Posted by: itslikethatweb | October 1, 2012

Low Culture = No Culture?

Aside from the casual inclusion of the word “dildonic” in an academic text, the portion of our reading that I found most striking was the exploration of class-based inequity in media distribution and consumption. The digital divide driving a wedge between the have-internets and the have-no-internets seems to correlate with each respective party’s exposure to high culture and low culture, which reminded me of an alarming bit of news I read last week: a networking group called CEOs for Cities recently released a statistical ranking of “cultured cities,” a list of 51 major American metropoles ranked according to the ratio of citizens who attended a cultural event in the year 2007 versus citizens who owned televisions.

This strange, relatively arbitrary study would have breezed right past me had I not noticed that the city of New Orleans ranked dead last. I admittedly tend towards overprotective of my adopted second home, but I know I wasn’t the only one raising an eyebrow. Many would argue that the Big Easy bears a reputation for exceptional cultural richness, and although locals attribute the bizarrely inaccurate statistic to – duh! – aftershock from Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, it still got me thinking: how do we define something as “cultured”? Who has the power or expertise to make such a subjective decision, and is consumption of the generally “low culture” that comes out of a television really grounds to characterize an entire population as uncultured?



  1. Wonderful lead sentence about a spot-on observation, Emily! I look forward to a discussion of your questions in class. I believe the haves no longer determine whether the have-nots are cultured, due specifically to the advent of high-tech media. Access and sheer numbers are leveling the playing field. For example, last night I was delighted while watching the BBC’s Masterpiece Mystery, to see Britain’s Sir Kenneth Branagh, starring in Swedish murder mystery “Wallander,” stroll into a Latvian home that was blaring Latvian hip-hop. I thought kudos to the young black and Latino kids from the Bronx in the ’70s who probably did not have a lot of access to technology, but whose musical creation is playing in some haughty company tonight. — Patricia

  2. This is a really interesting topic and something that the media seems to do very frequently – use statistical data to mean something that it might not necessarily mean. I remember an article from a year or so back (of course, I can’t find it now!) that ranked US cities regarding how intelligent residents were. A major factor in determining their rankings was library usage. Letting library usage stand in for intelligence is problematic at best.

    Both this example and your example about cultural rankings for cities are, I think, ways the media is trying to make statistics exciting and meaningful to a general audience. And when our city is at or near the top of the list, we eat it up, thereby giving the media license to continue labeling us as cultured or intelligent (or not).


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