Week 2 – What’s wrong with the media? Gangnam Style
What do you think the meaning of the text is? A) Parody B) Just for laughs song C) Money-making scheme D) Serious cultural expression Why do you think that is?
Context of Gangnam Style• Who, where, what?• Gangnam Style (강남 스타일) – dance pop song released by South Korean Park Jae Sung (PSY) in July 2012, title single of his sixth studio album (knowyourmeme.com, 2012)
Context of Gangnam Style• From your research, could you give me a simple definition of the term ‘Gangnam Style’?• "Gangnam Style" is a Korean neologism mainly associated with upscale fashion and lavish lifestyle associated with trendsetters in Seoul’s Gangnam district (강남), which is considered the most affluent part of the metropolitan area. In colloquial usage, it is comparable to the English slang terms “swag” or “yolo”. (urbandictionary.com, 2012)
Context of Gangnam Style• English Translation: Oppan Gangnam style Gangnam style A girl who is warm and graceful during the day A classy girl who knows how to enjoy a cup of coffee A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes A girl with that kind of twist I’m a guy A guy who is as warm as you during the day A guy who downs his coffee before it cools down A guy whose heart bursts when night comes That kind of guy Beautiful, loveable Yes you, hey, yes you, hey Beautiful, loveable Yes you, hey, yes you, hey Now let’s go until the end
Context of Gangnam Style• What do the lyrics suggest to you?• How might they be related to this ‘Gangnam Style’?• Do they have any relation to the fact that the video has gone viral?
Context of Gangnam Style• As U.S.-based Korean blogger Jae Kim recently explained on her site, My Dear Korea, "In Korea, theres a joke poking fun at women who eat 2,000-won (about $2) ramen for lunch and then spend 6,000 won on Starbucks coffee. Theyre called Doenjangnyeo, or soybean paste women, for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can overspend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common." (Jae Kim quoted in mercurynews.com, 2012)
Context of Gangnam Style• Are there any visual elements that make the video stand out?• Has anyone noticed the locations?• How are they presented in the video?• What might this suggest?
What did you think the text was?• Parody? Just for laughs? Money-making scheme? Serious cultural expression?
Stuart Hall• Stuart Hall (1932 -) is an important British cultural theorist and sociologist of Marxist influence. He is considered to be one of the founders of the British Cultural Studies school of thought. He was a figure of utmost importance within the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University.• Some of Hall’s key ideas revolve around representation, cultural identity, hegemony and power, audience and institutions.
The Encoding/Decoding Model• The ‘Encoding/Decoding’ Model within Mass- Media communication proposed by Hall highlighted the importance of an active audience. The phases of this model of communication are labelled as moments (The moment of the encoding, of the text and of the decoding). What is pioneering about this model of communication is the proposition that audiences are active and diverse and they will not necessarily read a text in the same way, although they might be able to recognise the intended meaning.
The Encoding/Decoding Model• Thus, the process of communication in this case will have three main outcomes:• Dominant (Hegemonic) reading – where the reader of a text accepts and reproduces its intended meaning• Negotiated reading – where the reader accepts the intended meaning in broad strokes, but might resist some of its elements by modifying them to fit their own contexts• Oppositional (Counter-hegemonic) reading – where the reader understands the dominant reading but they are socially opposed to it, therefore rejecting it and framing it in a different manner
The Encoding/Decoding Model• What seems to be the intended message of this text and how might this affect your reading of it?• Does it conflict or reinforce your own position?• Do you find it difficult to relate to it because it is South Korean?• Do you find the message universal enough for it to be relevant worldwide?• Do you think this message might have had any effect on the way it spread virally?• How do you think people from different backgrounds might have read it in different ways?
The ‘success’ of Gangnam Style in a highly digitalised culture• Have you noticed that Youtube plays an advert before letting you watch Gangnam Style?• What other findings have you come up with concerning its spread and popularity?
The ‘success’ of Gangnam Style in a highly digitalised culture• The video became ‘viral’ within days of its release. It had coverage from local K-Pop websites and regional Asian websites and radio stations. It went further to be mentioned on international websites and then it was picked up by international news corporations such as CNN.• The number of views this video had yesterday (October 11) on Youtube is over 427,263,881 (Youtube.com, 2012). It has a considerable number of spin-offs and parodies made around the world, including one made by PSY himself.• The video was mentioned on social networks by a number of world- renown artists such as Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, leading to collaborations with some of these, an American debut and a number of tours and concerts in South Korea and elsewhere.
The ‘success’ of Gangnam Style in a highly digitalised culture• Not only was it picked up by big names in entertainment, like The Today Show, Saturday Night Live, The Dodgers Show and The Ellen Degeneres Show, but it received considerable attention from international financial media and the academia: CNN, The wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Policy and The Harvard Business Review have all mentioned Gangnam Style (knowyourmeme.com, 2012).• The video has received national and international awards and is currently topping billboard charts around the world, having managed to break into the British and American market. Some of you might have heard it being played in clubs.• As a result, Gangnam Style was featured in Samsung advertisements (time.com, 2012) and has gone on to be very successful financially, although no numbers have been officially published.
The ‘success’ of Gangnam Style in a highly digitalised culture• How do you think the viral and commercial success of this video might have an effect on the message it sends out?• If this is a parody of the ‘overnight rich’ of Seoul which might have turned PSY himself into an ‘overnight rich’, does that make it less credible or not?• Do you think this was intended as a money- making scheme or was it just ‘pure luck’?
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer• Adorno (1903-1969) and Horkheimer (1985- 1973) were central members of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Exiled from Nazi Germany, their thinking was influenced by Karl Marx’s materialism and the idealism of Hegel. The Frankfurt School are the founders of Critical Theory as a school of thought.
The Culture Industry – Enlightment as Mass Deception• In ‘The Culture Industry – Enlightment as Mass Deception’, Adorno and Horkheimer critique culture as a mass-producing, supply- driven industry which functions inside the capitalist system. Within it, the audiences consume culture passively, just as mass- produced objects, which are passed onto them in a vertically integrated system, by powerful institutions.
The Culture Industry – Enlightment as Mass Deception• ‘The dependence of the most powerful broadcasting company on the electrical industry, or the motion picture industry on the banks, is characteristic of the whole sphere , whose individual branches are themselves economically interwoven. [...] Pure amusement [...] is interrupted by a surrogate overall meaning which the culture industry insists on giving to its products, and yet misuses as a mere pretext for bringing in the stars. [...] The deception is not that the culture industry supplies amusement but that it ruins the fun by allowing business considerations to involve it in the ideological processes of a culture in the process of self-liquidation’ (Adorno and Horkheimer quoted in During, 1993:32, 40, 41)
The Culture Industry – Enlightment as Mass Deception• Can you name any commercial elements in the video? Can you name any elements that may have been ‘borrowed’ from other successful music video formulas?• How about the music itself? Is it original in any way? Does it belong to a well-known genre? How could you explain that Gangnam Style, despite being in Korean (which is not widely spoken in the UK or USA) is played in clubs and people enjoy dancing to it?• How about the guest star appearances (3 members of K- Pop Bands, a Korea’s Got Talent contestant and 2 comedians and TV personalities)? What do you think their roles are? How do you think all these elements relate to Adorno and Horkheimer’s theory of culture as an industry?
Conclusion• Why do you think this should interest you in any way?
Conclusion• How to apply this information to your 181MC essay: You need to understand why you are choosing a certain topic and what you want to discover and/or demonstrate in relation to it. Having a goal, an aim for your assignment will help you enormously. You will get a much better mark if you understand where you are going with it and what you want from it.
Further reading• Further reading: Semiotics for Beginners – Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding Model http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/Documents/S4B/sem 08c.html• Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer – The Culture Industry: Enlightment as Mass Deception http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai/PoMoSemina r/Readings/AdornoHork.pdf