It was impossible to learn every new tool and actually understand not only it's technological but cultural implications — to master it.
The model instead was to just focus on something a bit older, that had a fixed architecture, so that even if it's outdated, if you just stuck with it and really investigated that interface, then you would be able to get something interesting and "contemporary" out of that tool. Otherwise you just end up being a superficial user of every piece of software that comes out.
But I think the big light bulb that went off when I started to work with Paper Rad was that there is something just as interesting happening when you are a superficial user of technology. A recreational Geocities user isn't interesting because he or she is a hardcore DIY "master HTML programmer" computer hacker wizard, but because of what he or she exposes about the Internet. I like the cultural mutant model: Geocities users were mutants who unconsciously stumbled on an interesting representation of how the Internet was affecting culture.
SFBG What is it that usually catches your eye culturally?
JC The relationship between ideas of authenticity and artifice. The version of celebrity that Paramore [a contemporary pop punk band] or Miley Cyrus represent is really interesting because it's wrapped up in a kind of conservatism, but it's also about being young and rebellious.
SFBG And you're attempting to exfoliate that gap between authenticity and artifice?
JC I'm interested in the possibly pointless task of trying to separate artifice from authenticity. I feel that a lot of times what I try to do is to help people who are cynical be a little more open-minded about what's happening around them culturally, so that they can possibly see that other people are struggling as much as they are to define themselves within this very limiting cultural soup. Or that these ideas of politics and constructions that we have in our head about who we are and what our beliefs are, are really, really rigid, and then by reevaluating culture that we deem as foreign or outside that we can rethink ourselves. I'm not trying to say that "we can all get along and we can all be friends." But there's something to that process of expanding your mind that is important.
This can be really hard to make work about because it can seem disrespectful sometimes. People, including myself, make art using images of people they have never met, and that becomes highly questionable — which in my opinion is a good thing. I think that questionable aspect of art can be productive if handled correctly.