jenn lena in freakonomics

Orgtheory friend and leading cultural sociologist Jenn Lena was interviewed for Freakonomics this week:

Q. You are interested in factors that determine whether particular musical styles, genres, etc., will gain mass appeal — or remain circumscribed to a small niche. Have you discovered something about the process of “influence” or “contagion” that the social network scholars have ignored or underemphasized? What does your work tell us about the role of networks in shaping popular tastes?

A.The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract. This is also true when disputes involve dueling scenes, like the fights between “mods” and “rockers” in the U.K. in the early 1960s or the battles between fans of heavy metal and punk that played out on the pages of Creem magazine in the early 1980s. It is equally true when outsiders attack: the Parents’ Music Resource Center’s efforts to ban heavy metal and rap music resulted in those Parental Advisory stickers. When rock fans staged the infamous Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park they may have kept disco in the limelight for an extra year.

The interview is filled with lots of other insights. Self-recommending!

Perfect Gifts for Grad Students Everywher: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz


Written by fabiorojas

December 20, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in blogs, culture, fabio

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks! Sudhir’s questions were really smart and challenging–it was fun to answer them. And no, I don’t think he should wear Spanx, despite my joke at the end.


    Jenn Lena

    December 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm

  2. “Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract.”

    I love that insight! I think it holds true for a lot of different sorts of public phenomena, including social movement activism, corporate speech, and foodie culture (e.g., foie gras). I’ll be sure to cite you Jenn when I borrow that phrase in the future.


    brayden king

    December 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

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