A television show you’ve never heard of is currently the next big thing in the US.
It’s a fly-on-the-wall reality show about a family of shootin’ huntin’ fishin’ Southerners who became wealthy from their duck hunting business, and the third season is breaking television viewing records.
I know a fair amount about Duck Dynasty, and yet I have never watched a minute of it. I doubt I ever will. But it is part of the cultural fabric of the US and the American-focused web milieu, and my understanding of human culture is more comprehensive for knowing about it.
I learnt about Duck Dynasty from a podcast, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. PCHH saves me a lot of time – one hour a week, and I’m up to date with a range of pop culture references that I would likely never have encountered otherwise. I’m leveraging the critical cultural apparatus of talking heads to diversify my investment in cultural capital.
My tendency to rely on outsourcing a lot of my cultural consumption is not unique. It’s indicative of a wider social movement. We are faced with such an overabundance of content that there is no time to read, watch, consume and participate in everything – and it has always been thus, but not to such a huge extent.
Reliance on review culture is not new, but it is evolving. The depth of review coverage has lessened to a large degree, as the breadth of available content stretches thin our attention. We’re faced with recommendation culture, and have become more discerning about what we consume in full, and what we merely glimpse – like Duck Dynasty.
Now, enough valuable time reading about recommendation culture, let me recommend some cultural recommendation systems.
Slate podcasts – the original and still often the best marker of what has captured the zeitgeist in any given week, these podcasts are discussions covering the most interesting happenings in their designated field – politics, culture, sport. They also have Spoiler Specials and Book Club podcasts, particularly handy for quick and dirty cliffnotes on that movie or book that everyone is talking about.
NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour – a weekly conversation about entertainment and pop culture events, with the podcast hosts sourced from the National Public Radio’s culturally-attuned writers and presenters. PCHH closes every week with a segment called ‘What’s Making Us Happy’, which is useful for cultural tip-offs ranging from the San Fermin album to the newest Broadway adaptation.
Vulture – there are a lot of entertainment news sites, but New York Magazine’s Vulture is frequently the informed, diverse and witty. Not only do they have the most up-to-date pop culture news, insider gossip and review coverage, but the style is playful and often more entertaining than the ‘entertainment’ it covers.
Book Riot – one of the most fun book sites, their tag line ‘Always books. Never boring’ is a succinct but accurate description. Their ‘Critical Linkage’ posts are particularly useful as a concise and amusing round-up of news from the world of books.
Slashfilm – this movie review site, and particularly their podcast /filmcast, features movie nerds talking about films in great depth, with background knowledge and differing perspectives. You’ll never need to see a movie again – but in case you want to, they break their podcast into two segments, clearly signposting the spoiler-laden coverage in the latter half of the recording.
What are your recommendation recommendations? Come tell me on that one recommendation engine to rule them all, twitter @annetreasure.
Anne Treasure is a recent survivor of the book industry.