Year in Review: People and Culture

Posted by on Jan 3, 2017 in Year in Review
People in a community participating in the tree planting activity. ImageZoo/SuperStock. MHE World

People in a community participating in the tree planting activity; Credit: ImageZoo/SuperStock

As a new years gets underway, btw takes a look at the people and events that caught our attention in 2016. Perhaps what people will most remember about 2016 is the astonishing number of celebrity deaths that occurred, from David Bowie on January 10 to Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds in late December. Along the way, btw took a closer look at a few of these celebrated lives, including musician Prince, boxer Muhammad Ali, golf legend Arnold Palmer, and astronaut John Glenn.

Here, some of the other events that shaped our culture over the last twelve months.

Digital Life

America became obsessed with Pokemon Go, which gained 21 million active users within one week of its release. Social media also played a bigger role in peoples’ lives than ever before; btw explored how even businesses began using social media as part of their recruiting strategy.  And as emojis became a popular way to accent texts and posts on social media, a Muslim teenager in Germany proposed diversifying emojis by adding a new one with a head scarf .

The increasing popularity of social media caused people to begin taking a more critical look at the way it shapes and influences our everyday lives and decisions. Facebook was accused of liberal bias in its “Trending Topics” feature. Later in the year, social media played a huge role in the 2016 presidential election, as viral fake news stories dominated headlines and President-elect Trump became the “first social media president” with his frequent and controversial tweets.

Music & Movies

Many of the most popular movies of 2016 featured familiar characters and storylines. In March, Disney announced that it would revive its popular Raiders of the Lost Ark series with a fifth installment, starring Harrison Ford, Ghostbusters was rebooted with an all-female cast, which stirred up controversy. And btw took a look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had the biggest opening weekend in American history.

Meanwhile, film awards and recognitions stirred up their yearly debates, with Woody Allen generating headlines at the Cannes Film Festival, and widespread criticism of the Oscars for their notable lack of cultural diversity in nominations.


2016 was a year for underdogs. The Chicago Cubs, who had not won a world championship since 1908, beat the Cleveland Indians in the seventh game of an historic World Series. Also, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship: the first major sports title for the Cavs in fifty years.

btw also took a closer look at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil amidst concern about Rio’s poor economy, crime rate, and the threat of the spreading Zika virus. This was followed up by the Paralympic Games (also in Rio), in which more than 4,000 disabled athletes from 160 nations competed. Also this summer, the members of the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay.

Arts & Culture

The Broadway musical Hamilton became a national sensation (3/3) and was nominated for a record number of Tony awards.

Museums also made headlines this year, as the newly-renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reopened after three years and showed the world how to use technology to push the limits of what a museum can do. btw examined long lines and high demand at the brand-new National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C. in September. Meanwhile, the Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to restore the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Dig Deeper Choose one of the many celebrities who passed away in 2016. Using Internet resources, write a short summary of that person’s life. Be sure to include his or her most important accomplishments, as well as the legacy that this celebrity leaves behind.