I think this may be how pop culture works:
I know this guy (Lemmy)
I know this guy’s band (Motorhead) and probably have the ability to recognize its logo.
But I have no clue what this band sounds like and other than reading a portion of this article, I cannot name any Motorhead songs (other than “Ace of Spades,” which, according to the article is the band’s “iconic” song … which makes me think I heard it on a VH1 Top 100 Metal Songs, something-or-other …)
The fact that I know this (without truly “knowing” in the experiential definition of the word … which I’ll address later), aligns me with a certain type of people (most likely white, most likely male, most likely of a certain age and musical taste).
This information is called “cultural knowledge.” When I am in a conversation and I use this knowledge, it becomes “currency,” in the sense that I am giving this knowledge in the hopes that my knowing it will return some sort of benefit, usually tied to the idea of respect (since I know the tidbit). Exchanging the information also brings out the identification with the type of people who would commonly know this information.
As for pop culture “knowledge,” the idea of “knowing” without truly having “knowledge,” calls to mind Postman’s use of “The Judgment of Thamus,” in his book Technopoly. In it, King Thamus says of writing:
“As for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction. and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant” (p. 4)
It seems the same with pop culture knowledge. Most of us”know” about things in popular culture without truly experiencing them. We walk in a sea of information the same way we walk through air. We pick up certain tidbits of it and use it in order to be thought wise, but, in reality, we are just prophets of trivia.
But, at least it keeps the small talk moving at parties, doesn’t it?