Radiohead and Postmodern Values

We’re talking about postmodern values in mass communication class. Our text identifies those values as populism, diversity, nostalgia and paradox. That’s a hard list to remember – I keep having to look it up. But when I saw these crowd-shot videos from Radiohead’s 2009 concert in Prague – those values began to make sense. I think Radiohead may be the ultimate post-modern band.

Populism: Radiohead used dozens of videos collected from their fans who attended the Prague concert. This seems to be consistent with Radiohead’s bold move in 2007 to release their In Rainbows album as a digital download for which buyers set their own price. That album won a Grammy and sold 3 million copies worldwide in digital and physical formats. This band has a relationship of trust and collaboration with their fans. Pretty populist.

Diversity: Diversity is described as a wild juxtaposition of old and new cultural styles. This sophisticated band could surely hire the best in videographers and filmmakers – yet chose to piece together video shot from cell phones and pro-sumer cameras. The audio track is gorgeous – totally professional. The video becomes more interesting just based on the knowledge that the fans shot it.

Nostalgia: This band has rejected cultural norms of charging a fixed price and only hiring professionals to handle all of their imagery. This could fit what what our text calls a response to the “evils” of our daily world and the limits of the purely rational. Given the feelings of powerlessness and alienation that marks the contemporary age – the move to include fans in building Radiohead’s image could be called one of nostalgia.

Paradox: “While modern culture emphasized breaking with the past in the name of progress, postmodern culture stresses integrating retro styles with current beliefs.” Media and Culture; Campbell, Martin, Fabos. p. 27. These videos are indeed a paradox – integrating non-professional camera with professional editing and audio production.

I’m liking the results – what about you?

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Filed under Adventures in Teaching Things Digital 2010, Videos

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