Article List | V8 Issue 1

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Evolving Awareness of Popular Culture and Pedagogy: A View into Celebrity, Song, Narrative, and Superheroes

As we enter 2021, we can see the evolving nature of popular culture and pedagogy emerging during times of social distancing. For instance, the SWPACA conference is being held virtually, for the first time in its 42 year history. In this issue of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, we have an opportunity to look across articles linking the way we think about our world through the lenses of popular culture and pedagogy. 

Using insights from a range of popular culture topics—song lyrics, the narrative behind video games, superhero story plots, and celebrity speakers—the articles provide readers with ways to think about learning. For those of us who are educators, we have the opportunity to consider informal and formal learning through popular culture. Across these works, the authors speak to questions such as what is the impact of celebrity speakers? How can we make sense of a “dystopic” present? How might superheroes help us to understand civics? And how can we make learning interesting?

In the first of the articles, we hear from Jena L. Hawk’s in The Power of Cool: Celebrity Influence in the Ivory Tower. In the text, she traces the development of trends underlying commencement speeches such as that of the initial emphasis on inspirational wisdom-filled lectures by a politician or a graduating star student to a move towards speeches delivered by celebrity speakers. Hawk discusses how this latter approach can serve the educational establishment by providing a means to promote itself and enhance its competitiveness, yet can also pose problems. Setting her essay within the framework provided by parasocial interaction theory, Hawk argues that this practice can be detrimental to the sense of identity of the public attending the graduation ceremony, and more worryingly, to members of the graduating class the celebrity is addressing. 

The ways we are affected by what we see and hear can be linked as well to other forms of cultural input, such as through gaming. In the second article in the issue, we hear from Marc Ouellette, in his article, Society Doesn’t Owe You Anything: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Video Games as Speculative Fiction. Here, Ouellette likens dystopian literature like Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, for example, and video games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to a type of speculative fiction in whose world issues from our current world are reflected, created, and predicted. More specifically, the tilt towards right-wing extremism that has been amplified in the U.S. during the Trump administration is reflected in GTA: San Andreas’ alternative world. Yet a key difference between dystopic literature and video games is the interactive nature of video games, which Ouellette argues acts as a means to mitigate issues faced in a dystopic world and offers a potential for developing solutions. 

As we move into the third article, we can consider the influence of the superhero as a cultural icon and its potential for pedagogy. In The Many Ways of Wakanda: Viewpoint Diversity in Black Panther and Its Implications for Civics Education, Justin Frank Martin demonstrates the possibilities of embedding popular fiction in the form of superhero films in primary school civics classrooms by highlighting key events presented in the 2018 film Black Panther. Hence, using the responsibilities of T’Challa the main character and superhero of Black Panther offers ways to consider issues of fairness, justice, and consequence. Martin formulates his explanation within the framework of social domain theory and draws a connection between the concepts embedded therein and the understanding children are believed to have of the world they live in. By highlighting the situations appearing in the film as well as students’ own behaviours that represent aspects of the theory, Martin points to ways these can be used to develop students’ ability to analyze and comprehend behaviours and situations, and thus bring about a better understanding of their own social worlds. Martin provides a possible pedagogical plan for approaches which could be integrated into teaching methodology.

The final article of this issue addresses eliciting freshman students’ media literacy to enhance engagement in first-year writing classes. In Guiding Students Down that “Old Town Road: Writing Pedagogy, Relatability and the Sitch,” Lynn D. Zimmerman addresses how many students, upon entering colleges and universities, may view writing classes as a burden, academic writing as foreign, and the subjects therein as unrelatable. Yet, for Zimmerman, this can be averted by incorporating topical and even controversial issues as demonstrated in social media feeds as a way to encourage discussion and debate. The author demonstrates how bringing these topics into the classroom can guide students away from a tendency to unquestioningly accept one point of view. Instead, she explains how an examination of lyrics such as in the rap-country song, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, can lead students towards being better able to evaluate, comprehend and explain different perspectives.

In the end, these four articles showcase the importance of adapting to and evolving with themes across popular culture to better understand students and ourselves. Just as the issue addresses an evolving state, so too is Dialogue evolving and adjusting to the needs of the community. We welcome Miriam Sciala as Interim Managing Editor and thank Kirk Peterson for his work. Also, we have brought to the team, Joseph Yap, as our new Reference Editor, who joins with Copy Editors, Rheanne Anderson and Robert Gordyn. Lastly, thank you to our Creative Director, Douglas CohenMiller and our robust set of peer reviewers. The entire team has moved through challenging times and we thank you all for your coordinated efforts and commitment to Dialogue and are pleased to share these works in Evolving Awareness in Popular Culture and Pedagogy.

Miriam Sciala
Interim Managing Editor
Anna S. CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

Suggested Reference Citation

APA

Sciala, M., & CohenMiller, A. S. (2021). Evolving awareness of popular culture and pedagogy: A view into celebrity, song, narrative, and superheroes. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(1). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/evolving-awareness-of-popular-culture-and-pedagogy-a-view-into-celebrity-song-narrative-and-superheroes/

MLA

Sciala, Miriam, and Anna S. CohenMiller. “Evolving Awareness of Popular Culture and Pedagogy: A View into Celebrity, Song, Narrative, and Superheroes.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2021. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/evolving-awareness-of-popular-culture-and-pedagogy-a-view-into-celebrity-song-narrative-and-superheroes/

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Guiding Students Down that “Old Town Road:” Writing Pedagogy, Relatability and the Sitch

Lynn D. Zimmerman, PhD
Governors State University
University Park, Illinois, USA
professorldz@yahoo.com

Abstract

This study draws on media literacy to suggest pedagogical techniques that aim to combat boredom and enhance student engagement in freshman writing classes. Students often complain they cannot relate to course work; they maintain that course materials do not connect to their real lives and are therefore uninteresting. Because writing classes can serve as an introduction to academic discourse and skillful writing promotes academic success, negative attitudes about writing matter. Instructors craft courses to achieve learning outcomes but also to foster the habits of mind effective writing demands. I contend that discussing and writing about timely, controversial topics from students’ social media feeds teaches them to identify the complex power structures at play in the materials they do find pertinent. Students gain confidence by demonstrating adept understandings of contentious issues and, in fostering this process, instructors neutralize the relatability problem by allowing students to choose the topics they deem compelling.

Keywords: Freshman writing, media literacy, student engagement, lesson plans, social media, pedagogical techniques

Author(s) Bio

Lynn D. Zimmerman is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and English professor who has taught at Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, John Carroll University, and Notre Dame College. Most recently she served as a visiting professor for Governors State University in Illinois. Her areas of teaching and scholarly interests include American Militia and Domestic Terrorism Discourse; Modern and Contemporary Novel; Horror Literature; British Victorian Literature; and Popular Culture Studies. Her article titled “Singing Truth to Power: Folk Music and Political Resistance in Steven Conrad’s Patriot” is forthcoming this spring in The Popular Culture Studies Journal. She is currently working on a project that explores metatextuality and counterfactuals in the standup comedy of Jim Gaffigan.  Zimmerman completed her BA and MA in English from John Carroll University and her PhD in English from Kent State University. More information can be found at Lynn Zimmerman PhD | LinkedIn and she can also be reached via professorldz@yahoo.com.

Suggested Citation

APA

Zimmerman, L. D. (2021). Guiding students down that “Old Town Road:” Writing pedagogy, relatability and the sitch. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 8(1). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/guiding-students-down-that-old-town-road-writing-pedagogy-relatability-and-the-sitch/

MLA 

Zimmerman, Lynn D. “Guiding Students Down that “Old Town Road:” Writing Pedagogy,  Relatability and the Sitch.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. vol. 8 , no. 1, 2021. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/guiding-students-down-that-old-town-road-writing-pedagogy-relatability-and-the-sitch/

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Society Doesn’t Owe You Anything: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas & Video Games as Speculative Fiction

Marc Oullette
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, Virginia, USA
mouellet@odu.edu 

Abstract

Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, popular and scholarly commentators have been looking for speculative and/or dystopic literary works that might provide analogues for the Trump-era. Perhaps the most famous of these was the renewed popularity of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In this regard, though, video games remain an underexplored fictional form. With its exaggerated and parodic satire of an America ruled by the corruption and greed of extreme right-wing populism, Grand Theft Auto (GTA): San Andreas (2004) offers a speculative fiction that players can enact as well as imagine, and simulate as well as prepare. Thus, reading the game through the lens of speculative fiction shows that GTA: San Andreas offers the kinds of intertexts, allusions, and parallels that Brabazon, Redhead, and Chivaura (2018) argue is essential for making sense of a dystopic present. 

Keywords: video games, game studies, popular culture, speculative fiction

Author(s) Bio

Suggested Citation

Marc A. Ouellette teaches Cultural and Gender Studies at Old Dominion University. He is an award-winning educator and is a Hixon Fellow.

APA

Ouellete, M. (2021). Society doesn’t owe you anything: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas & video games as speculative fiction. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(1), http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/society-doesnt-owe-you-anything-grand-theft-auto-san-andreas-video-games-as-speculative-fiction/

MLA

Ouellete, Marc. “Society Doesn’t Owe You Anything: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas & Video Games as Speculative Fiction.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2021. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/society-doesnt-owe-you-anything-grand-theft-auto-san-andreas-video-games-as-speculative-fiction/ 

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The Many Ways of Wakanda: Viewpoint Diversity in Black Panther and Its Implications for Civics Education

Justin Frank Martin
Whitworth University
Spokane, Washington, USA
jmartin@whitworth.edu

Abstract

Like many of its superhero film predecessors, Black Panther (2018) achieved widespread popularity both domestically and internationally. Although the film examines the focal character T’Challa’s (Black Panther) attempt to balance his dual responsibilities as king and protector of Wakanda, the viewpoint diversity displayed by its citizens suggests that the film’s central character is Wakandan society. Drawing on events and themes from the film, the essay argues that social domain theory (SDT)—a theory that attempts to explain the development of sociomoral concepts across the lifespan—provides a useful lens to examine Wakandans’ viewpoint diversity as portrayed in the film, specifically with regards to general similarities between the sociomoral considerations at the heart of the film, and those people bring to bear when understanding their social worlds. Moreover, the essay contends that such an analysis suggests that Black Panther (2018) may have some value for primary school educators as a potential aid towards their efforts to create learning activities related to civics education. 

Keywords: Black Panther, superheroes, society, education, social studies, children, civics, sociomoral development

Author Bio

Justin Martin, PhD is currently Assistant Professor of Psychology at Whitworth University. His research explores the development of social and moral concepts, specifically with regards to the ways we try to understand the decisions of other people as well as superheroes. He also writes for various popular press outlets such as Modern Treatise, PopMatters, and the Center for Scholars and Storytellers. For more about Justin and his research, visit https://justinmartin.academia.edu/

Suggested Citation

APA

Martin, J. (2021). The many ways of Wakanda: Viewpoint diversity in Black Panther and its implications for civics education. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(1). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/the-many-ways-of-wakanda-viewpoint-diversity-in-black-panther-and-its-implications-for-civics-education/

MLA

Martin, Justin. “The Many Ways of Wakanda: Viewpoint Diversity in Black Panther and Its Implications for Civics Education.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2021. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/the-many-ways-of-wakanda-viewpoint-diversity-in-black-panther-and-its-implications-for-civics-education/

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The Power of Cool: Celebrity Influence in the Ivory Tower

Jena L. Hawk
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Gulfport, Mississippi, USA
jena.hawk@mgccc.edu

Abstract

Since the earliest of times, student orations and student debates served as the main attractions at college or university commencement ceremonies. However, these elements faded over time, and commencement speakers, specifically politicians or academics, eventually replaced student performances. Often, the commencement speaker emphasized the students’ rite of passage into adulthood as well as the development of their moral character. During the 1800s, celebrities began to receive invitations to serve as commencement speakers, and since then, celebrity influence has increased greatly in higher education as celebrities now teach classes at colleges and universities. The use of celebrities allows colleges and universities to command the public’s attention as members of the public feel as if they have a relationship with these individuals. Using the theoretical framework of parasocial interaction theory, the researcher examines the role of celebrities in higher education, specifically those delivering the keynote commencement addresses and discusses related issues emanating from this seemingly commonplace practice.

Keywords: popular culture, celebrity, commencement speakers, graduation

Author(s) Bio

Jena L. Hawk, a life-long Mississippian, is a language arts instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She earned a doctorate of philosophy in higher education administration from The University of Southern Mississippi. Her research interests include the portrayal of higher education, particularly community colleges, in popular culture.  

Suggested Citation

APA

Hawk, J. (2021). The power of cool: Celebrity influence in the ivory tower. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(1), http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/the-power-of-cool-celebrity-influence-in-the-ivory-tower/

MLA

Hawk, Jena. “The Power of Cool: Celebrity Influence in the Ivory Tower.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2021, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-1/the-power-of-cool-celebrity-influence-in-the-ivory-tower/

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