Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village, by Richard Barbrook, examines the political ideology of the Internet, from its inception to its many potential futures, both past and present. Curious and occasionally grandiose (from its promotional Web site: “WARNING: This is a book that many who control the Internet do not want you to read.”), the book nevertheless contains much that will reward the patient reader.
Stanford’s B.J. Fogg has written extensively and capably on the topic of online behavior. His book Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do contains some good material on Web credibility.
Thomas J. Johnson, a professor of communications at Texas Tech, has been researching and writing about online credibility and the news media for well over a decade. His CV (PDF) lists citations for all his journal articles. Also check out his media convergence blog here.
Cyberpower, by Tim Jordan, looks at how power is acquired and wielded in online environments. Jordan’s scope is broad, and the book is somewhat digressive and unfocused as a result, but there are enough valuable insights and case studies to make it well worth a read.
R. David Lankes, director of Syracuse University’s Information Institute, primarily studies and writes about libraries and digital reference, but his insights on networks and informational credibility are universal ones. News organizations charting their online strategies would do well to pay attention. His recent publications are all linked here.
From Usenet to CoWebs: Interacting with Social Information Spaces, edited by Christopher Lueg and Danyel Fisher, is a thought-provoking collection of essays about online communications and interactions. Particularly interesting are Blair Nonnecke and Jenny Preece’s essay on lurkers, and Bryan Pfaffenberger’s historical overview of Usenet.
I can’t recommend Jonathan Paul Marshall’s Living on Cybermind highly enough. Marshall observed and participated in the Cybermind listserv for thirteen years, from 1994 to 2007; his analysis of the group members’ actions and interactions is a must-read for anyone interested in online communications. Academically dense at times, but don’t let that stop you from pushing through.
The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, by Marcel Mauss, was written in the 1920s. It remains a seminal text, and is very useful for those looking to better understand the “gift economy.” Mauss draws heavily on Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific, which is itself an anthropological classic.
Clay Shirky deserves his reputation as one of the most perceptive media thinkers around. His essay “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy” is especially relevant here.
My Pilgrim’s Progress: Media Studies, 1950-1998 and Within the Context of No Context, both by George W.S. Trow, are challenging and idiosyncratic texts that should be made required reading in every university in America. All media criticism should strive to match their insight and foresight.
All of the texts mentioned in the “Something to Talk About” reading list remain relevant for their insights on mediated communications, and on how and why the Internet is the way it is.Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.