Cultural Common Ground Gets Harder To Come By In an age of ever-increasing media options, water-cooler conversation doesn't come so easily. When The Cosby Show was at its peak in the late 1980s, the show's audience was nearly 30 million. Today, Two and a Half Men is the nation's top-rated show, with 15 million viewers.
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Cultural Common Ground Gets Harder To Come By

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Cultural Common Ground Gets Harder To Come By

Cultural Common Ground Gets Harder To Come By

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Elizabeth Blair gets us started.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: So, what is this called?

CASEY RAE: The academic word for this is disintermediation.

BLAIR: Casey Rae-Hunter heads up the Future of Music Coalition.

RAE: But that's a mouthful, so fractured culture works just fine.

ALYSSA ROSENBERG: Fractured implies that something is broken. It's wounded.

BLAIR: Alyssa Rosenberg writes a column for The Atlantic. She prefers another word.

ROSENBERG: The fragmentation of culture is a wonderful thing.

BLAIR: And Mark Lopez of the Pew Hispanic Research Center was just confused when I asked him about fractured culture.

MARK LOPEZ: Hmm, I was actually going to ask you what it means. I wasn't sure exactly what it means.

BLAIR: But he took a stab at it, explaining the fracturing he sees in the Latino population.

LOPEZ: For example, young Latinos are straddling two different cultures. They're straddling the culture of their immigrant roots, but also an American culture as well.

BLAIR: Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (as Character) (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF TV PROGRAM)

BLAIR: Unidentified Group: Surprise.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV PROGRAM, "MODERN FAMILY")

DAN SCHNEIDER: A really great comedy that's popular and new that's on the air right now.

TY BURRELL: Unidentified Woman #2 (Actress): (as Character) No, no. I'm sorry.

BURRELL: Unidentified Woman #2: (as Character) Oh, my god.

BURRELL: (as Phil Dunphy) Yeah. Our kids walked in on us.

SCHNEIDER: But if you go walk around the streets or if you go walk around the mall and say, hey, did you see last week's "Modern Family," you know, how many people out of 10 are going to say, oh, yeah, I saw it? The television markets are so nichey that even a popular show isn't watched by, you know, most people that you're going to run into.

BLAIR: The music industry, same thing. Casey Rae-Hunter of the Future of Music Coalition says this fragmentation has opened up the world for creators and consumers alike.

RAE: The arrival of the Internet to some degree leveled the playing field, and that allowed, you know, a plethora of folks who otherwise would've had no shot of getting on, say, commercial radio to be heard. It's really an amazing time to be a fan.

FAY FERGUSON: It's ushering in a totally different era of communication.

BLAIR: Fay Ferguson is co-CEO of Burrell Communications, an African- American ad agency founded 40 years ago.

FERGUSON: Based on the principle that black people are not dark- skinned white people.

BLAIR: And, says Ferguson, that African-Americans are a separate, viable market. She says there have always been many American cultures.

FERGUSON: This has always existed, but technology has been an enabler. So that now there's actually a way to get to these smaller groups efficiently.

BLAIR: Alyssa Rosenberg of The Atlantic says maybe, but she also thinks it will make us appreciate the mass cultural events that do occur even more, like the end of the "Harry Potter" series or when Michael Jackson died.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAN IN THE MIRROR")

MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) I'm going to make a change for once in my life.

BLAIR: His death affected millions, whether you're a fan or a former fan or just recognize his influence.

ROSENBERG: It was enormous because we were united in a way that we aren't normally. It added significance to the event.

BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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