members of this aristocratic class. Proponents of this viewpoint indicate that large media corporate mergers stifle competition while putting big business in control of media, particularly news media (Kozlowski, Taddy, & Evans, 2019). They are afraid that if ownership is restricted, a tiny number of individuals would be able to influence what other people see and hear, which they believe is dangerous. Displacing or suppressing information about unethical business activities or holding corporations accountable is a simple process.

Sponsorship contributes to the problem’s exacerbation. The vast bulk of media is supported by advertising revenue. The greater the possible purchasing audience and the greater the ease with which advertising time may be sold, the greater the attraction of the product. Therefore, news organizations may avoid from publishing negative reports on corporations (particularly parent corporations) that finance major newspaper or radio advertising campaigns (Alvesson & Spicer, 2019). In order to disseminate information about suspected human rights breaches in other countries, Nike and other textile manufacturers paid television networks millions of dollars. Because vehicle and real estate advertising provides for a significant percentage of their revenue, local newspapers will not run reviews of new automobiles or pieces on selling a home without the assistance of an agent in most cases. This sway may be observed in both programming and film. An American television network cancelled Christy, a short-run drama with strong religious overtones, since it was unpopular with young urban residents who were being courted by marketers in the late 1990s.

Local management of news media is mainly outside the reach of giant corporate headquarters in other nations, and the quality of news is dependent on the abilities of outstanding journalists, according to opponents of the idea. In the opinion of these critics, the media has frequently supported those who are less powerful and do not have complete control over the media. Environmentalists, anti-nuclear activists, anti-Vietnam War activists, and pro-Gulf War activists are among the groups mentioned (Kozlowski, Taddy, & Evans, 2019). Even while the vast majority of people believe that the media is controlled by a corporate elite, a minority believe that the media is controlled by a politically “liberal” elite as well. The general public believes that journalists, who are better educated than the general population, have liberal political views, identify as “left of center,” and vote Democratic. Conservative pundits and politicians are more commonly labeled as “conservative” by the media than liberal pundits and politicians, as evidenced by examples from the media as well as statistics.

The terminology used by the media may also be instructive. The adjectives “arch” and “ultra” conservative are frequently heard in the media, but the terms “left” and “liberal” are less frequently heard. According to proponents of political elite control of the media, the media’s focus on environmental, anti-nuclear, and anti-Vietnam movements is typically beneficial to liberal political aims. Conservative political opinions are mostly disregarded or rejected by the media in the United States. As an example, the Reagan administration in the 1980s is used as justification for the policy where the military program was dubbed “Star Wars” by the media, as if it were a costly dream. It was not well-liked, and it was not well-supported by members of Congress.

3. Culturalist theory

In the 1980s and 1990s, the culturalist theory was formed that people engage with media to create their own meanings from the sights and information they receive. According to this theory, the public is an active participant in the media, rather than a passive observer. One strand of inquiry focuses on how viewers engage with media, while the other focuses on people who produce the media, particularly the news. Theories stress that viewers may choose what to watch, how much to watch, and how often to watch it (Choudhary, 2020). They also have the option of utilizing the mute button or the VCR remote to ignore programming picked by the network or cable station. Media education, according to sociologists, run parallel to the text reading and interpretation studies of linguists (people who study language). In both sets of academics, content is interpreted by people according to their own knowledge and experience when they meet it (Chen & Yorgason, 2022). Consequently, the meaning of a song or film might be interpreted in vastly different ways by different age groups, genders and ethnic groups and religions. The cultural theorists contend that, while a few elite at large corporations may have significant power over what information media generate and broadcast, audience members’ own opinions have a greater impact on how those messages are understood by audiences.

Popular Culture and Media Education

In today’s climate, reading is about much more than simply absorbing knowledge from a book into your subconscious. Reading and writing are no longer considered to be solely the domain of print media, as they formerly were. Modern readers are capable of comprehending a diverse range of texts that utilise a number of symbols or signs to communicate their messages. Adults and educators, when compared to kids and students, have a rudimentary awareness of popular culture that falls short of “real-time” competency and understanding. As a result, educators should incorporate elements of popular culture into their critical media literacy lessons (Thwaites, Davis, & Mules, 2018). Instructors who believe that popular culture is harmful to children use examples of popular culture forms that students have expressed an interest in in critical media literacy exercises to demonstrate to students how their developing brains are degrading as a result of their exposure to popular culture. If critical investigation of popular culture is taught only for the aim of discovering incorrect consciousness conceptions, according to one research, all media education proponents revert to views of media as the source of evil and students as uninformed bystanders. By utilizing the media as a tool for critical examination of popular literature, teachers might use their students’ tolerance for their preaching style as a springboard for a lesson in critical analysis of popular literature. Students’ interpretations of these items are not taken into consideration in the learning environment.

Clearly, there is a generational divide in the value of popular culture to education and learning in the subject of media studies. To raise awareness about the amount of television that youngsters watch, some schools, for example, have started a week-long “No TV” campaign to generate funds. Additionally, as a positive side effect, this activity encourages pupils to think about how much time they spend in front of the television and which shows they enjoy watching. It does, however, send a message to children and adolescents that watching television, regardless of whether it is instructive or not, is not a good way to spend their time. This technique may encourage students to keep track of how much television they watch, but it does not take into consideration the pleasures they obtain from media-related items. It also does not appear to aid in the development of critical thinking skills in youngsters, according to one research. Exposition to this type of well-intentioned activity may need youngsters to participate in the exercise while also knowing that they will turn on their televisions at the end of the week when they have completed it. By concentrating on media education in such a narrowly defined manner, both students and teachers are restricted in their learning opportunities (Asadi, 2018). We all live in a postmodern society plagued by media and technology, and instructors who fail to recognize the influence of popular culture forms on students are missing out on enormous opportunities to educate students via the use of these forms that are intricately intertwined with our daily lives.

It is possible to apply a critical media literacy strategy to study examples of popular literature in the classroom. This technique emphasizes the relevance of popular culture in students’ lives while also incorporating critical discourse skills into the classroom. Teachers who believe their students are obnoxiously consuming popular culture are more likely to employ this approach to educating them. Thus, the teacher becomes into a liberating guide for students who passively absorb all forms of popular culture in order to be educated by him or her. The purpose of this strategy is to educate students how to critically assess popular culture and media. Individuals who learn to recognize media deceptions become better viewers as a result of their education (Kahn & Misiaszek, 2019). When adopting this technique, the popular culture is carefully broken down as a topic area through the use of a scripted lecture. There is no consideration given to the joys that students may derive from media items in this curriculum. Whenever students’ enjoyment of popular cultural forms is restricted, or even removed, as a subject of study, media education becomes a process of ‘demystification,’ or the disclosure of previously hidden truths and information.

Personal Example: Social Media, Popular Culture, and Understanding of Media Education

Popular culture, in my opinion, is the culmination of the beliefs, ideas, points of view, attitudes, and imagery of numerous civilizations that have come to be brought together through the course of history. I believe that the mass media, well-known public figures, movies and associated entertainment, as well as sports and news, are among the things that have a significant impact on popular culture. Since its introduction in the 1990s, the Internet and social media have had a huge impact on popular culture and the way people communicate (Kahn & Misiaszek, 2019). It has an impact on the music I listen to because of what I see and hear on social media. People used to listen to songs that were meaningful to them because they liked the musical composition, but that has changed in recent years. With the advent of social media, more content is available (Krutka, Heath, & Willet, 2019), and it has a significant impact on the type of information that people are exposed to.

In another example, I find social media to be a key introducer of new trends and an influencer of certain social aspects that later create a popular culture. In media education, social media has become a key tool in the process of teaching the evaluation, interpretation, and critical thinking with regard to media systems. Photograph-based social networking site Instagram, where extremely popular accounts exhibit and advertise images of a wide range of goods and products to their followers, has gained widespread popularity in recent years. Each of these postings is written in such a manner that it draws the reader’s attention to the product as well as the information it contains. Influencers may, for example, promote a holiday to Dubai as a must-do experience as well as a highly sought-after fashion trend on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. In order to fully appreciate the event, the audience member will be compelled to consider this an absolutely vital and mandatory experience. Historical precedent has shown that popular culture may benefit from the presentation and encouragement of specific tendencies in mass media (Thwaites, Davis, & Mules, 2018). Individuals, in my experience, utilize taste-making to generate demand for new things and to persuade a broad audience to watch (or avoid) specific movies, television series, video games, books, or fashion trends based on their own tastes as well as the tastes of their friends and family. Businesses frequently hire advertising agencies to assist them in building public demand for products that may not have even existed six months prior to the advertising campaign’s launch. 

According to my own personal learning experience, social media is a powerful communications medium that has a broad reach that extends beyond urban and rural places alike. The digital revolution is still in its early stages, and we are only experiencing a part of it right now. Beyond having an impact on companies and making the world more accessible, digital transformation has also transformed the way learning occurs. An online presence on social media has infiltrated every part of modern life, including the educational institutions (Asadi, 2018). Media education supports this growth. It has had a huge influence on the way people interact in recent years, and it is now regarded to be an essential component of their everyday lives. WhatsApp, for example, has fundamentally altered the culture of instant messaging (IM) and elevated it to altogether new levels of complexity and sophistication. You can text anyone on the planet right now if you have an internet connection, and you can text them back. WhatsApp, as well as social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, are among those who have made significant contributions to this transformation. The significance of social media in communication is a topic that is widely discussed in academic circles.

Owing to technological advancements, people and audiences that were previously unable to receive information due to geographical distance or other considerations now have access to it. As a result of the events in Russia and Ukraine, the general public’s knowledge of what is going on in other areas of the world has expanded significantly. When it comes to demonstrating the reach of social media, the way the #BlackLivesMatter movement spread over the internet is a great example. A single post on one social media network sparked a chain of events that quickly spread to everyone’s newsfeeds on the rest of the networks. A result of the rise in the number of social media users has been the widespread distribution of all movements, ads, and goods through social media platforms. Businesses are increasingly reliant on social media to raise brand recognition, market their products, and sell their items to potential clients, among other things. Because of this, businesses may communicate with their consumers regardless of where they are physically situated. With the advent of the internet, mankind has acquired access to a resource with hitherto unimaginable reach and benefits. The same is reflected in learning.


Popular culture has a significant relationship with media education in that it influences the direction of trends including what is taught and how it is taught. The means to teaching and learning, for example, have now changed to include social media and other forms of social networking. With global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, learning institutions have had to rethink the teaching and learning process, incorporating popular culture into the process. Similarly, the learning content has changed. Media education is now focused on addressing trendy issues because this is what pop culture demands. For example, in media relations and social learning, the BlackLivesMovement is an issue that cannot be ignored. Similarly, the role of Indigenous people in running governments in countries such as Canada and Australia and New Zealand has been augmented by popul