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And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture Hardcover – June 11, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Focusing on the phenomenon of viral culture, Wasik, senior editor at Harper's magazine, reflects on his own Internet experiments, beginning with the creation of flash mobs, a pop phenomena of 2003. Wasik asked hundreds of people to gather in public for no apparent reason, and news of these gatherings that mysteriously coalesced and disbanded spread rabidly through blogs and e-mails. The groups were created by Wasik to explore the growing world of memes, ideas that spread through culture, colonizing all as widely and ruthlessly as [they] can. He examines other Internet sensations—the meteoric rise and fall of pop bands, guerrilla marketing and political blogs—relating how such nanostories contribute to growing cynicism in a media-saturated and consumer-savvy public. He draws on the work of Steven Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell to demonstrate that the desire to interpret the analysis of culture has outstripped the desire to understand the culture itself. Wasik's examples are culled from the trivial—e.g., ephemeral indie bands and forgettable ad campaigns—but his deft style and provocative insights keep the book significant. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"This is an exceptionally smart, witty, subtle, enlightening book about our daffy, discombobulating cultural moment. Bill Wasik plunges headlong into the twenty-first century media funhouse, yet manages to keep his moral compass in good working order. Bravo."
- Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday and host of NPR's Studio 360

"Bill Wasik is a guerrilla mischief-maker, a mad scientist of the meme. Irreverence is not a bad starting point for making sense of the web, and Wasik takes full advantage, pushing buttons and pulling puppet strings. The combination of his restless mind and the explosive new medium yields insights that are provocative and, often, hilarious."
-Ted Conover, author of Newjack

"I was the guy who got Bill Wasik's first flash-mob e-mail but was too lazy to put on pants and go. It was a mistake. Bill understands not just how viral culture spreads ideas and scams and energy- drink-purchasing opportunities; it's also a completely new way to tell-and experience- stories."
-John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise

"This book will last far longer than its allocated fifteen minutes of fame. It's well researched, funny, irreverent, and addictive. Useful, too. One of those rare books that dissects a cultural phenomenon in a way that resonates."
-Seth Godin, author of Tribes

"What if the revolution was what Bill Wasik calls a 'nanostory'? It would begin with a flash mob disrupting business as usual and then die the following day, at a Ford Motor Company 'flash concert' echoing through Boston's New Brutalist downtown. And Then There's This is deeply troubling, but it's also the wittiest book I've read in years-an ingenious and, in the end, hopeful response to the sound and the fury of our twittering times."
-Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family and co-author of Killing the Buddha

"As to the engenderings of the new and newest media-when to YouTube and how to viral, where the microtrend begins and why the nanostory ends-I know of no more reliably informed source than Bill Wasik's And Then There's This. An epistemological wonder to behold."
-Lewis H. Lapham


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (June 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670020842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670020843
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,879,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Sharlet on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm sort of a ringer, because I got to read this book in manuscript and I contributed a blurb for its jacket. Moreover, Bill Wasik is my editor at Harper's magazine. But I'll win no points with him for this review. The irony of this book is that it's a brilliant examination of viral stories by a man who's proved himself a master of creating them -- consider the Flash Mob -- and yet has little use for them himself. He's not trying to sell you a business method. He's trying to understand why the "stories we tell ourselves in order to live," to paraphrase Joan Didion, have gotten shorter, shallower, and more absurd, from that of a high school senior who sued to be made valedictorian to the white noise buzz surrounding the amorphous ur-band -- one group of musicians interchangeable with another -- that has become the object of pop culture's Sisyphean self-consumption. In the hands of a lesser writer, this argument would become a scolding, but Wasik makes it brilliantly funny, without ever losing sight of the tragic dimensions he's exploring.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Rogers on September 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Continuing with the social media overload theme in the news of late, Wasik's book examines the ever-shortening life span of stories in our culture - whether it's news, gossip, or the latest best-seller - among the onslaught of email, RSS feeds, blog posts, and Tweets. He describes a world in which we have become so accustomed to a constant stream of new information, and so wary of always-encroaching boredom, that we tell stories about our society and ourselves, even when there is nothing new to say.

Besides the information glut, shortening attention spans, and overall exhaustion this creates, the really good content gets lost after its fleeting 15 minutes of fame (if that). And despite the broader array of news and opinion available to us, we have not necessarily broadened our horizons, but rather self-segregate ourselves into smaller & smaller niches of like-minded individuals.

The same themes were picked up in a Financial Times article last week, which noted that for many, social media has become "a more personal filter to the infinite world of the Internet." Where people use to turn to traditional portals like Yahoo! or AOL as their entry point, they are now turning to Facebook or their preferred feed aggregator, reading just the news & information that comes in from friends or other trusted sources. Ray Valdes, a media analyst from Gartner is quoted: "We are moving toward a world of `snackable' news'that'can be shared like pieces of candy or a pack of gum...Unfortunately, we run the risk of losing substance and nutritive value."

Wasik closes his book with a brief look at some of the "solutions" to Internet fatigue.
Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There's a certain irony here. Bill Wasik has written a book about creating massive publicity for non-events. Yet the publication of his book - definitely not a non-event - doesn't seem to be attracting attention from reviewers.

Wasik's book is a collection of stories about the way he created online buzz. In one example, he entered a contest sponsored by Huffington press where websites competed for the most visitors. Wasik was supposed to cover the event as a reporter but ended up entering and winning. In another chapter, he tries and fails to stop the buzz on an indie band.

Wasik's point seems to be twofold. On the one hand, stories capture the imagination of the Internet world. While you're hot, bloggers wite about you and you're known everywhere. But these days stories have a really short shelf lne.

On the other hand, the stories don't get famous because they have such great content. Theyget famous because people like Wasik know how to spread the word. For instance, Wasik created the Mob scenes where hundreds of people descended on a particular place for no reason at all.

The book is enjoyable: fun to read with aIt would have been more satisfing if Wasik could explain why some stories go viral and some don't. How dos he know how to choose topics and create blogs that get attenton so fast? Is this a skill that others can learn?

Recommended for anyone interested in the Internet, the arts, communication theory or sociology. It's a livng lesson.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SETI on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This was a great read until the last three pages, where Wasik leaps from analyzing the behavior and life cycles of online audiences into suggesting we all take a time out from surfing the waves and, for once, reflect on ideas, consider multiple views in topics of discussion, perhaps, read a book or two. Certainly not crazy ideas, but after 100+ pages of making the point that crowds gather online via human nature, to suddenly say, "Hey, stop doing that," kind of makes his plea destined to be ignored.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on July 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a weird book that is difficult to categorize. Not many of tried to do much thinking on how a new generation (the public) generates and consume media narratives and this is the first book to do a good job advancing the science. It is also one of the few books on the internet that I thought was both forward-thinking and intellectually honest. I'd like to think I am in front of this field a bit and seen some things that only a small group has thus far. Trust me, it's not all sunshine and kittens and I don't think many people have bothered to consider the consequences of what Jeff Jarvis calls "process journalism."

There is a blurb on the back that says the book has a timeless quality to it and whoever said it is totally right. It could be The Image for my generation. The notion of process journalism, which I think is a stupid rationalization for lazy reporting - a way for blogs to abdicate responsibility for their actions - the way that we consume the stories we created ourselves like some oblivious ouroboros; all these things are discussed thoughtfully by someone with actual experience in the matter. In fact, I think it's the first time someone who knew what they were talking about has attempted to do so. It's short, definitely worth reading. A peerless book thus far.

Bill Wasik digs himself well out of the whole he created by starting flash mobs a few years ago. He should be rewarded for this thoughtful, unique and important book.
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