Goethe Pop Serie


Goethe Pop Serie
Image: Jacob Franke

Cultural Icons. Patterns of Multimedia Condensation and Dissemination

The project focusses on the dissemination of literature, science, music and fine arts within everyday and mass culture. Represented as quotes, pictures, or combining both as memes, samples, jingles etc. cultural phenomena are present in everyday language, new media and thing culture. Taking this as a starting point, two crucial questions ariseĀ : 1. How are this phenomena culturally embedded and 2. How can we describe the social functions they fulfill?

Our approach to this phenomena is informed by the cultural icons theory. The research already done there provides first insights into the dissemination, circulation and transformation of arts and sciences within different media and cultural contexts. Furthermore, the theory points to a specific structure this everyday phenomena share with religious iconsĀ : they experience a transgression of their original meaning, accumulate an emotional surplus, posses a high degree of recognizability and represent a certain cultural value. They refer to a larger cultural context be it a cultural milieu, a lifestyle, a political, artistic or philosophical concept or at least an abstract idea of the so-called highbrow culture.

The functions mentioned above apply obviously to images, as iconological and iconographic approaches as well as research on secularized forms of cultural icons have proven. However, an analogous (inter)media compression of meaning can also be observed in the case of texts, music, or scientific concepts. It is appropriate to call these phenomena 'icons' when one realizes that even in the traditional (religious) sense, the icon as the image of the saint refers to a primary textual context and is thus a product of intermedial circulation.

Using this extended theory we analyze the multifarious reference structures, intermedial connections and recipient-sided appropriation processes of iconic cultural phenomena.

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