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Popular Culture: Home

Comics, fan culture, memes, transformative works

Do Academics Study Pop Culture?


Scholars and academics are often fans.

"Popular culture studies is the academic discipline studying popular culture [a.k.a. pop culture] from a critical theory perspective. It is generally considered as a combination of communication studies and cultural studies. ... Conceptual barriers between so-called high and low culture have broken down, accompanying an explosion in scholarly interest in popular culture, which encompasses such diverse media as comic books, television, and the Internet."

-Wikipedia entry on Popular Culture Studies

Search terms

Here is a sample of relevant subject terms for the OPAC as well as for the research databases:

  • Popular culture
  • Characters & characteristics in motion pictures
  • Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Cosplay
  • Fans (Persons)
  • Interactive fiction
  • Korean pop music
  • Memes
  • Motion picture audiences
  • Motion pictures - Social aspects
  • Social media
  • Technological innovations - Social aspects
  • Television series
  • Video games
  • Video gamers

Keywords and Phrases:

  • fandom
  • "transformative culture"
  • "mass media"
  • "cultural studies"

Quality Sources

Here is a sample of academic and peer-reviewed journals available in our research databases.

Sample titles:

  • Journal of Popular Culture
  • International Journal of Comic Art
  • Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education
  • Journal of Popular Film & Television
  • Studies in Comics

and many more

JSTOR is a good resource for researching historical pop culture and trends. They even have a topic page on Popular Culture.

Sample titles:

  • Popular Music

Open Access Academic Journals

Additional Online Resources

Fan studies
  • Know Your Meme - general, non-academic history of viral images and videos

Finding Context

If you are having trouble finding good quality sources on a specific trend, web site, or video game, research its history. Although it may seem as if they pop out of nowhere, all ideas have a past. Find its roots. Put it into context.

  • Research the creators or developers - what other content have they made? Is it in the same genre?
  • For disruptive ideas, research the industry it is transforming.
  • Has someone borrowed a concept or process from another industry or culture? Look into its original context.

Here are are some sources:

Mail Order Catalogs

Look at catalogs and advertising for clothing and consumer goods aimed for the middle class.

The Sears & Roebuck Catalog is wonderful resource for prices and styles for watches, clothing, appliances, tools, and even houses. Unfortunately, there is no central online archive of these catalogs. Some of them are available on the web, including:

Those sites have additional mail-order catalogs from other companies, such as Macy's and Abercrombie and Fitch.

Mail-order catalogs are still published today, such as the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

See also:

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