Assistant Professor Paula Harper Featured in Tableau

Harper headshot


Paula Harper, Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and The College, was recently featured in Tableau—the magazine of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. In the article, Paula Harper discusses her current book projects: Viral Musicking and the Rise of Noisy Platforms and the coedited volume Taylor Swift: The Star, the Songs, the Fans.

In Viral Musicking and the Rise of Noisy Platforms, Harper explores cultural contagion, particularly the history of things going viral online. Harper explains that she is looking at online platforms that might not register specifically as musical platforms to the public, but that contribute to the broader musical ecosystem in some way. Her research asks: "What does Twitter or Reddit or Tumblr or TikTok have to do with music, with the music industry, with the way that music circulates?" Harper connects these questions about online platforms to the idea of fandom, examining how both the "generative and toxic sides of fandom have been afforded and amplified by digital platforms."

Harper's upcoming coedited volume Taylor Swift: The Star, the Songs, the Fans draws from participants at a two-day virtual conference that Harper co-organized in 2021 called “Taylor Swift Study Day: Eras, Narrative, Digital Music and Media.” Featuring speakers from musicology, sociology, and literary disciplines, the conference was at the forefront of concerted academic work around Taylor Swift and built on cultural conversations about fandom and social media, copyright, relationships between artists and labels, gender and race, songwriting, and celebrity and branding. Harper's book will similarly use Swift as a "prism through which to analyze a variety of timely and intersecting issues in contemporary digital culture and music."

To read the full article in Tableau, click here.


About Paula Harper

Paula Clare Harper is a musicologist who researches music, sound, and the internet. She is interested in putting digital ephemera and oddities into broader context, in hearing the musicality of online meme cultures, and in tracking music’s creation and circulation across digital platforms and communities. Paula holds a PhD in Historical Musicology from Columbia University, an MA in Music History from the University of Washington, and an AB in Music and English from the University of Chicago.