Friday, March 27, 2015
Social Science, Room 415
" Cultural Objects as Prisms: Perceived Audience Composition of Musical Styles as a Resource for Symbolic Exclusion in the United States"
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Notre Dame
A key premise in the sociology of culture is that judgments of taste are driven as much by socially structured conceptions as to who constitutes the audience for a given cultural form as by inherent qualities of the object. This allows analysts to link seemingly individual acts of aesthetic judgment to collective patterns of symbolic inclusion and exclusion in the larger social field (Bourdieu 1984). While the hypothesis that cultural likes and dislikes are driven by the presumed connections between genres and their audiences seems like an eminently reasonable proposal (e.g. Bryson 1996), it has largely been indirectly inferred but never before been empirically assessed directly. To address this gap in the literature, we use a unique data set on the cultural tastes (likes and dislikes) of a representative sample of Americans (along 18 musical styles) that also contains information on the subjective perceptions of the audience composition for each style along a wide range of socio-demographic dimensions (e.g. race, age, gender, class, education). We find that subjective perceptions of the socio-demographic composition of the audience of musical styles modulate patterns of cultural choice in predictable ways, sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing the likelihood that a person will express dislike for a given style. We also find that these audience-perception effects are mediated by the respondent’s own social position in equally patterned ways.
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