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Paula Harper

Assistant Professor
Department of Music and the College

Paula Harper is a musicologist who researches music, sound, and the internet. She is interested in putting digital ephemera and oddities into broader context, hearing the musicality of online meme cultures, and tracking music’s creation and circulation across digital platforms and communities. Her current book project, “Viral Musicking and the Rise of Noisy Platforms,” documents the early 21st-century rise of ubiquitous social media platforms through an understanding of them as mechanisms for facilitating a virality that is deeply sonic and that can be productively analyzed as musicking. From Geocities and Webrings to Twitter and TikTok, the book charts a trajectory in which unpredictable virtual landscapes were tamed into entrenched channels and pathways, through exchanges between the vernacular work of digital actors and the top-down corporate attempts to capture, corral, and control their viral participatory practices.

Additionally, her research interests in music, gender, and digital fandom intersect in ongoing work on pop divas. She is co-editing the volume Taylor Swift: The Star, The Songs, The Fans, which uses Swift as a prism through which to analyze a variety of timely and intersecting issues in contemporary digital culture and music—from songwriting and copyright, to constructions of race and gender, to fandom and digital reception.

Harper holds an AB in music and English language and literature from the University of Chicago, an MA in music history from the University of Washington, and a PhD in historical musicology from Columbia University.

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