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Course A. Persuasion in Popular Culture

Alumnae Continuing Education

Course A. Persuasion in Popular Culture

Tuesdays, 10:00-11:30 a.m. (CDT)

Instructor: Irv Rein, Professor, Communication Studies

This course meets on Tuesday mornings beginning on June 22. 

Popular culture figures are some of the most powerful and persuasive on the planet. This course will challenge you to think critically about media darlings, commercial fads, social movements, and appeals to targeted and mass audiences. Each lecture will be accompanied by relevant, visual examples. By examining the hot topics of yesterday and today, we will answer some crucial questions. How is popular culture defined, and what is its relationship to persuasion? Who are the real creators of popular culture? How does it impact us on a daily basis? What are the key elements and theories of what works and what doesn’t? The course tackles a wide range of persuasive strategies, from traditional to cutting-edge, that can affect every aspect of daily life. The music you hear, the car you drive, the food you buy – they are all vying for your attention and devotion.

June 22  How Is Popular Culture Persuasive?

Popular culture is changing all the time, but there are foundational elements that are critical to understanding it at any point in time. In this opening lecture, we will survey the evolution of popular culture throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Seen through this historical lens, it is evident that technology has played a critical role in what succeeds in the popular market, and under which circumstances. We will also consider the evolution of popular music – from the invention of the gramophone, to the advent of the microphone and electrified instruments, to where we are today with highly-automated production, recyclable fads, and manufactured stars.

Jun. 29  “Image”

There are different methods of crafting and perceiving identities in popular culture. We will discuss the strategies of crafting an image, and how it differs from others like “brand” and “ethos.” What helps build an effective image? Dance, music, and acting help to build brands, images, and ethos. All of these become part of a highly-persuasive strategy built on minimal information. Not every strategy will work for every star. Elegant dancing was a major image-builder for Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers during the Depression of the 1930s – whereas Elvis Presley’s singing was a personification of an empowered youth culture in the 1950s. Image and its related strategies are woven into the fabric of popular culture, which would not be nearly as persuasive without them.

Jul. 6 Media Distribution

How are you choosing to spend your time and money on entertainment and information? Popular culture reaches its audience through a number of channels. We will discuss the breadth of distribution channels and illustrate how each is differentiated. From televised poetry to Hollywood comedies, podcasts to sports-streams, channels compete for your attention. Today, the number of choices has never been greater. The emphasis of this lecture will be upon their similarities and differences in how they are received by audiences. In today’s fast-paced media market, producers seek a competitive edge to cut through the myriad of media choices.

Jul. 13 Supermarkets and Environmental Rhetoric

What do supermarkets have to do with popular culture? It might seem like a stretch because food is so easily taken for granted, but the industry generates trillions of dollars and incorporates the dynamic elements of popular entertainment that are so persuasive. There are a myriad of ways to buy food, from the boutique Amazon Go-style stores and elaborate megastores, to stores that are only located online. The modern supermarket incorporates lights, sound, color and movement to encourage purchases – just like entertainment. Each generational change in supermarkets has reflected new technologies and fewer employees. Today’s youngest consumers are more interested in efficiency, personalized experiences, and convenience. We are witnessing unprecedented levels of automation, drone-deliveries, and consolidated mega-corporations. The food industry survivors will incorporate popular culture strategies, while delivering food in unprecedented ways.

Jul. 20 Television Comedy

Storytelling is important to sitcoms and other communication fields such as marketing, public relations, and advertising. Much of TV comedy is about overcoming obstacles that reflect everyday experiences. Celebrated sitcoms combine formulaic structure and production with creative, resonant writing – Friends and Seinfeld are two very different takes on the apartment comedy, yet both were runaway successes. We will look at the history of sitcom, and see how the format has evolved to where it is today. The world of the network sitcom is ever-changing, and is now giving way to diversified streaming content. The new school of televised comedy uses many of the same tactics of the TV giants of the 20th century, but the technology, values, and takeaways reflect today’s audiences..

Jul. 27 High Visibility

The world of popular culture is built around celebrities. Their high visibility establishes them as models for our behavior, and guides for how to interpret popular culture. Underpinning all of this is how easily stars can be morphed and manufactured, and ultimately venerated and detested. Today, the traditional filters for stars-in-the-making have disappeared. Distribution channels have become more accessible, adding spontaneity to celebrity-making. In this lecture, we will combine a summary of the class with a discussion of visibility-making; its success, and how it affects us in our everyday lives. We will also look at how the high-visibility industry has become commonplace in religion, politics, corporate life, and just about every corner of our society. Celebrity culture is the lens through which we interpret popular culture. Without stars, popular culture would not have nearly the same impact as it does currently.

Information is subject to change. Full course and policy descriptions are available at


• Each 6-week online course is $100.00.  Registration pays for access to a live webinar and limited-time access to a recording of each week’s 90-minute session.

• There are no multi-course discounts.

Per Diem pricing is not available for these courses.


• Registrations can only be purchased online at  A payment card is required.  No other forms of payment can be accepted at this time.  Neither the Norris Box Office nor the Alumnae Continuing Education group can process any other type of registration payment.  There are no exceptions.

• After registering for a course, you should receive a registration confirmation message from  It will be sent to the email address associated with your profile.  Though it is not your entry to the ZOOM class, it is important that you locate the confirmation as soon as possible. If you don't receive an email, it could mean that there is a problem with how your email address is listed in our system.  A typo in your email address could result in the Zoom link being lost.  You can correct your information by logging in at, clicking on your name in the purple bar at the top, and then on Edit Profile.

• To access the first webinar on June 22, your online registration must be completed by midnight, Thursday, June 17, 2021. If you register on June 18 or later, we cannot guarantee timely entry to the course on June 22, the first day.

• Your registration automatically includes temporary access to a recording of each remaining livestream session in the course.  You will be sent a separate link with a passcode to give you access to the recording for six days, ending when the next session begins. If you register late, you may not have access to recordings of livestreamed sessions that took place prior to your registration.

Your Zoom link and passcode are specific to your email and may not be shared.  Sharing your links may void your registration without refund.

• Given the limitations presented by the pandemic, support from customer service will be limited to email correspondence.  Please use the Help Form for assistance with any service issues.

• No new registrations will be accepted after July 8, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Late registrations are not prorated for missed sessions and will not allow for access to expired recordings.

Linking to Live Sessions

• You will be emailed a Zoom link invitation for each session on the Friday before the session is scheduled to be livestreamed.  The invitation will be sent from Norris Box Office <>. You will also receive an email reminder with the link one hour prior to the start of each session. Please check your spam, junk folder, or deleted messages if you don't see the email in your inbox.

• Plan on clicking on the Zoom link and joining the online session at least 10 minutes before the session begins.

Your Zoom link is specific to your email address and may not be shared.

• For a detailed guide on using Zoom, please click on the Alumnae Continuing Education Zoom Guide here.

Limited Access to Recorded Sessions

• If you cannot attend the live-streaming of the session, you may still view the recorded session for a limited time.

• You will be sent a separate link with a passcode to give you access to the recording of the session for six days, ending when the next session begins. 

• Your Zoom link and passcode are specific to your email and may not be shared.

    • Recordings CANNOT be downloaded.

    Refund Policy

    • If you intend to withdraw from a course, you must purchase a $10.00 cancellation fee by Sunday, June 20, 2021. A full refund will be processed to the payment card used for the initial purchase.

    • Registrations purchased after June 20 cannot be refunded.

    • No refunds will be given once the first webinar begins.

    • Credits are not given for future classes.

    • Contact the if you would like to transfer to another class offered during the same quarter.  There is no additional cost.  But you will have to wait until the following week to access the new course links.  Transfers may not be possible after the registration period ends.

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    Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive Evanston, IL 60208

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