EDUC 3900 Studies in Popular Culture

This course explores issues in popular culture, cultural studies, and education, critically examining how popular culture texts rhetorically position young people today, mediate our identities and our aspirations, and function to narrate our our lives, worlds, and social possibilities.  We will critically situate popular culture within its social, political, economic and educational contexts – and within the everyday lived worlds of students. You will also participate in the production of critical counter-narratives that speak back to problematic or limiting mainstream media representations.

Film, television, music, graphic novels, zines, video games, toys, and other forms of media and culture will be critically examined for their potential use in or impact on education. Some of our themes include:

  • Situating Popular Culture (Historically): Popular Culture and New Literacy Practices
  • Representations and Resistance:  Critique and Post-Colonial Theory
  • Understanding Consumption and the ‘Public Pedagogies’ of Media Culture
  • Critical Pedagogy, Popular Culture, and Participation
  • Cultural Studies and (Disney) Worlds: Toys and Media Texts, Gender and Identity Construction
  • Graphic Texts, Serious Comics, (e)Zines & Video Games: Sites of Engagement, Production and Democratic Design
  • Remix Culture: Creativity and Culture Jamming
  • Connected Learning: Models for Connecting Education to Everyday Passions and Creative Communities

Readings & Creative Projects have two interwoven strands: 1) A critical analysis of media culture and systems of ‘popular’ mis/representation and 2) Identifying media tools, creative practices, and informal communities (affinity groups) so as to support deep learning through design/critical production – and in ways that  ‘connect’ in-and-out-of-school literacy practices to amplify the creative capacities of anyone and everyone.

Engaging Popular Culture – Critically – as A ‘Public Pedagogy’

Course Objectives

This course will engage students in critical dialogue about media culture, ideology, and the (mis)representation of marginalized groups in popular culture, and to explore the ways in which these representations (or lack thereof) impact teaching and learning in and out of schools. Objectives for this course  include engaging students in critical dialogue about the ways in which popular culture, new media, and networked (informal) sites and cultural/creative practices can be productively and critically harnessed in education.

This course promotes the following learning objectives and critical literacies:

  • To understand the ways in which popular culture impacts the lives of children and youth in and out of school.
  • To recognize the ways in which trends in popular culture and new media technologies shift, shape, and ‘story’ the social worlds and identities of children and youth.
  • To identify ways in which teachers can mobilize resources in everyday (digital) culture and new media tools to support deep, critical and ‘connected’ learning.
  • To identify ways in which critical aptitudes and new technology tools can provide productive/creational opportunities for students to speak back to dominant mainstream media (e.g., create counter-narratives, culture jamming works, (e)zines, critical remixes, and critical research/media interventions using authentic media tools).
  • To reveal the ways in which social issues relating to race, class, sexuality, gender, and social roles/identities are encoded, embedded and ‘normalized‘ (Foucault, 1984) within popular culture texts (e.g., mainstream narratives) and corporate media systems and consumer artefacts – from television series to video games to children’s toys.