Week 11: ‘Top of the Pops’ : What is popular with young people

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SHOPPING WITH IPHONE by Jason Howie (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This week I created a Pinterest board documenting some of the things that I have found to be popular with youth today.  My board can be accessed via the following URL:

http://www.pinterest.com/michelle7454/top-of-the-pops/

I found this task to be more difficult than I first expected and I found I kept questioning what is meant by the term ‘popular culture’ as I sourced different images and videos to ‘pin’.

One conflict that kept arising for me was the fact that the term ‘young people’ encompasses such a broad demographic.  Even to narrow the category of youth down to a more specific age group such as ‘primary-aged children’, ‘teens’ or even ‘senior students’ still makes the task of deciphering what is ‘popular’ among a cohort of young people with an amalgamation of individual interests, tastes and personalities very difficult.

Young people inhabit many different physical and virtual spaces and belong to a wide array of sporting, community, music, dancing and other niche groups.  Their participation and membership of different groups, not to mention their personal/individual interests, to a large extent, influence the texts and other artefacts they engage with and what they therefore deem as ‘popular’.  For example, I know a number of young girls who are obsessed with the band ‘One Direction’ and there is no denying that this young pop group have a very large tween following.  However, to the members of the school football team, ‘One Direction’ may be viewed as the epitomy of ‘geekiness’ and things such as ‘The Footy Show’ may be favoured as ‘popular’ among this group of macho sportsmen.  Youth who define themselves as ‘gamers’ will again engage with different aspects of popular culture as those who are ‘non-gamers’.  Likewise, a young person’s physical location and their surrounding community may also influence what is ‘popular’.  Youth living in beachside communities may strongly identify with a ‘surfie’ culture and this may influence their consumption of certain texts/artefacts.

Through completing this exercise, a number of general things have surfaced as being very popular with the majority of youth, though how they use them may differ.  There is certainly no denying the predominance of Facebook and mobile phones among young people today.  These forms of media are ubiquitous amongst youth and form a very important part of their lifeworlds.  They influence how they communicate with each other, establish and maintain friendships and interest groups and develop and enact their changing identities.

Another interesting issue that arose as I was completing this task, was the heavy banning or censorship of popular cultural texts/artefacts in schools.  In my experience, mobile phones, texting, gaming, Facebook and YouTube have always been a source of controversy and have been strongly monitored and banned on schools grounds.  As I was racking my brain, trying to think of what was popular among youth, I found my thinking starting to lean towards what was being censored in schools as a means of deciphering what was ‘popular’.  In this way, I remembered ‘Mother’ – the energy drink, as being a popular beverage among teens I have taught – often  heavily consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I recall too, the recent media uproar regarding the school principal who banned the consumption of energy drinks on school grounds – see this report in The Australian. It made me think, do schools ban or censor these things because they are ‘popular’?  If only a minority of students are consuming Mother or using Facebook or texting in class, the issue is relatively controllable, however, once the majority are using or consuming, the repercussions are much more far-reaching and are a lot more difficult to monitor by the authorities.  Surely this idea of banning/censorship isn’t a new phenomena though – after all, wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll once banned in many households and deemed the devil’s music at one point in time?

Some things surprised me as I was surveying different youth/groups on what was popular.  I was quite shocked to discover that ‘Home and Away’ was still popular amongst young people these days as this was a show I watched as a teen.  It also seems some elements of popular culture remain ‘classic’ in a sense – like youths’ undying love of magazines and celebrity gossip and the act of adorning one’s bedroom/books/diary with posters and artefacts from the pop culture world.

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4 thoughts on “Week 11: ‘Top of the Pops’ : What is popular with young people

  1. Michelle, I was interested to read that I wasn’t the only one who experienced some difficulty in creating the board. I originally thought finding 30 ‘pins’ would be super simple, but I found I struggled at the 15 mark. It does as you as you say depend on the ‘type’ of youth. What may appeal to one does not necessarily appeal to another. Interests vary widely depending on a variety of factors, including media and peer groups.I better finalise mine and post it 🙂

  2. Now you both have me scared! I am about to start my pinterest board but maybe I will focus on the ‘popular’ things I discovered in my interviews with young people. Perhaps this will help to narrow the search and be a bit more targeted to a younger audience. I definitely agree with you about ‘popular’ meaning different things to different groups of young people which makes it hard to determine what is ‘popular’ amongst young people. It is something worth thinking about while I create my pinterest board.
    Kristy S

  3. I am glad I had already done my pinterest board when I read this post! I just kept the children I interviewed in mind as I went about searching for my pins. After reading Kristy’s interview post I found it really interesting that the children she interviewed who were the same age as the children I interviewed, were into totally different things. I guess it’s easy to put age groups into baskets and assume that they engage with the same sort of popular culture texts.
    Angela, I too found it fascinating that kids are STILL into Home & Away! Although I don’t think they would be had the program not moved with the times. I stumbled across an early 90s episode recently and it seemed a lot more ‘G rated’ than what the youth of today are watching. Discussions about ‘who’s sleeping with who’ seem to arise regularly on today’s sexier version. Again, another moment when I feel SO GLAD that I am not growing up in today’s world. I like that I got to have a real, innocent, naive and simple childhood without the constant bombardment of sexual and adult themes, social media, etc etc. But that’s just me!

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