ATG Book of the Week: The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

by | Jul 29, 2014 | 0 comments

People's PlatformTitle: The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
Astra Taylor
Hardcover: ISBN: 9780805093568; $27. E-book: Kindle edition; 0007525591; $11.04
Imprint: New York : Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.


“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 People’s 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 online, 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 people’s platform, we will have to make it so.”


“Essential… In this idealistic—yet rigorous and clear-eyed—argument, Taylor takes on crucial contradictions… She is the Marshall McLuhan or the Neil Postman of our new digital economy, the lonely voice raising urgent questions we need to answer together, or else surrender our choices to Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon…. If The People’s Platform doesn’t spark the conversation about the kind of democracy and culture we deserve, then we’ll deserve the one we get.”
—NY1 News

“Taylor’s smart and nuanced overview of the new media landscape is the best I’ve recently read and an excellent summary of the mess we’re in…. After reading Taylor’s brisk and lucid survey, there’s no denying that in online media, the market is falling short.”
—The Boston Globe

“Taylor makes a thorough case that the technological advances we’ve been told constitute progress—that anyone can start a blog, that we can easily keep up with our friends (and frenemies) on Facebook, that Twitter can foment democratic revolution — are actually masking and, in some cases, exacerbating social ills that have long plagued our society… Compelling and well argued.”
—Los Angeles Times

“With compelling force and manifest-like 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…. Taylor’s provocative book has the power to help shape discussions about the role of technology in our world.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The Internet is often lauded as an open, democratic marketplace of ideas and goods in which anyone can thrive. In her sweeping critique, documentary filmmaker Taylor challenges this notion, arguing that networked technology has allowed for greater concentration of power and has reduced transparency. Her well-researched, unsettling, and occasionally downright harrowing book explores the consolidation of popularity; the stubborn digital divide; copyright and piracy; and the pervasive power of advertising…. This provocative populist manifesto on an utterly timely subject deserves a wide audience among policymakers and consumers alike.”
—Library Journal (starred review)

“One of the more incisive voices among the multitudes delivering their visions of what the Internet is and might become…. [A] well-defined examination of media culture… Not to be skimmed. A cogent and genuine argument for the true democratization of online culture.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A persuasive book… The author isn’t saying we should rebuild the Internet from scratch but, instead, that we should strive to create a more democratic Web in which users are treated like citizens, not consumers or unpaid workers…. A smart, well-reasoned approach to a highly topical subject.”


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