The Quirks of Digital Culture

It's been quite a while since my last newsletter went out. I had take some time out this summer and the newsletter needed to go on the back burner. The comeback has been triggered by the publication of my new book.

The Quirks of Digital Culture is published today in paperback and ebook by Emerald. I mention in the acknowledgments that I had the idea for the book whilst listening to a Jesus and Mary Chain B sides collection. I was thinking about how the more interesting, unusual and imaginative ideas can sometimes end up on the reverse side of the record. The book is totally different to my previous books. It's a bit of an experiment in style, writing and analysis. The new book seems to have been influenced by reading Simmel's wide ranging essays and think-pieces for my previous book project Georg Simmel's Concluding Thoughts. The Quirks of Digital Culture tries to focus in on small and unusual features to try to open-up the bigger developments, trends and underlying properties of platform based culture. Of course, the book doesn't manage to achieve that, but that was the objective. The aim was to try find mangable little things that revealed something about the disorientating mediated cultures in which we live. From TV game shows to Snapchat memories, from the end of the Yellow Pages to the acceleration of the pop charts, from the use of our social media data to the feelings we get if we break our smartphones, from the apparent comeback of cassette tapes to the end of Vine, from the tyranny of smartness to the fear that our devices are listening to us. It covers these and lots of other topics. In each case it uses these instances to think about what they tell us about the ordering, connections amd divisions we find in these transforming cultures defined by social media, mobile devices, on-demand consumption and data-led capitalism.

Here is the blurb:

The culture we consume is increasingly delivered to us via various digital on-demand platforms. The last decade has seen platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Google and the like become massive players in shaping cultural consumption. But how can we understand culture once it moves on to big tech platforms? How can we make sense of the changes this brings to our lives? These platforms have the power to shape our cultural landscape and to use data, algorithms and other technological means to shape our experiences, from what we remember through to what we know and even the speed and accessibility of culture. 

This book asks how can we understand the chaos and messiness of on-demand culture? Beer suggests that we focus on the quirks and use these as openings to see inside patterns and dynamics of these new cultural formations. By exploring the strange quirks that typify our new on-demand culture, this book seeks to answer these questions. The Quirks of Digital Culture is a guide to understanding the complex and unsettling cultural present, whilst also casting an eye on how our consumption and cultural experiences may unfold in what seems like an unpredictable future.

If you want to read more about it, there is a piece describing the approach taken in the book here.

I've also created a Spotfiy music playlist to accompany the book. You can listen to that here.

If you think you might be interested in buying the book, it's available from the usual places. The cheapest place I've found it (as I write this) is Hive. The publisher's page for the book is here.

Until next time…