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Digital Countercultures and the Battle for Neighborhood, e book overview: Options to the dominant narrative

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Digital Countercultures and the Battle for Neighborhood • By Jessa Lingel • MIT Press • 178 pages • ISBN: 978-Zero-262-03621-Four • £24.95 / $30

Click on again to the mid-1990s and you will find dozens of books printed about on-line group, starting with the seminal work within the discipline, Howard Rheingold’s 1993 examine, The Virtual Community (which is obtainable to learn on-line without cost). Rheingold, and lots of the authors who adopted him, started with San Francisco’s The WELL, which can also be nonetheless with us in any case these years. Many of those books functioned as journey guides, providing each enticements to affix the writer in our on-line world (because it then was recognized) and a fantasy trip for individuals who aspired by no means to go there.

It was in that interval of the web’s improvement, relates Jessa Lingel in Digital Countercultures and the Struggle for Community, that Body Modification Ezine arrange its IAM web site (again when it was nonetheless written ‘Web page’). IAM ultimately grew to incorporate an energetic group discussion board, a wiki, a store, and a user-generated library of photos and video. Two issues occurred. First, physique modifications equivalent to piercings and scarification started transferring into the mainstream — ‘mainstream creep’, as Lingel calls it — so the group’s boundaries started to blur. Second, in about 2011 the location’s house owners responded to varied complaints and redesigned the location to be, amongst different issues, extra mobile-friendly. After which the group drifted to Fb with out apparently minding that it had misplaced its sovereignty.

Lingel recounts this story as the primary of three case research of on-line countercultural communities. The second is the basement music community in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which had bands taking part in quasi-legally in basements round city, insulated with mattresses and free Precedence Mail packing containers to forestall enraged neighbours from calling the police. Live performance organisers confronted the conundrum of needing to maintain non-public the details about the place the concert events have been, however not so secret that attendees could not discover out the place to go. Lingel focuses on a newcomer’s disruption of the group’s methods for controlling the circulate of knowledge by in search of to create a web site itemizing occasions.

The third is a Brooklyn-based group of drag queens, who used Fb for each private socialising and selling their stage acts. This group sought to retain their ‘alterity’ whereas working throughout the constraints imposed by Fb — the ‘Wal-Mart of our on-line world’. Some created workarounds: one, for instance, caught on Fb’s ‘actual names’ coverage requiring English-language contributors to supply each a primary and a final title, claimed to be from Indonesia, the place single-word names are frequent sufficient for Fb to help them. The group ultimately gained a change of coverage for a few different causes: first, not like victims of home violence or sexual abuse, they did not thoughts being seen protesters; and second, they acted collectively.

These tales are essential, Lingel writes, as a result of we have to power options to at the moment’s dominant narrative in regards to the web — the one promulgated by Silicon Valley. When drag queens wrestle with Fb’s ‘actual names’ coverage, does the reply must be, ‘Nicely, they should not use Fb?’ If the web is to fulfil the access-for-all promise it started with, that binary non-choice cannot be all there’s.

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