I like internet. There, I said it. I spend all day writing on the internet, then in my spare time I read books about how the internet shapes our lives. I may have a work-life balance issue, but I can’t help it. I mean, music journalists still listen to music, right? Do chefs still cook at home? So I can enjoy critical reflection on the Internet in my free time, like a treat. After all, internet culture is nothing but culture at this point, and hey, who doesn’t consume culture?
Should I go out and touch the grass? Most likely! But I can touch grass reading a book, duh. Also, I’m pretty sure none of these books mention Elon Musk, so if that’s not a sellout for you these days, I don’t know what is.
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“README.txt” by Chelsea Manning
“Free internet at Barnes & Noble isn’t… fast,” Chelsea Manning’s memoir begins. In the midst of a blizzard in early 2010, Manning sent over 700,000 classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks which she smuggled from US Army computers when she was an intelligence analyst. Of course, it’s a story we already know, because it’s been in the news for the past 12 years: Manning’s leaks revealed the true nature of US military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning’s book lets us hear her side of the story: how homophobia and abuse in her childhood home drove her to join the military in the first place; the pain she endured while serving in the military as a transgender woman then locked up in the days of don’t ask, don’t tell; and how she risked her life to share information she felt the public desperately needed access to.
Manning’s life is far from ordinary – she’s a famous and highly controversial whistleblower who spent seven years in prison and publicly transitioned while in custody. But the internet is a surprisingly ordinary line in her story (she even describes herself as “extremely online” in the book). Like so many queer people, Manning found solace and community on the internet, where anonymity helped her explore her identity when it was unsure (or legal, in the case of the military to the time) to be herself IRL.
Price: $19 from Amazon
“Everything I Need I Get From You” by Kaitlyn Tiffany
I was never a member of One Direction, but as someone who simply existed on the internet in the early 2010s, I certainly felt the influence of these five British boys. No one could escape One Direction at the height of their popularity, and as Kaitlyn Tiffany argues in “All I Need I Get From You,” it wasn’t just a time of silly girls screaming their heads off. head because Harry Styles is cute. As they forged community and manipulated chart numbers together, One Direction fans made it clear that nothing is more powerful than a highly coordinated campaign of teenage fans with internet access. Remember when K Pop fans pranked a Tulsa Trump rally with thousands of fake sign-ups? Or just a few weeks ago, when Taylor Swift fans drew politicians’ attention to potential antitrust issues at Ticketmaster? Fan culture is pervasive on the internet and shapes how we use it – if you don’t agree, you’re not looking hard enough.
However, the One Direction fandom wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Tiffany writes about the sinister undercurrents of certain fandom spaces, including Larry Stylinson’s conspiracy theory, which claims that Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson were secretly in love but prevented by their management from going public. Proponents of this theory have crossed…several lines, and Tiffany points out how the way they spread the theory – such as convincing themselves that the media is spreading fake news to cover up the truth of the matter – mirrors the way political conspiracies more serious take root. Yeah.
Even if you’ve never been a “director”, this book is a deeply engaging read. And, I’m sorry, but is there a song ever written that’s catchier than “What Makes You Beautiful”? You don’t know-oh-oh!
Price: $17 from Bookshop.org
“Monster Kids: How Pokemon Taught a Generation to Catch ‘Em All” by Daniel Dockery
I love Pokémon almost as much as the internet. So, naturally, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Daniel Dockery’s nonfiction book “Monster Kids,” which chronicles the phenomenon surrounding Pokémon (and by extension, the “monster collecting” genre of media. ).
While reading “Monster Kids”, I found myself live texting my friends about fun Pokémon facts I had never known. My favorite little anecdote is that the Pokémon franchise was initially struggling to gain exposure in the West, so in an elaborate marketing stunt, Nintendo hosted an event in Topeka, Kansas called…ToPikachu. During the event, 700 Pikachu plushes were dropped from the air, but that was not all – 10 skydivers also descended from a plane, then jumped into Pikachu-branded cars and drove off, full of style .
This book is packed with jaw-dropping anecdotes from the early days of the Pokémon franchise (come on…Topikachu!?), but Dockery unifies those stories to detail how the exceptionally mega-popular video game franchise got to where it is. today. . And where is it today? Still as mega-popular as ever, and with the same number of glitches. However, you still can’t find any Mew under the truck.
Price: $16 from Amazon
“She memes well” by Quinta Brunson
If you’re not watching “Abbott Elementary,” what are you? But before she was the star and showrunner of the ABC sitcom, Quinta Brunson was a meme.
Well, she was more than that. She was a writer and comedian trying to make it in a tough Los Angeles industry. But she got her break when she started posting a string of music videos as “the girl who never had a nice date,” playing a character flattered by men who do the bare minimum. Remember “he has money?” This girl is now an Emmy winner.
“She Memes Well” is a series of comedic yet moving essays that chronicle Brunson’s rising star – she writes about her experiences (good and not so good) in the Philly public school system, her failed relationships, her learning of kitchen, etc. Like “Abbott Elementary,” Brunson’s essays are funny, but they also illuminate the systemic barriers she faced in becoming a Philadelphia kid with an Emmy. Go Quinta, and go birds!
Price: $14 from Harper Collins
“How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex” by Samantha Cole
We’re not kidding when we say sex is driving innovation on the internet. VICE writer Samantha Cole’s new non-fiction book is proof: do you know what a Playboy centerfold and the creation of the JPEG have in common?
I read a galley of Cole’s book while preparing to interview the CEO of OnlyFans at TechCrunch Disrupt. It was a good way to delve into the legal issues impacting internet sex, like Section 230 and SESTA/FOSTA – but more than anything, it was just really interesting reading that gave me a much deeper appreciation of the history of the Internet. and sex. I’ve heard of the stories of internet pioneers like Jennifer Ringley, who is considered either a concept artist or the first camgirl, depending on who you ask. Ringley wrote a script that took photos via a webcam in his college dorm and posted them online – it started in 1996, long before live video streaming was an option. Ringley did not censor private moments of his life, but it wasn’t necessarily a sexual project: just a person living his life. Yet after seven years of meticulously documenting her life, Ringley shut down JenniCam after PayPal updated its guidelines to prohibit nudity.
Ringley’s story is just one fascinating internet artifact told in Cole’s book. As the title of the book suggests… it turns out that sex changed the internet!
Price: $30 from Amazon
“Because the Internet” by Gretchen McCulloch
As we watch Twitter crumble in slow motion, I think of something I learned in “Because the Internet”: linguistics researchers love Twitter! Think about it. How many times have we had access to real-time data on how people around the world speak and type?
“Because the Internet” is a geeky, cheesy academic book, but McCulloch writes in such an entertaining and accessible way that I wish I had taken a linguistics course in college. Then again, your typical introductory linguistics course probably doesn’t question meme language and text punctuation so seriously. But if you have a friend who constantly invents new forms of punctuation to denote sarcasm, this book is a must-have gift.
Price: $16 from Bookshop.org
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