My name’s Rick Karr. I’m a journalist and teacher of journalists; musician, producer, and songwriter; and semiprofessional philosopher of technology and the arts. My journalism has appeared on a number of public television and radio shows. From 1999 until 2004, I was technology and culture correspondent for National Public Radio. I’m currently working as correspondent on a one-hour documentary on the internet and free speech for Bill Moyers’ Public Affairs Television. It will air nationally on PBS in October of 2006. I’m also acting director of the radio journalism program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
“TechnoPop” first referred to a six-part series tracing the history of technology’s impact on popular music which aired on NPR’s Morning Edition in 2002. After that, I started to expan and refine the material for a book. Then some friends and I expanded the idea into a proposal for a TV series.
But TechnoPop really is a way of looking at how technology affects creativity and the things we create. Its central principles are:
1) Humans employ technology in just about every one of their creative endeavors;
2) Any given technology forces a user to use it in a particular way — in other words, it imposes rules on how it can be used;
3) Those rules have a profound effect on the aesthetics of whatever the technology is used to create; and
4) Those rules influence the economic decisions that consumers of culture make.
You can summarize those principles with one question: “How do technological innovations influence the aesthetics and economics of [X]?” where [X] could be music, film, video, the written word, fashion, radio, and so on.
That’s just the starting point — a frame for analyzing what technology does to culture. It helps me think about history and report on new developments. But beyond that, TechnoPop suggests some conclusions about what technology should do to culture: enable creativity as widely as possible; help build creative communities and foster collaboration; grant consumers access to the widest-possible range of cultural content; and so on.
This blog is primarily about all of those ideas — the history, the analysis, the news, and the philosophy. It’s also about music — making it, recording it, consuming it, and enjoying it.
Inevitably, the blog also about politics, because these days we need as much political discourse as we can get. But TechnoPop plays a role there, too: The very idea of blogging represents a “TechnoPop moment” in the development of political culture.
I value collaboration and my collaborators highly, so I hope to see regular contributions from my good friends Dawn Aveline, Tom Casciato, Greg Henry, Joseph Pawlowski, Ron Pyke, Robert Salsbury, Steve Zimmers, and others whose names I’m too lazy to recall and alphabetize at the moment. I’m also encouraging my alpha-collaborator and partner Birgit Rathsmann to join in. I hope you all like what you see.