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April 22, 2011 / rosanna87

Using popular culture a popular thing to do

Wow, with a title like The top 10 things living on Lady Gaga (and you) I knew I was in for a treat writing this blog.  And right I was, the use of popular culture in this piece of writing works very well. In fact, I doubt I would have become interested in the topic at all without the insertion of the infamous meat-bikini-wearing celebrity’s name drop in the title.  The Author cleverly uses Gaga’s song titles as subheadings for each of his paragraphs, which not only breaks up the paragraphs nicely, but also led me to want to know how he could relate each of Gaga’s song titles to the topic at hand. My favourite quote would have to be:

Moving up, let’s not pause too long near the (meat) bikini line other than to say that our privates are riotous with life. They are what conservation biologists tend to call a “biodiversity hot spot.”

Here the author smartly uses references to one of Gaga’s most well known outfits, the meat bikini.  Yes you read that right.  I think the writer adds to the appeal of writing with popular culture by mentioning that he himself knows very little about Lady Gaga. I think this gives his point of view more weighting, as what credible scientist has time to learn about such nimblings as what is considered ‘popular.’ So my fellow Science Communicators, my proposition to you is how about adding a few ‘so hot right now’ Justin Bieber references into your science writing article, It’s sure to draw both the lovers and the haters in, like Biebers to honey (haha).

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  1. Aaron Cull / May 3 2011 9:15 am

    Part of the question is whether there are any pitfalls when incorporating popular culture into science writing. I’m interested to know whether doing so decreases the reliability of the article or perhaps creates a subconscious tendency to view the science with more scepticism (perhaps because it appears less professional).

    Did you come across any research that touches on this? If not, what’s your opinion on the possible pitfalls of including Lady Gaga in the article?

  2. rosanna87 / May 3 2011 9:30 am

    Hi Aaron thankyou for your very valid question. I did not come across any research on this, in my opinion using popular culture is a very usable feature for the blog format article, which is what the article is as far as I can tell, and from what I can tell articles of this nature are not the most professional anyway, but yes in more professional formats in an online science journal I would not reccomend it’s use. It really depends on the format.

  3. rohanmsmith / May 3 2011 10:01 am

    In my opinion there is definitely a loss of credibility using popular references in science writing, but for an informal media source (such as a blog) they’re acceptable. Blogs are all about interest to the reader, and relating a topic to something in popular culture is likely to increase your readers interest.

    It’s a double edged sword though – what if the reader isn’t familiar with the popular culture you’re referencing? I imagine they’re going to be less likely to read and as a result it has the inverse effect. Personally, I only know one Lady Gaga song by title, so the cleverness in the original article was lost on me.

    Another thing to consider, popular culture is constantly changing. Something that is relevent now may be completely forgotten in 2 years time. If you want longevity in the relevance of your work, perhaps pop culture references aren’t the way to go. In the case of blogs, this isn’t really a consideration as they’re updated frequently anyway, but for another information source I think relying on popular culture to increase interest may be detrimental.

  4. sarbrown / May 30 2011 4:54 am

    I absolutly love your title, it’s repetition works and flows well.

    I think you need to break up your blog into what the author wrote, his techniques and then what you thought about it. How you have it at the moment is a bit jumbled.

    For example, your comment: “Yes you read that right” after mentioning ‘meat bikini’, would be more applicable if it was placed after the first time you used the term, at the beginning.

    Also it would have been good to include examples about the song titles used and some information about the paragraphs and how they relate to the song title.

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