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Joanne McNeil: Lurking: How a Person Became a User
April 10, 2020 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm PDTFree
Joanne McNeil discusses her new book Lurking: How A Person Became a User with Jenny Odell.
Praise for Lurking
“The internet isn’t ‘out there’ somewhere; it’s coextensive with the brain of any writer who’d be worth reading on the subject. In Lurking, Joanne McNeil writes as an internet ‘supertaster,’ a veteran of more platforms and forums and flame wars and start-ups than most of us could ever imagine. She employs a trees-not-forest style, immersing herself in the paradoxes, and reinscribing her body at the scene. By risking a freely figurative language, she hacks the mystery at its source.”—JONATHAN LETHEM
“Without a doubt, Joanne McNeil is the most original writer on technology working today. This poetic, empathetic, and incisive history of the internet will resonate deeply with anyone who goes online to listen and learn, not shout and grandstand. Never cynical or reductive, McNeil traces the commercialization of the digital world in unexpected and insightful ways, revealing what has been lost, what stolen, and what utopian possibilities may still be recovered. Lurkers may not be inclined to rally around a manifesto, but this profound and refreshing meditation will certainly do the trick. Lurkers of the world unite, or at least read this book.”—ASTRA TAYLOR, author of The People’s Platform
“We all know what it’s like to spend time online, but nobody has written about it with more depth and beauty than Joanne McNeil. Lurking makes the connections between internet protocol and human dignity tangible, whether reflecting on her early days as an avid 90s web user or zooming out for critical insight into today’s tech giants and tomorrow’s possibilities. I learned something new on every page.”—JACE CLAYTON, author of Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture
A concise but wide-ranging personal history of the internet from—for the first time—the point of view of the user.
In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of—even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate—but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been.
In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. She charts what it is that brought people online and what keeps us here even as the social equations of digital life—what we’re made to trade, knowingly or otherwise, for the benefits of the internet—have shifted radically beneath us. It is a story we are accustomed to hearing as tales of entrepreneurs and visionaries and dynamic and powerful corporations, but there is a more profound, intimate story that hasn’t yet been told.
Long one of the most incisive, ferociously intelligent, and widely respected cultural critics online, McNeil here establishes a singular vision of who we are now, tells the stories of how we became us, and helps us start to figure out what we do now.