Critical Cyberculture Studies

Critical Cyberculture Studies

Critical Cyberculture Studies

Critical Cyberculture Studies

Synopsis

"As studies of the Internet and cyberculture begin to mature, it is a particularly important time for critical studies--critical of the subject matter, and critical of the emerging field itself. The consciously interdisciplinary approach of Critical Cyberculture Studies, and the depth and breadth of the contributions, make this an important foundational work for a new field of study. If only we had had a critical study of communication when the Gutenberg revolution was beginning!" - Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Communityand Smart Mobs "This expansive book functions as both survey and call to action. Even as they map the shifting contours of an emergent field, the editors and contributors warn against the deadening force of disciplinarity. They encourage a nimble, flexible formulation of cyberculture studies, one that can keep pace with the rapid pulse of technological change and, more importantly, also address the injustices wrought of life in a networked age. Like the best traditions of cultural studies, they aim not just to describe our moment but to matter in the world." - Tara McPherson, USC School of Cinema-Television

Starting in the early 1990s, journalists and scholars began responding to and trying to take account of new technologies and their impact on our lives. By the end of the decade, the full-fledged study of cyberculture had arrived. Today, there exists a large body of critical work on the subject, with cutting-edge studies probing beyond the mere existence of virtual communities and online identities to examine the social, cultural, and economic relationships that take place online. Taking stock of the exciting work that is being done and positing what cyberculture's future might look like,Critical Cyberculture Studiesbrings together a diverse and multidisciplinary group of scholars from around the world to assess the state of the field. Opening with a historical overview of the field by its most prominent spokesperson, it goes on to highlight the interests and methodologies of a mobile and creative field, providing a much-needed how-to guide for those new to cyberstudies. The final two sections open up to explore issues of race, class, and gender and digital media's ties to capital and commerce- from the failure of dot-coms to free software and the hacking movement. This flagship book is a must-read for anyone interested in the dynamic and increasingly crucial study of cyberculture and new technologies.

Excerpt

We are at a turning point in the analysis of so-called new communication technologies. Even though we are used to thinking of them as new, these technologies are not nearly as new as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. Claims for the revolutionary promise of digital technologies are dissipating as well: advertisers have moved to “digital lifestyle” campaigns that represent digital technologies as commodities to be integrated into everyday life rather than as epochal forces that will transform it. Meanwhile, scholarly treatments of so-called new media are getting more nuanced. While some conservatives and otherwise recalcitrant sorts still argue for the revolutionary power of “new” technologies, the technophilic position is at least somewhat less acceptable in serious scholarship than it was five years ago. With perseverance and good fortune, they'll become even less respected as time passes. Similarly, critical scholars are less likely to present simple critiques of technological determinism and e-topian discourse (to borrow a term from Crawford [2003]) and are more likely to expand the scope of their studies either to offer robust descriptions of digital media or to connect the remaining e-topian discourses with broader social and political currents.

So in many ways, cyberculture studies—whatever you take the field to be—has made significant strides in the past five years. It has more conferences, more journals, and more good scholarship. Ah, signs of progress! in other ways, however, we are still at the very beginnings of a specifically academic and critical historiography of cyberculture; we ought to step back and reflect for a moment. Some habits of historical and methodological thinking have begun to crystallize in cyberculture studies. Many of our analytical categories were developed in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of them persist into the supposedly new moment we now inhabit. in a sense . . .

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