Synopses & Reviews
From a cutting-edge cultural commentator, a bold and brilliant challenge to cherished notions of the Internet as the great leveler of our age
The Internet has been hailed as an unprecedented democratizing force, a place where everyone can be heard and all can participate equally. But how true is this claim? In a seminal dismantling of techno-utopian visions, The Peoples Platform argues that for all that we “tweet” and “like” and “share,” the Internet in fact reflects and amplifies real-world inequities at least as much as it ameliorates them. Online, just as off-line, attention and influence largely accrue to those who already have plenty of both.
What we have seen so far, Astra Taylor says, has been not a revolution but a rearrangement. Although Silicon Valley tycoons have eclipsed Hollywood moguls, a handful of giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook remain the gatekeepers. And the worst habits of the old media model—the pressure to seek easy celebrity, to be quick and sensational above all—have proliferated on the web, where “aggregating” the work of others is the surest way to attract eyeballs and ad revenue. When culture is “free,” creative work has diminishing value and advertising fuels the system. The new order looks suspiciously like the old one.
We can do better, Taylor insists. The online world does offer a unique opportunity, but a democratic culture that supports diverse voices and work of lasting value will not spring up from technology alone. If we want the Internet to truly be a peoples platform, we will have to make it so.
"With compelling force and manifestlike style, writer and documentary filmmaker Taylor lays out one of the smartest and most self-evident arguments about the nature and effect of technology in our digital age. 'Technology alone,' she acknowledges, 'will not deliver the cultural transformation we have been waiting for; instead, we need to first understand and then address the underlying social and economic forces that shape it.' Despite the illusion of a level digital playing field, she observes, there are really only a handful of gatekeepers that provide access to information. 'Amazon controls one-tenth of all American online commerce,' for example. She acknowledges that while the Internet allows us to witness amazing feats of inventiveness, 'real cultural democracy means more than everyone with an Internet connection having the ability to edit entries on Wikipedia or leave indignant comments.' Taylor suggests that we can promulgate a more democratic culture by 'supporting creative work not because it is viral but because it is important, focusing on serving needs as well as desires, and making sure marginalized people are given not just a chance to speak but to be heard.' Taylor's provocative book has the power to help shape discussions about the role of technology in our world. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Astra Taylor is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Her films include Zizek!, a feature documentary about the worlds most outrageous philosopher, which was broadcast on the Sundance Channel, and Examined Life, a series of excursions with contemporary thinkers. Her writing has appeared in The Nation, Salon, Monthly Review, The Baffler, and other publications. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
1. A Peasants Kingdom 11
2. For Love or Money 39
3. What We Want 68
4. Unequal Uptake 104
5. The Double Anchor 141
6. Drawing a Line 177