What Does It Mean to Span Cultural Boundaries? Variety and Atypicality in Cultural Consumption

What Does It Mean to Span Cultural Boundaries? Variety and Atypicality in Cultural Consumption

By
Amir Goldberg, Michael T. Hannan, Balazs Kovacs
American Sociological Review. April
2016, Vol. 81, Issue 2, Pages 215-241

We propose a synthesis of two lines of sociological research on boundary spanning in cultural production and consumption. One, research on cultural omnivorousness, analyzes choice by heterogeneous audiences facing an array of crisp cultural offerings. The other, research on categories in markets, analyzes reactions by homogeneous audiences to objects that vary in the degree to which they conform to categorical codes. We develop a model of heterogeneous audiences evaluating objects that vary in typicality. This allows consideration of orientations on two dimensions of cultural preference: variety and typicality. We propose a novel analytic framework to map consumption behavior in these two dimensions. We argue that one audience type, those who value variety and typicality, are especially resistant to objects that span boundaries. We test this argument in an analysis of two large-scale datasets of reviews of films and restaurants.