Looking for inspiration when teaching ‘Agency and Control’ in VCE Media? Here are a bunch of great books that can provide you with a starting point or inspiration for your areas of interest.
If you’ve found a book that tackles important ideas about agency and power in contemporary media that might build our understanding, feel free to contact me and I’ll add it to the list!
Synopses are taken from the publishers.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism”, and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.
In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the 21st century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the 20th. Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioral futures markets”, where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new “means of behavioral modification”. The threat has shifted from a totalitarian Big Brother state to a ubiquitous digital architecture: a “Big Other” operating in the interests of surveillance capital. Here is the crucible of an unprecedented form of power marked by extreme concentrations of knowledge and free from democratic oversight. Zuboff’s comprehensive and moving analysis lays bare the threats to 21st-century society: a controlled “hive” of total connection that seduces with promises of total certainty for maximum profit – at the expense of democracy, freedom, and our human future. With little resistance from law or society, surveillance capitalism is on the verge of dominating the social order and shaping the digital future – if we let it.
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Run a Google search for “black girls” – what will you find? “Big Booty” and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in “white girls,” the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about “why black women are so sassy” or “why black women are so angry” presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society.
In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.
Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. As search engines and their related companies grow in importance – operating as a source for email, a major vehicle for primary and secondary school learning, and beyond – understanding and reversing these disquieting trends and discriminatory practices is of utmost importance.
An original, surprising and, at times, disturbing account of bias on the internet, Algorithms of Oppression contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.
Are Filter Bubbles Real?
There has been much concern over the impact of partisan echo chambers and filter bubbles on public debate. Is this concern justified, or is it distracting us from more serious issues?
Axel Bruns argues that the influence of echo chambers and filter bubbles has been severely overstated, and results from a broader moral panic about the role of online and social media in society. Our focus on these concepts, and the widespread tendency to blame platforms and their algorithms for political disruptions, obscure far more serious issues pertaining to the rise of populism and hyperpolarisation in democracies. Evaluating the evidence for and against echo chambers and filter bubbles, Bruns offers a persuasive argument for why we should shift our focus to more important problems.
This timely book is essential reading for students and scholars, as well as anyone concerned about challenges to public debate and the democratic process.
Capital is dead. Is this something worse?
In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that the all-pervasive presence of data in our networked society has given rise to a new mode of production, one not ruled over by capitalists and their factories but by those who own and control the flow of information. Yet, if this is not capitalism anymore, could it be something worse? What if the world we’re living in is more dystopian than the techno utopias of the Silicon Valley imagination? And, if this is the case, how do we find a way out? Capital Is Dead offers not only the theoretical tools to analyze this new world of information, but the ones to change it, too.
A follow-up to their groundbreaking A Hacker Manifesto, Wark takes us on a tour of our information age. Drawing on the writings of the Situationists and a range of contemporary theorists, they offer a vast panorama of the contemporary condition and the classes that control it.
Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
For decades, technology encouraged people to squander their time and intellect as passive consumers. Today, tech has finally caught up with human potential. In Cognitive Surplus, Internet guru Clay Shirky forecasts the thrilling changes we will all enjoy as new digital technology puts our untapped resources of talent and goodwill to use at last.
Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we’ve had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time-what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion’s share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding-reference tools like Wikipedia-to lifesaving-such as Ushahidi.com, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time.
Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. He also charts the vast effects that our cognitive surplus- aided by new technologies-will have on twenty-first-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.
The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism
Just about any social need is now met with an opportunity to “connect” through digital means. But this convenience is not free–it is purchased with vast amounts of personal data transferred through shadowy backchannels to corporations using it to generate profit. The Costs of Connection uncovers this process, this “data colonialism,” and its designs for controlling our lives–our ways of knowing; our means of production; our political participation.
Colonialism might seem like a thing of the past, but this book shows that the historic appropriation of land, bodies, and natural resources is mirrored today in this new era of pervasive datafication. Apps, platforms, and smart objects capture and translate our lives into data, and then extract information that is fed into capitalist enterprises and sold back to us. The authors argue that this development foreshadows the creation of a new social order emerging globally–and it must be challenged. Confronting the alarming degree of surveillance already tolerated, they offer a stirring call to decolonize the internet and emancipate our desire for connection. (less)
The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You
In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google’s change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years – the rise of personalization. In this groundbreaking investigation of the new hidden Web, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society-and reveals what we can do about it.
Though the phenomenon has gone largely undetected until now, personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook – the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans – prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like “The Washington Post” devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos.
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
‘Here Comes Everybody’ is an examination of how the spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form and exist within groups, with profound long-term economic and social effects, for good and for ill
The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health–And How We Must Adapt
Social media connected the world–and gave rise to fake news and increasing polarization. It is paramount, MIT professor Sinan Aral says, that we recognize the outsize effect social media has on us–on our politics, our economy, and even our personal health–in order to steer today’s social technology toward its great promise while avoiding the ways it can pull us apart.
Drawing on decades of his own research and business experience, Aral goes under the hood of the most powerful social networks to tackle the critical question of just how much social media actually shapes our choices, for better or worse. He shows how the tech behind social media offers the same set of behavior influencing levers to everyone who hopes to change the way we think and act–from Russian hackers to brand marketers–which is why its consequences affect everything from elections to business, dating to health. Along the way, he covers a wide array of topics, including how network effects fuel Twitter’s and Facebook’s massive growth, the neuroscience of how social media affects our brains, the real consequences of fake news, the power of social ratings, and the impact of social media on our kids.
In mapping out strategies for being more thoughtful consumers of social media, The Hype Machine offers the definitive guide to understanding and harnessing for good the technology that has redefined our world overnight.
Instagram : Visual Social Media Cultures
Instagram is at the heart of global digital culture, having made selfies, filters and square frames an inescapable part of everyday life since it was launched in 2010.
In the first book-length examination of Instagram, Tama Leaver, Tim Highfield and Crystal Abidin trace how this quintessential mobile photography app has developed as a platform and a culture. They consider aspects such as the new visual social media aesthetics, the rise of Influencers and new visual economies, and the complex politics of the platform as well as examining how Instagram’s users change their use of the platform over time and respond to evolving features. The book highlights the different ways Instagram is used by subcultural groups around the world, and how museums, restaurants and public spaces are striving to be ‘Insta-worthy’. Far from just capturing milestones and moments, the authors argue that Instagram has altered the ways people communicate and share, while also creating new approaches to marketing, advertising, politics and the design of spaces and venues.
Rich with grounded examples from across the world, from birth pictures to selfies at funerals, Instagram is essential reading for students and scholars of media and communication.
Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online
The face of internet celebrity is rapidly diversifying and evolving. Online and mainstream celebrity culture are now weaving together, such that breakout stars from one-hit viral videos are able to turn their transient fame into a full-time career.
This book presents a framework for thinking about the different forms of internet celebrity that have emerged over the last decade, taking examples from the Global North and South, to consolidate key ideas about cultures of online fame. It discusses the overall landscape, developments and trends in the internet celebrity economy, and cross-cultural lessons.
Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age
This book is an exploration of the new forms of social movements and protests that are erupting in the world today, from the Arab uprisings to the indignadas movement in Spain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. While these and similar social movements differ in many important ways, there is one thing they share in common: they are all interwoven inextricably with the creation of autonomous communication networks supported by the Internet and wireless communication.
In this timely and important book, Manuel Castells – the leading scholar of our contemporary networked society – examines the social, cultural and political roots of these new social movements, studies their innovative forms of self-organization, assesses the precise role of technology in the dynamics of the movements, suggests the reasons for the support they have found in large segments of society, and probes their capacity to induce political change by influencing people’s minds.
Based on original fieldwork by the author and his collaborators as well as secondary sources, this book provides a path-breaking analysis of the new forms of social movements, and offers an analytical template for advancing the debates triggered by them concerning the new forms of social change and political democracy in the global network society.
(Not) Getting Paid To Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work
An illuminating investigation into a class of enterprising women aspiring to “make it” in the social media economy but often finding only unpaid work
Profound transformations in our digital society have brought many enterprising women to social media platforms—from blogs to YouTube to Instagram—in hopes of channeling their talents into fulfilling careers. In this eye-opening book, Brooke Erin Duffy draws much-needed attention to the gap between the handful who find lucrative careers and the rest, whose “passion projects” amount to free work for corporate brands.
Drawing on interviews and fieldwork, Duffy offers fascinating insights into the work and lives of fashion bloggers, beauty vloggers, and designers. She connects the activities of these women to larger shifts in unpaid and gendered labor, offering a lens through which to understand, anticipate, and critique broader transformations in the creative economy. At a moment when social media offer the rousing assurance that anyone can “make it”—and stand out among freelancers, temps, and gig workers—Duffy asks us all to consider the stakes of not getting paid to do what you love.
OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism
The Occupy movement has emerged in a historical crisis of global capitalism. It struggles for the reappropriation of the commodified commons. Communications are part of the commons of society. Yet contemporary social media are ridden by an antagonism between private corporate control (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and self-managed, commons-based activist media. In this work, Christian Fuchs analyses the contradictory dialectic of social media in the Occupy movement. Drawing on a political economy framework and interpretation of the results of the OccupyMedia! Survey, in which more than 400 Occupy activists reported on their social media use, OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism shows how activists confront the contradictions of capitalism and communication in the age of crisis and social media. The book discusses the contradiction between commercial and alternative social media and argues that the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex expressed in the PRISM system shows the urgent necessity to create social media beyond Facebook and Google
Participatory Culture in a Networked Era.
In the last two decades, both the conception and the practice of participatory culture have been transformed by the new affordances enabled by digital, networked, and mobile technologies. This exciting new book explores that transformation by bringing together three leading figures in conversation. Jenkins, Ito and boyd examine the ways in which our personal and professional lives are shaped by experiences interacting with and around emerging media.
Stressing the social and cultural contexts of participation, the authors describe the process of diversification and mainstreaming that has transformed participatory culture. They advocate a move beyond individualized personal expression and argue for an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.”
Participatory Culture in a Networked Era will interest students and scholars of digital media and their impact on society and will engage readers in a broader dialogue and conversation about their own participatory practices in this digital age.
What is the relationship between emerging technology and the future structure of our economy? Is contemporary capitalism unwittingly breeding the technologies that will herald its own downfall? In this cutting-edge new book, rising star of the accelerationist movement Nick Srnicek addresses these questions, showing how contemporary innovations in automation, cybernetics and manufacturing represent a theoretical and practical challenge to the very economic system that bred them.
Privacy is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data
The moment you check your phone in the morning you are giving away data. Before you’ve even switched off your alarm, a whole host of organisations have been alerted to when you woke up, where you slept, and with whom. As you check the weather, scroll through your ‘suggested friends’ on Facebook, you continually compromise your privacy.
Without your permission, or even your awareness, tech companies are harvesting your information, your location, your likes, your habits, and sharing it amongst themselves. They’re not just selling your data. They’re selling the power to influence you. Even when you’ve explicitly asked them not to. And it’s not just you. It’s all your contacts too.
Digital technology is stealing our personal data and with it our power to make free choices. To reclaim that power and democracy, we must protect our privacy.
What can we do? So much is at stake. Our phones, our TVs, even our washing machines are spies in our own homes. We need new regulation. We need to pressure policy-makers for red lines on the data economy. And we need to stop sharing and to adopt privacy-friendly alternatives to Google, WhatsApp and other online platforms.
Short, terrifying, practical: Privacy is Power highlights the implications of our laid-back attitudes to data, and sets out how we can reclaim control.
Social Media: A critical introduction
With social media changing how we use and understand everything from communication and the news to transport, more than ever it is essential to ask the right kinds of questions about the business and politics of social media. This book equips students with the critical thinking they need to understand the complexities and contradictions and make informed judgements.
Spreadable Media maps fundamental changes taking place in our contemporary media environment, a space where corporations no longer tightly control media distribution and many of us are directly involved in the circulation of content. It contrasts “stickiness”—aggregating attention in centralized places—with “spreadability”—dispersing content widely through both formal and informal networks, some approved, many unauthorized. Stickiness has been the measure of success in the broadcast era (and has been carried over to the online world), but “spreadability” describes the ways content travels through social media.
Following up on the hugely influential Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, this book challenges some of the prevailing metaphors and frameworks used to describe contemporary media, from biological metaphors like “memes” and “viral” to the concept of “Web 2.0” and the popular notion of “influencers.” Spreadable Media examines the nature of audience engagement, the environment of participation, the way appraisal creates value, and the transnational flows at the heart of these phenomena. It delineates the elements that make content more spreadable and highlights emerging media business models built for a world of participatory circulation. The book also explores the internal tensions companies face as they adapt to the new communication reality and argues for the need to shift from “hearing” to “listening” in corporate culture.
Drawing on examples from film, music, games, comics, television, transmedia storytelling, advertising, and public relations industries, among others—from both the U.S. and around the world—the authors illustrate the contours of our current media environment. They highlight the vexing questions content creators must tackle and the responsibilities we all face as citizens in a world where many of us regularly circulate media content. Written for any and all of us who actively create and share media content, Spreadable Media provides a clear understanding of how people are spreading ideas and the implications these activities have for business, politics, and everyday life
Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age
Social media, once heralded as revolutionary and democratic, have instead proved exclusionary and elitist
Social media technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook promised a new participatory online culture. Yet, technology insider Alice Marwick contends in this insightful book, “Web 2.0” only encouraged a preoccupation with status and attention. Her original research—which includes conversations with entrepreneurs, Internet celebrities, and Silicon Valley journalists—explores the culture and ideology of San Francisco’s tech community in the period between the dot com boom and the App store, when the city was the world’s center of social media development. Marwick argues that early revolutionary goals have failed to materialize: while many continue to view social media as democratic, these technologies instead turn users into marketers and self-promoters, and leave technology companies poised to violate privacy and to prioritize profits over participation. Marwick analyzes status-building techniques—such as self-branding, micro-celebrity, and life-streaming—to show that Web 2.0 did not provide a cultural revolution, but only furthered inequality and reinforced traditional social stratification, demarcated by race, class, and gender.
This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
When information is a weapon, every opinion is an act of war.
We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where dark ads, psyops, hacks, bots, soft facts, ISIS, Putin, trolls, and Trump seek to shape our very reality. In this surreal atmosphere created to disorient us and undermine our sense of truth, we’ve lost not only our grip on peace and democracy — but our very notion of what those words even mean.
Peter Pomerantsev takes us to the front lines of the disinformation age, where he meets Twitter revolutionaries and pop-up populists, “behavioral change” salesmen, Jihadi fanboys, Identitarians, truth cops, and many others. Forty years after his dissident parents were pursued by the KGB, Pomerantsev finds the Kremlin re-emerging as a great propaganda power. His research takes him back to Russia — but the answers he finds there are not what he expected.
The Tipping Point
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children’s television, direct mail, and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful high-tech company, and one of the world’s greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.
Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism
Tweets and the Streets analyses the culture of the new protest movements of the 21st century. From the Arab Spring to the ‘indignados’ protests in Spain and the Occupy movement, Paolo Gerbaudo examines the relationship between the rise of social media and the emergence of new forms of protest.
Gerbaudo argues that activists’ use of Twitter and Facebook does not fit with the image of a ‘cyberspace’ detached from physical reality. Instead, social media is used as part of a project of re-appropriation of public space, which involves the assembling of different groups around ‘occupied’ places such as Cairo’s Tahrir Square or New York’s Zuccotti Park.
An exciting and invigorating journey through the new politics of dissent, Tweets and the Streets points both to the creative possibilities and to the risks of political evanescence which new media brings to the contemporary protest experience.
Weapons of Math Destruction
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives–where we go to school, whether we can get a job or a loan, how much we pay for health insurance–are being made not by humans, but by machines. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules.
But as mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil reveals, the mathematical models being used today are unregulated and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination–propping up the lucky, punishing the downtrodden, and undermining our democracy in the process
The world made meme: public conversations and participatory media
How memetic media–aggregate texts that are collectively created, circulated, and transformed–become a part of public conversations that shape broader cultural debates.Internet memes–digital snippets that can make a joke, make a point, or make a connection–are now a lingua franca of online life. They are collectively created, circulated, and transformed by countless users across vast networks. Most of us have seen the cat playing the piano, Kanye interrupting, Kanye interrupting the cat playing the piano. In The World Made Meme, Ryan Milner argues that memes, and the memetic process, are shaping public conversation. It’s hard to imagine a major pop cultural or political moment that doesn’t generate a constellation of memetic texts. Memetic media, Milner writes, offer participation by reappropriation, balancing the familiar and the foreign as new iterations intertwine with established ideas. New commentary is crafted by the mediated circulation and transformation of old ideas. Through memetic media, small strands weave together big conversations.