Folk Versus Popular Culture


Folk and Popular Culture

Key Issues


Where do folk and popular cultures originate and diffuse


Why is folk culture clustered?


Why is popular culture widely distributed


Why does globalization of popular culture cause problems?

Key Issue 1: Where do folk and pop cultures originate and diffuse?

Habita repetitive act that a particular individual performs.

• Custom- a repetitive act that a particular group performs.

• Folk culturethe culture traditionally practiced primarily by small, homogenous groups living in isolated rural areas.

Amish, Basque

Popular culturethe culture found in large, heterogeneous societies that share certain habits despite differences in other personal characteristics.

• Material Culture – the physical objects produced by a culture in order to meet its material needs: food, clothing, shelter, arts, and recreation. Carl Sauer (Berkeley, 1930s –


What is Culture?

• The study of lifestyles, creations, relationships and supernatural-

– Cultural Geography- all encompassing-

Why culture is expressed in different ways

• Anthropocentrism- interpreting or regarding the world in terms of human values and experiences

Enculturation is the process by which a child learns his or her culture.

Features of Culture

1. Styles of Dress

2. Ways of Greeting People

3. Beliefs about Hospitality

4. Importance of Time

5. Paintings

6. Values

7. Literature

8. Beliefs about Child Raising

(Children & Teens)

9. Attitudes about Personal


10. Beliefs about the


11. Gestures

12. Holiday Customs

13. Music

14. Dancing

15. Celebrations

16. Concept of Fairness

17. Nature of Friendship

18. Ideas about Clothing

19. Foods

20. Eating Habits

21. Facial Expressions and Hand


22. Concept of Self

23. Work Ethic

24. Religious Beliefs

25. Religious Rituals

26. Concept of Beauty

27. Rules of Polite Behavior

28. Attitude Toward Age

29. Beliefs about the Importance of Family

30. General World View

Cultures around the world

Source: Johns Hopkins

Photo Share

The Fundamentals of Culture

• The fundamental ways cultures differ is in the way they view:


The concept of time (e.g., How important is punctuality? Are people’s lives driven by the clock, or do people have a more relaxed view of time?)


The concept of the self (e.g., Is the culture more individualist, or is it more collectivist? Is individual self-reliance and independence more important, or is ensuring the well-being of the group more important?)


The concept of focus of control (e.g., Do people believe they control their own lives and their own destinies, or do people believe things “just happen” to them due to fate—or due to outside forces they cannot control?)


The concept of personal vs. societal obligations (e.g., Do the same rules apply to everyone, regardless of the situation, or are exceptions made for certain individuals depending on the circumstances?)

• The Basics

– Material vs. Non-Material Culture-

Songbook vs. Song- Belief vs. Temple

• Carl Sauer- “The Cultural Landscape” (Built

Environment)- Humans footprint on their space

– Sequent Occupancy- left over culture

Levels of Culture

• National culture refers to those experiences, beliefs, learned behavior patterns, values, and institutions that are shared by citizens of the same nation.

International culture refers to cultural practices that extend beyond and across national boundaries.

• Cultural practices may be transmitted through diffusion.

• Subcultures are identifiable cultural patterns and traditions associated with particular groups in the same complex society.

French Wine Regions

Features of Culture

• Cultural universals are certain biological, psychological, social, and cultural features that are found in every culture.

Cultural generalities include features that are common to several but not all human groups.

• Cultural particularities are features that are unique to certain cultural traditions.

– Culture Trait- the simplest form of culture- a single attribute of culture

• A handshake as a greeting- bowing for respect

– Culture Complex- Combination of all culture traits

• USA- Culture

• Values Comprise ideas about what in life seems important.

They guide the rest of the culture.


Consist of expectations of how people will behave in various situations. Each culture has methods, called sanctions, of enforcing its norms.

Institutions Institutions are the structures of a society within which values and norms are transmitted.


Things, or aspects of material culture —derive from a culture's values and norms. Clothing Buildings Tools etc

Mechanisms of Cultural Change -


• Acculturation is the exchange of cultural features that results when groups come into continuous firsthand contact.

– Dominate cultures usually push

– Acculturation- the weaker of the two adopts the dominate-

Colonialism- Imperialism

• This leads to Assimilation- the weaker culture adopts all of the dominate culture- African-Americans in the 20’s

– English Language vs. the USA

• A pidgin is an example of acculturation, because it is a language form that develops by blending language elements from different languages in order to facilitate communication between populations in contact (e.g. in trade relationships).

Assimilation, Transculturation

• Diffusion happens as we come into contact with each other

– Cultural Convergence- two cultures adopting each others traits- Swahili

– Transculturation- Mutual exchange-

• Independent Innovation- Creating similar innovation without interaction-

Pyramids, Agriculture, domestication-


Folk and Pop Culture

• Folk Culture- Smaller region and Number

– Isolated- Long lasting Cultural traits

– Amish, Geisha, Music, Housing, Country Music in the Appalachian Mountains

– Spread through Relocation Diffusion

• Pop Culture- Mass Diffusion-

– Folk usually do not accept or have never been exposed


• Maladaptive Diffusion- Impractical cultural trait

– Blue Jeans, Rap Music,

• Cultural Imperialism- Imperialized the culture-

McDonalds, KFC etc..

– USA- Star bucks

• Rises to Cultural Nationalism

• Cultural Homogeneity- Destruction of Pop Culture

– Pop Culture and Consumption- Cars, Golf Courses, Water


• Taboo- Against the Cultural Norm- Judaism,

Hinduism, Islam


• Sentinelese-

• Sentinelese exercise complete autonomy over their affairs and the involvement of the Indian authorities is restricted to occasional monitoring, even more infrequent and brief visits, and generally discouraging any access or approaches to the island. It is therefore de facto autonomous.

• In 2006, Sentinelese archers killed two fishermen who were fishing illegally within range of the island.

The archers later drove off, with a hail of arrows, the helicopter that was sent to retrieve the bodies

Types of Social Customs

• First type

Customs which are derived from basic human needs – especially food, clothing and clothing

The methods people choose to meet these needs result in varying landscapes around the world.

• Second type

– Related to people’s choices in leisure activities

– Leisure activities = arts & recreation


• Arts – literature, performing arts & visual arts

• Leisure activities involves recreation, both active, such as sports, and passive, such as television viewing or listening to music.

• Cultural Landscapes

• In monochronic cultures, the belief is that time is fixed and people need to regulate their lives by it

• In polychronic cultures, the belief is that time is the servant and tool of people.

Space Concepts

• The western cultures focus their attention on objects, and neglect the space in between.

• The Japanese, on the other hand, honor the space in between as ma .

• In a different system, the Hopi Indians have in their language no words for a fixed room: all objects are described in their relation to each other, but no concept of a three dimensional space exists.

• Also the way we deal with space is different.

– The concepts of the private space, the space orientation, the interpersonal distance and the space design.

Culture Regions and Realms

• Cultural Regions- drawn around people with similar culture

– People often share regional identity- regional identity common culture or emotional attachment

• Leads to perceptual regions (Vernacular)- China Town-

Alabama vs. Tennessee

– Cause problems so we often use a cultural icon- Cowboy-

Jersey Shore

– Cultural Realm (geographic)- Merging large cultures together- Anglo-America, Latin America,

Europe, Sub-Saharan, Slavic, Sino Japanese, Indic, austral-European

Wine Production per year

The distribution of wine production shows the joint impact of the physical environment and social customs.

Hog Production & Food Cultures

Annual hog production is influenced by religious taboos against pork consumption in Islam and other religions. The highest production is in

China, which is largely Buddhist.

• A social custom originates at a hearth, a center of innovation.

• Folk customs tend to have anonymous sources, from unknown dates, through multiple hearths

• pop culture generally has a known originator, normally from MDC’s, and results from more leisure time and more capital.

– EX: Folk music tells stories or conveys information about daily activities.

• That terrible polka music you listen to at a family reunion

• Call out songs from slavery, chariot

– Pop music is written by specific individuals for the purpose of being sold to a large number of people.

• TI, Katy Perry, Gagnam Style

• Diffusion of folk and pop culture differs:

– Folk customs tend to diffuse slowly and then, primarily through physical relocation of individuals.

– Pop customs tend to diffuse rapidly and primarily through hierarchical diffusion from the nodes. (Certain fads can diffuse contagiously)


• Give an example of each region using a global relationship (country)

• Draw an example of a cultural Icon for each region

• Explain and give a current example of

Acculturation- Assimilation- and Transculturation

• Popular Music

Popular music is written by specific individuals for the purpose of being sold to a large number of people. It displays a high degree of technical skills and is frequently capable of being performed only in a studio with electronic equipment Origin of Popular music It originated around

1900.The first music industry was developed in New York along the

28th streets between fifth avenue and Broadway, to provide songs for the music hall and vaudeville. This area later came to be known as Tin

Pan Alley.

Diffusion of American popular music started during the World War II.

English became the language of popular music.

• Hip Hop

A more recent form of popular music. Originated in the south Bronx,

New York, in the late 1970’s.It spread to Oakland and Atlanta in the late

1980s.Then to large cities in the South, Midwest and West

• Blue Grass

– Mumford and Sons

• Julia Fallows

• Prince Royce

• Kpop

• Fine China- Chris Brown

Key Issue 2: Why is folk culture clustered?

• ISOLATION- promotes cultural diversity as a group’s unique customs develop over several centuries.

– Folk culture varies widely from place to place at one time. Since most folk culture deals in some way with the lives and habits of its people, the physical environment in which the people act has a tremendous impact on the culture.

Clustering of Folk Cultures

• Isolation promotes cultural diversity

– Himalayan art

• Influence of the physical environment

– Distinctive food preferences

– Folk housing

– U.S. folk house forms

Himalayan Folk Cultural


Cultural geographers have identified four distinct culture regions based on predominant religions in the Himalaya Mountains.

Broadly Defined Cultural Areas

The 5,000 Worldwide Indigenous


Folk Culture – rapidly changing and/or disappearing throughout much of the world.

Guatemalan Market

Portuguese Fishing Boat

Turkish Camel Market

• People living in folk culture are likely to be farmers growing their own food, using hand tools and/or animal power.

• Local food preferences are a large part of the folk customs of that region.

– Pork vs. Beef, Fish vs. Red Meat, Bread, Chicken etc..

• Religious, social, or economic factors often determine the type and amount of food consumed in a given region.

Hog Production and Food Cultures

Fig. 4-6: Annual hog production is influenced by religious taboos against pork consumption in Islam and other religions. The highest production is in China, which is largely Buddhist.

How did such differences develop ?


• Housing preference is another major contributor to folk culture. Local traditions, as well as environmental factors determine the type of house that is built in a region.


House Types in Western China

Four communities in western China all have distinctive house types.

Effects on Landscape: usually of limited scale and scope.

Agricultural: fields, terraces, grain storage

Dwellings: historically created from local materials: wood, brick, stone, skins; often uniquely and traditionally arranged; always functionally tied to physical environment.


The Cultural Landscape and


• Land Survey- parceling methods of land

– Nucleus- English Settlements including the

USA- Nucleus and farm around it

– Metes-and-Bounds- Natural boundaries

• Leads to issues when the boundaries move

– Rectangular land survey- USA after


• Put it on a grid

– Long Lot System- found in French areas of the USA and areas the Spanish came

• Found with a river at the front for the soil

• Derelict Landscape

Consumption Landscape

The Citarum River in Indonesia.

• Corn Belt

• Nodes Navigation


– a restriction on behavior imposed by social custom.

– Ex: little to no pork is consumed in predominantly

Muslim countries.

Food Taboos:

Jews – can’t eat animals that chew cud, that have cloven feet; can’t mix meat and milk, or eat fish lacking fins or scales;

Muslims – no pork;

Hindus – no cows (used for oxen during monsoon)

Taboo Project

Washing Cow in Ganges

Folk Culture Review

• Stable and close knit

• Usually a rural community

• Tradition controls

• Resistance to change

• Buildings erected without architect or blueprint using locally available building materials

• anonymous origins, diffuses slowly through migration. Develops over time.

• Clustered distributions: isolation/lack of interaction breed uniqueness and ties to physical environment.

North American Folk Culture Regions

Key Issue 3: Why is popular culture widely distributed?

• Pop culture, compared to folk, varies widely from time to time in a given place. This is due to its widespread and rapid diffusion, and the relative wealth of the people to acquire the materials associated with pop culture.

Pop culture flourishes where people have sufficient income to acquire the tangible elements of the culture and the leisure time to make use of them.

• Housing in the US, from the 1940’s on, has been less dependent on what type of house is appropriate for what site or region, but more on what the dominant trend is in the architectural field at the time of construction.

U.S. House

Types by


Small towns in different regions of the eastern U.S. have different combinations of five main traditional house types.

• The most prominent example of pop culture in the realm of clothing is the mighty blue jeans. They have become a symbol of youth and “westernization” throughout the world. Many people in foreign countries are willing to depart with a week’s earnings just for a pair of

Levi jeans.

Clothing: Jeans, for example, and have become valuable status symbols in many regions including Asia and

Russia despite longstanding folk traditions.

• Food preferences in pop culture depend on high income and national advertising. The spatial distribution of many food or beverage trends are difficult to explain.

• Wine is generally consumed in areas where the vineyards grow best, and where people can afford to drink it.

• Religious taboos often are responsible for certain areas’ preference or dislike of specific foods, much as in folk custom.

– Ex: Wine is rarely consumed outside Christian dominate countries.

Beijing, China




CULTURE. It is also the most popular leisure activity in

MDC’s throughout the world. There are four levels of television service:

– Near universal ownership. US, Japan, Europe, etc.

– Ownership common, but not universal. Latin American countries, etc.

– Ownership exists, but is not widely diffused. Some African and

Asian countries,

– Very few televisions. Sub-Saharan Africa, some regions of Mid


Diffusion of TV, 1954–1999

Television has diffused widely since the 1950s, but some areas still have low numbers of TVs per population.

Much media is still state-controlled.






Ten Most Censored Countries:


North Korea


Myanmar (Burma)


Equatorial Guinea










Source: The Committee to Protect Journalists.

Diffusion of


1954 - 2005

Television has diffused widely since the 1950s, but some areas still have low numbers of TVs per population.

• Diffusion of the Internet is following roughly the same pattern as TV did at the start, which is the

U.S. has a disproportionately large share of the

Internet hosts compared to its share of the world population. As the Internet increasingly becomes the people’s resource of choice, pop culture will have yet another conduit to rapidly and effectively diffuse to nearly every inhabited place on the planet.

Distribution of

Internet Users,

1990 - 2005

Internet users per 1000 population. Diffusion of internet service is following the pattern of TV diffusion in the 20th century, but at a much faster rate.

Internet Connections

The Internet is diffusing today, but access varies widely.

Internet Connections

The Internet is diffusing today, but access varies widely. Some countries censor the Internet, but this is much harder to do.

Key Issue 4: Why does globalization of popular culture cause problems?


• Three MDC’s, the U.S., the U.K., and Japan, virtually control the television industry.

– At least one of the three serves nearly every LDC on Earth.

• The U.S. serves primarily Latin America

• the U.K. serves primarily Africa

• Japan serves mainly S. and E. Asia.

• Many LDC leaders claim that because the “westerners” own nearly all of the TV broadcast within their countries, a fair, unbiased report of local news is not presented.

Instead, the media focuses only on sensational, ratingboosting stories.

Why Does Globalization of Popular

Culture Cause Problems?

• The basic problems related to social customs derive from

– the increasing dominance of popular culture, originating in more developed countries, and

– the diffusing more rapidly around the world than in the past due to modern communications.

• This increasing dominance of popular culture poses two problems:

– the threat to survival of distinctive folk customs and

– increasing pollution.

Impacts of the Globalization of

Popular Culture

• Threats to folk culture

– Loss of traditional values

– Foreign media dominance

• Environmental impacts of popular culture

– Modifying nature

– Uniform landscapes

– Negative environmental impact


The Generational and Cultural

educated, widely traveled, fluent in several languages.

• The elder woman, mother of the younger, is a biochemist, married to a prosperous businessman in


• Her daughter (in a PVC catsuit of her own design) is a model and former host on the music video channel VTV.

• Parents vs. You!!

Marboloro Man in Egypt

Problems with the Globalization of

Popular Culture

Western Media Imperialism?

 U.S., Britain, and Japan dominate worldwide media.

 Glorified consumerism, violence, sexuality, and militarism?

 U.S. (Networks and CNN) and British (BBC) news media provide/control the dissemination of information worldwide.

 These networks are unlikely to focus or provide third world perspective on issues important in the LDCs.

Abu Dubai

New York City




• Pop culture is less likely than folk to be considerate of physical features.

For many popular customs, the environment is something to be modified to enhance a product or promote its sale.

• Ex: golf courses, destruction/modification of large expanses of wilderness to promote a popular social custom.

Problems with the Globalization of Culture

Often Destroys Folk

Culture – or preserves traditions as museum pieces or tourism gimmicks.

Mexican Mariachis;

Polynesian Navigators;

Cruise Line


Change in Traditional

Roles and Values;

Polynesian weight problems

Satellite Television, Baja California

Popular Culture

Effects on Landscape: creates homogenous,

“placeless” (Relph, 1976), landscape

• Pop culture also promotes uniformity of landscape, as evidenced by the prevalence of nearly identical fast-food restaurants at convenient stops along highways.

Complex network of roads and highways

 Commercial Structures tend towards ‘boxes’

Dwellings may be aesthetically suggestive of older folk traditions

• Planned and Gated Communities more and more common

Surfing at Disney’s Orlando Typhoon Lagoon

Are places still tied to local landscapes?

Disconnect with landscape: indoor swimming pools? desert surfing?

McDonald’s Restaurant, Vencie

Swimming Pool, West

Edmonton Mall, Canada

Dubai’s Indoor Ski Resort

Muslim Women in Traditional Dress at

Indoor Ski Resort

Environmental Problems with

Cultural Globalization

Accelerated Resource Use through Accelerated


• Furs: minx, lynx, jaguar, kangaroo, whale, sea otters (18 th

Century Russians) fed early fashion trends

• Inefficient over-consumption of Meats (10:1), Poultry (3:1), even Fish (fed other fish and chicken) by meat-eating pop cultures

Mineral Extraction for Machines, Plastics and Fuel

New Housing and associated energy and water use.

Golf courses use valuable water and destroy habitat worldwide.

Pollution: waste from fuel generation and discarded products, plastics, marketing and packaging materials

Beijing, China

Palm Springs, CA

Marlboro Man in Egypt

Benefits of Economic and Cultural


Increased economic opportunity?

Higher standards of living?

Increased consumer choice

More political freedom?

More social freedom?

• Is Globalization good or bad?

Explain using the text to back your answers

World Values Survey

Everyone Has a Culture –

Everyone is Different


What languages do you speak?


What music do you listen to?


What dances do you know?


What food do you eat at home?


In your family, what is considered polite and what is considered rude? (what manners have you been taught?)


What do you wear on special occasions?


How important is your extended family (e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)?


What holidays and ceremonies are important to your family?


What things are most important to you?


Based on your answers, how would you describe the characteristics of the culture of which you are a part?

The End

• Sources cited:

– Rubenstein, James M. An Introduction to

Human Geography . Prentice-Hall, Inc. Upper

Saddle River, New Jersey. 2002.

– Jordan-Bychkov, Terry G. The Human Mosaic.

New York. W. H. Freeman and Company. 2003.

– Paradis, Tom. Architectural Styles of America. ndex .html.

• Rubenstein, James- Cultural Landscape; An

Introduction to Human Geography

• ultural_lectures.htm



Ike Heard syllabus.html

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