I’ve decide to start doing a series of posts on here covering some of the things that have inspired this blog, as well as other lists of digital things that inspire me!
I’m starting this with books. During my #mscret module, where this blog started, I had a list of books and articles on this blog which I recently removed. However I still wanted to highlight some of them and give a little explanation of each book. This is by no means a definitive list of great books on digital culture, or even all of the books that I like, but they are great reads and I would definitely recommend them!
1) The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
This book covers the early incarnations of the internet and how it developed – in terms of how people communicate and create online content. Anyone who has read most of the other posts here will know how fascinated I am by these topics! The thing that I really love about this book is that it really describes communities in detail – you can tell that the author really knew and understood these social microcosms well. In addition, while she discusses the issues surrounding online communities the writing never feels judgemental in any way, even when talking about pornography or trolling. She simply describes it. The Psychology of the Internet is a fairly old book now, but unlike many books on the internet that quickly begin to feel dated in their analysis of online culture, Wallace’s work is surprisingly relevant.
2) The Social Media Reader by Michael Mandiberg (Eds.) (New York University Press, 2012)
This book is really a collection of essays detailing different elements of online culture and social media, from a range of different academics. It covers everything from politics to creative commons to the ‘always online lifestyle’ – actually my favourite chapter and written by the fantastic Danah Boyd. It’s actually quite a short book, but it manages to give a quick overview of almost every area of online culture research. If you were looking for a starting point for researching and reading up on how social media affects society, this books would be a great place.
3) Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins (New York University Press, 2008)
Henry Jenkins is pretty much the go-to guy when looking at fan culture, both online and offline. He’s written many books and articles, but personally I think Convergence Culture is his best. He covers both the social theory and specific examples of fan culture (for book, television, films, you name it) going beyond the original source material and creating fascinating media of their own. Much like Wallace’s work, this is another book that never strays into ‘look at the weird people territory’ as many media articles and a distressing number of academic books do. Jenkins has nothing but respect for fan culture, and for the works and communities it produces, and I love that about this book. Like the other books I’ve listed so far, it’s also extremely clear and readable.
4) Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig (Available online through Creative Commons in all sorts of places, but let’s start here)
Lessig’s work is a great read not necessarily because I agree with all of it, but because of the ideas and debates it raises. Free Culture is best described as a manifesto – Lessig believes strongly in ideas like Creative commons and freely available media. He suggests ways in which copyright laws could be modified for an online age, so that creators still get their dues, but everyone can have access to the things they want. Free Culture is a sort of seminal work for academics writing about digital culture – it’s referenced frequently, including in part of the books listed above. I found it a bit more complicated than the other books I’ve listed, but there are plenty of versions available with notes attached, as well as a community created audio book, all of which can be found here. These versions came about through Lessig’s enthusiasm for people doing their own thing with his work, and that’s fascinating in itself.
I’m planning more blog posts like this one – next time I’ll cover some websites, then after that, who knows! I enjoy writing short reviews, so I might also do some one off reviews of books, sites or software.