Picture This…

Family Photo
Family Photo- The Dilemma

Family Photo

Visual literacy has become a key component of young people’s engagement with the world. They are expert consumers and producers of visual texts and whilst the adults in the room might consider themselves literate in symbolism, for many of our students this understanding is intuitive. This post is largely prompted by a comment one of my blog group made about her subject’s interest in manga and the significance of this passion in terms of her post Year 12 studies. Whilst I was languishing over the dilemma of what to make my last  post and reveille about, I realised that it was right before me in the art work of my incredibly gifted nephew Elliot Crombie whose work festoons this post. Elliot at twenty-one, not only demonstrates the way that Popular Culture finds expression in his life but also the way that it has transformed his thinking, search for meaning and place in the workforce. Elliot makes social commentary, articulating his concerns and inspirations through the medium of his brush and pen. His respect for Buddhist teachings inspired beautiful paintings of ancient temples and statues and many studies of the Dalai Lama. The wisdom of Nelson Mandela found expression in large canvasses and his engagement with world issues and Popular Culture have lead to t-shirts and customised skateboards. He has his own T-shirt design company and sells his products at markets; he paints what he feels strongly about and his portraits are sold before the paint has dried. His skill with fine pens and brushes took him through years of skulls and tattoo designs and now, post Art Degree, he is apprenticed to a tattoo artist aiming to specialise in portraiture. Elliot is in the hub of responding to all that gravitates around him in his world, and his work resonates across the generations.

Family Photo

Family Photo

Family Photo

Family Photo

The disdain that many adults once felt towards tattoo artists has been replaced with a grudging awe or resounding respect. Evidence of this change in cultural attitudes is emblazoned on the skin of a large proportion of seventeen to twenty-five year olds of both genders. Once the branding of gangs, seamen and Islanders, tattoos have become an articulation of beauty, protest, remembrance and creative expression. Popular Culture has given creative commentary a place as a means of earning a livelihood which didn’t exist in the mainstream to the same extent ten years ago.

Family Photo

Family Photo  – Nelson Mandela – The Face of Hope

Art no longer belongs on walls or on bodies. One-of-a-kind skateboard deck that hang within a picture when not in use, emblazoned with distinct beautifully crafted graphics have given creative expression a new domain. Graffiti art such as Banksy’s work in Bristol has legitimized the form and whilst pointless tagging still takes place, the celebration of graffiti art can be found on castles (Kelburn Estate Ayrshire Scotland) and alley ways in our major cities. Young people are taking art off the walls and into the streets and doing so skillfuly.

Family Photo

Family Photo- Nightmare

Family Photo

Family Photo-Nexus

Family Photo

Family Photo-Dalai Lama Dreaming

Family Photo

Family Photo

Family Photo

Family Photo- Breaking Bad

Elliot like many of his generation, is carving himself a future of gainful employment and satisfaction with a confidence that commands respect. No longer limited to mainstream conventional career paths, he can craft his own, take diversions, all the time using and developing his visual literacy to communicate his vision of the world and get paid for it. Such optimism, courage and confidence is the legacy that these young people leave.

Family Photo

Family Photo

Elliot Crombie, Artist and Social Commentator.

Elliot Crombie, Artist and Social Commentator.

Elliot Crombie can be reached through Facebook.

Source: Family Photo

Source: Family Photo


Is The Dating Game Happily Ever After?

One of the most interesting things I think I have realised as I have explored Youth and Popular Culture, is that young people ”create a sense of self and a range of different identities in reaction and relation to these entertaining, seductive and, in this day and age, essential mediums” (Brooks K. , 2008). Whilst Brooks focuses on how identities are framed and developed, her words made me consider another aspect of life which young people are exploring through new technologies and social media; that of online dating. Once considered a sad refuge of the lonely hearts and last resort after failed attempts at connection, online dating has become a staple in the stable of options. According to Huntley, young people are more optimistic about life and arguably about finding love (Huntley, 2006). An interesting result of the adoption of internet dating sites is that “singles are becoming more picky, because Internet dating is enabling them to be more selective in larger pools of people. We’re definitely in a new era of the mating game. Singles can search the world, but most still prefer to meet people who live less than 23 miles away” (Brooks M. , 2001). The result of having such a choice may have broader consequences that move past the smorgasbord of partners and actually impact upon self-actualisation and self-esteem. Making choices, constantly looking for the upgraded version of who they think they might love and “Fear of Missing Out” (Shedden, 2013) may be possibly creating a deep dissatisfaction on a subliminal level. “Users are addicted to choice and their expectations have risen. By creating extensive checklists they may be closing their minds to possibilities” (Brooks M. , 2001). In fact they may be eliminating exactly the people they may need. “Singles use Internet dating like a virtual shopping spree” (Brooks M. , 2001, p. 3) and buyers remorse may have far reaching consequences.

In 2002 Wired magazine suggested that to look for love without using the internet “would be akin to skipping the card catalogue (read data base) to wander the shelves because the ‘right books are found only by accident” (Brooks M. , 2001) and we are seeing the normalizing of internet dating take place before our eyes. Dating is big business. Television shows aimed at twenty somethings, like Dating in the Dark, Farmer wants a wife, Beauty and The Geek, The Bachelor and Bachelorette, tap into the need for connection and choice, and dating agencies are not adverse to profiting from it. It was estimated that in 2011 over “113 million visitors went into personals sites worldwide” (Brooks M. , 2001, p. 3) and that $1.7 billion US dollars revenue would be taken in 2013 (Brooks M. , 2001). It makes me wonder if Popular Culture is being crafted to line even more pockets than I first thought. It is nice to think that such dating sites have a relationship seeker’s best interests at heart but the inability to proportionately establish and sustain relationships and the continual fear of missing out may be encouraged because it is profitable to keep the seekers seeking!

Another societal change which one has to wonder about is the capacity for cheating, lying about one’s marital status or development of online relationships, according to Brooks ”as few as 7% of profiles on Internet dating sites are wholly accurate which is a problem for users” (Brooks M. , 2001). When a seeker, already plagued by FOMO does meet a potential partner who possibly meets some of their extensive criteria, they have been positioned to see them in a particular way which may lightly resemble reality. The self-doubt and yet belief in an optimistic outcome keeps the cycle rotating.

I asked my twenty five year old nephew about online dating and whether any of his friends used sites to meet prospective partners. I was surprised when he said that two of his rather lovely mates had met their current girlfriends on E Harmony. I expressed my surprise and he looked at me quizzically, pointing out that one was a med student and had little time to invest in bars and nightclubs and that the other was really shy. The girls both young men were dating seemed to be lovely and to suit his friends. It made me reconsider the demographic that E Harmony was targeting. Where once it had older people, there had been a shift and recent advertising campaigns focused almost entirely on the twenty somethings. People are remaining single longer, have little time and are more migratory than they ever have been (Brooks M. , 2001).

I doubt Australia will emulate India’s reliance on Internet dating as the most used matrimonial service and whilst the scientific algorithms make closer matches, I ponder the relationships that are missed, where two totally different people are blindsided by the magic of serendipity. Perhaps divorce rates will drop as we blend into matches created by artificial constructs but I’d hate to lose the lessons and mystery that is part of being human.

The place of Rom-coms in making the  establishment of meaningful relationships is explored quite cogently in this cracked video. I hope that  you enjoy it.

CRACKED- Romantic comedies are seretly bad for you

And then there is the bizarre!

Works Cited

Brooks, K. (2008). An impossible passion: young people, contemporary popular culture and reading. Access, 20.

Brooks, M. (2001). How has Internet dating changed society? Internet dating executive alliance, 1.

Huntley, R. (2006). The World According to Y: Inside the new adult generation. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Shedden, M. (2013, June 16). Don’t have fomo? You’re missing out. Retrieved from The sydney morning herald: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/dont-have-fomo-youre-missing-out-20130615-2oavb.html

TUMBLR Dear Heaven!!!


Please find my sadly odd and curious Tumblr account by clicking the hyperlink above, it is filled with stuff, mostly adult age appropriate stuff  which pays some sort of service to the interests of teens who VERY reluctantly lead me almost blindfolded through the corridoors of Tumblr reblogging. Rules  I gleaned in the process..


2. You really are a doofus, official stuff doesn’t exist on Tumblr. SHEESH

3.  Please don’t go looking at my blog

4. I Mean REALLLY don’t go looking on my blog

5. I am deleting your Tumblr account in November!!!!

6. Get used to the sexual innuendo (like THAT is new!!!!) and don’t put  your adult brain in. It will censor where we don’t.

7. Don’t look at my blog.

8. This is a re-blogging site and easy to manage, just click the two reversed arrows to share.

9. Breathe..

10. Remember that a disclaimer exists…these re-blogs are real for the moment they are posted in and I lay no claim to them past the existence of my momentary interest.

11. Most of Tumblr is a creation of American girls  with unusual perspectives on life. Do not judge Aussie Tumblr accounts by American naff standards




Hours can and often times are, lost in the stream of memes, gifs, mash-ups, ‘ships, pictures, funnies et al and it was quite enticing to see whether my own interests and fandoms were evident. Fortunately they were, which either implies that I am really connected with my own teens and students, or, a big kid. I’m afraid I know the answer to that question but I’ll dispute it to the end and totally deny spending anymore than ten minutes creating the account. “Where’s dinner? What dinner, we haven’t had lunch yet!” OOOPPPS.

Pinterest-Now you see me- Youth and Popular Culture

Pinterest was also an interesting foray into social media blogging and reblogging sites. All areas of interest seem to be covered and the web of pins, pages and repins can lead you into a wonderful arena of discovery. Whilst I paid attention to the sorts of material young people are posting, I also found evidence of material that as a student of Youth and Popular culture which engaged me. Frankly though, Pinterest seems to be more  dominantly populated by middle aged women and when I inquired of a classroom of seventeen year old girls, who used Pinterest, they sniggered and looked at me with both disdain and pity. When I told them that I had sashayed through Tumblr they were aghast and seriously looked like I had violated some sacred code. I think their concern was more driven by what I might discover if I stumbled on their Tumblr accounts than the fact I also had one. Some were concerned that my innocence would be marred or lost. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that that particular horse had already bolted and taken the stable door off its hinges.

I found that the number of mash ups, ‘shipping (suggested and often times suggestive relationships between characters) in popular shows and films such as Supernatural, The Avengers and Dr Who got a lot of attention. The ability to shape the intimacies between favourite characters was impressive and through clever editing, demonstrated a keen interest and capacity in productive technologies.

All in all a very entertaining blog roll to post. As for my Tumblr account going up in smoke in November…We’ll see!

A Remix Culture or Productive Participatory One?

If teens simply remixed and mashed elements of popular cultural texts which, while transformative and creative, were limited by the sources, their work would be derivative; a remix of largely adult work tuned with a younger voice. However, youth today are far more sophisticated in their creative expression and the intertextuality of their work is often times very subtle and expressive. I talked with my daughter and posed some questions about her use of “down time”. The questions are listed below the video.

Questions Posed:

What do you like to do in your spare time?
What do you watch?
What do you read?
What is it about creating videos and reading  and viewing tv and movies that appeals to you?
How important is merchandise?
Is there a sense of belonging that comes from your engagement with popular culture texts?
You subscribe to Empire magazine and go to the movies regularly – do you do it simply for fun or is there another element to it?

There were a few more questions which resulted in a further several minutes of footage but we decided to can it. However Liv did talk about using YouTube as a vehicle to raise awareness for the social issues that are important to her. She isn’t alone in her engagement and a number of her friends share the same involvement. They are no longer willing to be passive consumers and engage with both reading and writing Fan-Fiction, creating their own visual texts and commenting on world events with the belief that their voices will be heard, at least to a greater extent than they would have otherwise.


School of Communication, American University (2009). Remix culture: Fair Use
is your friend
(video: 7 mins 33 sec). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCpBhU16TzI

Just how influenced am I by my and my children’s engagement with popular culture?

Platform 9 3/4, King's Cross Station, London © Laura Porter (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station, London
© Laura Porter (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

I am in the enviable position, thanks to the bank and accrual of long-service-leave, to be organising a twelve week trip overseas. It has been thirty two years since I last set foot on my homeland and I am sharing this incredible experience with my children, both of whom are close to the age I was when I left. In the hours, nay months spent trawling through different plans and possible itineraries I came to a realisation. Whilst I AM going to see family and to make so many new memories with which to bore my own grandchildren as my old age settles and their eyes roll back into their heads, I am also finding an inescapable motif. In nearly every location and there are a few, one of our fandoms operate. I am spending days tweaking itineraries to make allowances for tours of favourite film locations, studios, museums, walks and settings significant to one or other of our popular culture obsessions.

Once upon a time such a focus might have been almost incidental, but with the ease of information acquisition I am able to buy into the Hollywood vibe, share the Golden Age and place my hands on those of  stars whilst recognising locations from favourite movies. I can walk the streets of The Commitments in Ireland or the Dark Hedges of Game of Thrones Westeros; lose myself in J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh, sitting sipping tea in the Elephant Café opposite Edinburgh Castle imagining Harry Potter’s conception, or in London fly my own Nimbus 2000, walk Diagon Alley and thrust myself at the impenetrable wall of Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station, lamenting at being a Muggle. I’ll wend my way through Dr Who locations, see the TARDIS, travel to Cardiff for Torchwood, Captain Jack and Gwen. I’ll walk Abbey Road and follow Banksy’s trail in Bristol and check out  the red carpet in Canne. And why would I do this? The irony of chasing the shadows of mostly fictional characters across barely concrete representations of their realities isn’t lost on me. It isn’t because my children are pushing me to, nor because I believe that a fantastical world awaits me between the veils of such locations, (although C.S.Lewis always intrigued me), it is because, for me like so many others, these characters brave journeys to becoming that resonate with me. I may not have to contend with The Master (Dr Who) or Professor Umbridge (Harry Potter) but like all of you out there, I have had to deal with people who share their arrogance and self absorption and to see them vanquished is thrilling. Small victories that give hope. The lexicon of these fandoms and the experience of sharing more closely some of the locations, costumes, scripts and staging brings with it an exclusivity. Millions will do as I am doing but few of those close to me and mine will and it will be a treasure that the three of us will have shared; fuel for many stories and reminiscences while we each handle the Voldemorts and Cybermen in our lives. I guess to answer my opening question, I am a compliant victim of our popular culture obsession because it provides us a language of sharing and connecting outside of family duties and responsibilities. I can enjoy my children and my own childlike suspension of disbelief. We travel in November.


Courtesy of Flickr@ Horselips

Courtesy of Flickr@ Horselips5

Confessions of a Jenkins Fan-girl

In my foray into Jenkins world I took the opportunity to listen to him address educators on TED Talk. So much of what he said resonated with me and my understanding of this wonderful liberating culture of participation that technology is providing for those willing to step beyond their comfort zone, particularly in terms of engaging in or responsing to, popular culture. I delved further to see what the implications of such an engaging and powerful set of tools might be for youth culture and came across the following transcript of a TEDx delivery by David Dombrosky delivered in 2011.

Dombrosky, D. (2011, June 28th). The Art of Participatory Culture – Learning to Play WITH Our Audiences – See more at: http://www.technologyinthearts.org/2011/06/the-art-of-participatory-culture-learning-to-play-with-our-audiences. Retrieved from Technology in the Arts: http://www.technologyinthearts.org/2011/06/the-art-of-participatory-culture-learning-to-play-with-our-audiences/

In his delivery, Dombrosky notes how the participatory culture Jenkins affirms and the web tools that make that participation possible, surmount the barriers between people and ‘artistic and civic engagement’. Looking at the free tool Broadcaster and its applications and the Whitacre Virtual Choir illustrates the possibilities of participation for those willing to experience artistic expression from versatile if untraditional sources. He said “as an industry, we have spent so much of our time playing FOR the audience or playing TO the audience.  In order for our sector to thrive in this participatory culture, we must now invest a significant amount of time and energy exploring ways to play WITH the audience” (Dombrosky). Such a concept takes the idea of audience to a whole different level where rather than being relatively passive audience members, they become an essential part of the spectacle which feeds into the concept of “attraction” covered in the essential readings from the course so far.

The idea of informal mentorship discussed by Dombrosky makes so much sense. When one understands and uses different technologies, it is almost a reflex to help others as they venture into using tools familiar to you. Better yet is the use of the almost anonymous tutorials so easily accessible on the web which can be played and replayed.

Jenkins notes that in order for the participatory culture to operate successfully, the producers need to see that their contributions are accepted. I know this from my own experience with my own vlogmeister, Liv. The number of viewings and the location of her audience which she maps globally, encourages her to not only hone her skill and content but gives her validation in a world where her age and gender might disempower her.

For more Bentley-Hill Vlogs go to


Jenkins also notes the social connectiveness that is also an essential characteristic. For Liv counting subscribers, views and comments to vlogs simply affirm the social connectiveness but better yet is the support from other vloggers who provide the sense of belonging as well as suggested tips and improvements. Dombrosky explores this further in terms of an MP3 Experiment in New York which makes great viewing and greater reflection

All in all this transcript and accompanying visuals are a wonderful engaging and thought provoking read and view and well worth the time it takes for a visit.

Here is a link to Pop-Culture happy Hour free podcast.

So assignment one is done and dusted…

My support team

It was really interesting to read through the articles and chapters for assignment one. I chose to focus on youth and popular culture because it is a passion which has kept me connected to my students over the years. The affirmation of finding my own theories, born of experience and teaching practice was quite liberating. As a  bit of a fan girl and a bit of an oddity for my age and occupation, (at least in my student’s eyes), I enjoyed a frisson of pleasure and belonging to a group of educators who also understood that popular culture was a key not a set of handcuffs for young people; it enables, rather than disables them in a highly digitised changing world. Karen Brooks was particularly on point as was Fiske and Henry Jenkins was a wonderful find, since I hadn’t come across him before. I loved the way he explored participatory culture. How lucky are we to be able to get academic credit for exploring a pleasure?

My first post done, time for a cuppa and a rerun of Game of Thrones…

Stay tuned.

By the way…