Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change: "Pragmatism Not Idealism" (The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Series in Communication Studies)

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9781611478600: Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change:

Even prior to the field’s invention, Susanne Langer implied that the arts are all subtopics of Communication Studies. This unique project has effectively allowed the author to combine his backgrounds in the interdisciplinary fields of popular music studies, cultural theory, communication studies, and the practice of music criticism. This book investigates the fascinating and important work of the British group Radiohead, named by Time Magazine among its Top 100 Most Influential People of 2008, and focuses particularly on their landmark recording OK Computer (1997), a document preserved as part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2015. Probing the band’s exploration of the crucial issues surrounding contemporary technological development, especially as it relates to the concern of human survival, Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change is essentially a work of criticism that in its analysis combines what is known as ‘musical hermeneutics’ with the media ecology perspective. In this way, the author delineates how Radiohead’s work operates as a clarion call that directs our attention to the troubling complex of cultural conditions that Neil Postman (1992) identifies as ‘Technopoly’ or ‘the surrender of culture to technology’—a phenomenon that must become more broadly recognized and comprehended in order for it to be successfully confronted. This book’s distinguishing features include: 1) its edifying analysis of a richly profound and celebrated musical text; 2) its extended focus upon what Martin Heidegger famously refers to as ‘the question concerning technology’; 3) its use of the media ecology scholarly tradition at whose core lies communication study; and 4) its innovative and unique deployment of the affect-script theory of American personality theorist Silvan Tomkins in the study of musical communication.

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About the Author:

Phil Rose is current president of the Media Ecology Association and author of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd: The Concept Albums.


[T]he book offers a trained explication of some of the most significant outgrowths of media ecology and the novel introduction of affect-script theory. It should be a welcome addition to the libraries of scholars of popular music, those interested in media ecology, and all who hope to see affect—a concept in vogue across the humanities as of late—put to use in a sustained critical effort. (The Popular Culture Studies Journal)

Radiohead provides both an ideal subject and context for this tour de force demonstration of the power of media ecology. By treating the band’s activity as both ‘figure’ and ‘ground’, Phil Rose redefines activism in terms of its environmental effects, and initiates a new and highly accessible conversation about technology as moral philosophy. (Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens; author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture)

Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change: “Pragmatism Not Idealism” uses media ecology in conjunction with Silvan Tomkins’ theory of affect as frameworks through which to discuss the concept album OK Computer by Radiohead. In the process, Dr. Rose exposes and critiques the cultural conditions of the late 20th century, which Neil Postman adroitly refers to as technopoly, analyzing Radiohead’s interrogation of the multiple contradictions inherent in the world in which OK Computer was created. The resulting work is masterfully written and makes significant contributions to the fields of popular music studies, media ecology, ethnomusicology and cultural studies. (Rob Bowman, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, York University; Grammy Award winner and founder of popular music studies in Canada)

One doesn't need to be a student of Radiohead to appreciate what Phil Rose has achieved in this volume. He applies media ecological principles to music criticism and shows how exploring the ways in which new technologies have both positive and negative consequences can give us the awareness we need to bring about positive social change. (Joshua Meyrowitz, Professor of Media Studies, University of New Hampshire, author of No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior)

In this thought provoking and very timely book, Phil Rose has crafted a challenging, thoughtful think piece about life, technology and activism. Rose starts by asking, “How does one critically reflect upon the inexpressible?” and answers the question through the lens of media ecology, allusions to art criticism and affect-script theory...In methodologically deconstructing Radiohead’s Ok Computer, Rose asks for nothing less than a reexamination of what it means to be human in a technopoly that embraces technological dehumanization as a means to an end... (Brian Cogan, Ph.D, Associate Professor Communications Dept., Molloy College, author of The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal Music and The Encyclopedia of Punk)

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