Whether by accidental keystroke or deliberate tinkering, technology is often used in ways that are unintended and unimagined by its designers and inventors. In this book, Jessa Lingel offers an account of digital technology use that looks beyond Silicon Valley and college dropouts-turned-entrepreneurs. Instead, Lingel tells stories from the margins of countercultural communities that have made the Internet meet their needs, subverting established norms of how digital technologies should be used.
Lingel presents three case studies that contrast the imagined uses of the web to its lived and often messy practicalities. She examines a social media platform (developed long before Facebook) for body modification enthusiasts, with early web experiments in blogging, community, wikis, online dating, and podcasts; a network of communication technologies (both analog and digital) developed by a local community of punk rockers to manage information about underground shows; and the use of Facebook and Instagram for both promotional and community purposes by Brooklyn drag queens. Drawing on years of fieldwork, Lingel explores issues of alterity and community, inclusivity and exclusivity, secrecy and surveillance, and anonymity and self-promotion.
By examining online life in terms of countercultural communities, Lingel argues that looking at outsider experiences helps us to imagine new uses and possibilities for the tools and platforms we use in everyday life.
About the Author
Jessa Lingel is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.
“Jessa Lingel’s years of research in communities of alterity culminated in this insightful book that digs into how hegemonic technologies penetrate our lives. Even the most alternative of alternative communities do not fully resist them. The book is a bittersweet read, but an essential one, as Lingel’s clarity and honesty alter the conversation about how design might be different.”
—Bonnie Nardi, Professor, School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine; coauthor of Heteromation, and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism
“A fresh voice in Internet studies, Lingel deftly opens a window into the worlds, dance clubs, and basements of punks, drag queens, and tattoo enthusiasts, showing us how subcultures bend social technology to their needs.”
—Alice E. Marwick, Fellow, Data & Society Research Institute; author of Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age