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The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age [Kindle Edition]

Astra Taylor
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.00
Kindle Price: $11.04
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

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 on the web, 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.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Internet, many thought, was going to usher in a new era of information sharing; of open, unfettered communication; of new arts and new media. But, instead, Taylor argues in this persuasive book, the Internet has given us more of the same. Instead of leveling the playing field, giving everyone equal opportunities to succeed creatively and economically, the Internet carried over the traditional problems: corporate monopolies at the controls, unfair economic practices, and a disproportionate focus on popularity and mass appeal. 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. We need, in other words, a new financial model. Newspapers, he points out, are being hurt by the enormous amount of online content, and most of that content is generated by people who aren’t paid for their work. How, Taylor asks, is that fair? A smart, well-reasoned approach to a highly topical subject. --David Pitt


“Astra Taylor’s insights into the ‘missing middle’ of our present situation are sane, lucid, and generous. This book adjusted my thinking on several scores.”
—Jonathan Lethem
“In this, perhaps the most important book about the digital age so far this century, Astra Taylor reveals the unacknowledged economic operating system actually running the net. It’s a landscape in which ‘open’ means different things for different people, leisure might better be classified as labor, and the promise of free culture ends up costing us so much more than money.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock, Program or Be Programmed and Life Inc. 
“The scariest book I’ve read in a while is also the most exhilarating: The People’s Platform portrays what the digital age has done to our society, our culture, our lives—the power grabs, the blows to democracy, the uphill rush of money—and how it’s undermined the economic underpinnings of news and art, in broad scope and precise detail. There is no better, no stronger picture of our bleak new technological landscape and the peppy delusions and deceptions of its profiteers. Knowledge is power, and Taylor gives us a picture so clear it empowers us to find a way forward through the debris. Read it and revolt.”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell
“A lively, engaging and wide-ranging look at the politics and the business of the Internet. This is a must-read call to action for anyone who believes in the democratic potential of the net.”
—Nora Young, host of Spark, on CBC Radio
“In The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor skillfully explores and dismantles familiar polarized positions on internet culture. In this unravelling, she reveals the complex and blurred relationships among users, creators and those who profit from them. Taylor’s argument for a sustainable cultural commons is moving and persuasive, and elevates the debate at this crucial juncture in the evolution of cyberspace.”
—Jennifer Baichwal, documentary filmmaker (Manufactured Landscapes, Payback, Watermark)
The People’s Platform is a can’t-look-away tour through the bombed-out wreckage of democratic culture in the Internet age. If you’ve ever had the uncomfortable feeling that we’ve taken a wrong turn on the way to the future, Astra Taylor’s shocking, utterly rational, and elegant book will have you shaking your fist along with her. This is an essential and overdue indictment of our ailing media culture.”
—Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet 
  “Astra Taylor is a bright voice of the Occupy generation—a courageous philosopher and a keen activist with a digital populist message. Taylor’s prescient manifesto for ‘sustainable culture’ explains why the 99% must pioneer ‘cultural democracy’ to win real democracy. The People's Platform is destined to ignite a global social movement to rewild our mental ecology.”
—Micah White, Ph.D. (@LeaderlesRevolt), co-creator of Occupy Wall Street meme

Product Details

  • File Size: 595 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007525591
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (April 15, 2014)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A3PIZL8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,347 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like Lambs to the Slaughter April 23, 2014
There is no such thing as the public internet. Everything flows through private pipes. This statement appears in the conclusion of The People’s Platform, but frames Astra Taylor’s entire book. Her chapters descend a steep curve of hucksterism that has us all in its thrall.

It is rare that I get book this clear, this well thought out and this well organized. The People’s Platform condemns Web 2.0 for making everyone a serf in the billionaires’ playground. We create content, we upload everything in our lives, we list our friends and contacts for the social media sites to exploit, and we get nothing for it, at all. We do it for the “freedom” it gives us, for the creative license it gives us, for the feeling of community it gives us. The massive profits from it go entirely elsewhere. And those same corporations now dispense with our services for the freebies we give them.

The Internet is a funnel. We follow our friends, their comments and their likes and end up buying what they buy or recommend. Facebook even adds our photos to our likes, so friends will know immediately it’s us and it’s true. We populate whole websites with uploaded content for free, so that giant corporations can reap the benefits of either the content or the data about us and all the people we name. A prime example is book reviews, which have certain among us slavishly reading books and analyzing them for the benefit of the site’s sales. Writing critical reviews results in negative votes, which lower the reviewer’s rank, so the successful reviews tend be rather cheery. Taylor calls it digital feudalism, where users work the digital farm and owners reap the very real profits. “Online, originality doesn’t pay; aggregation does.”

That’s just the first chapter.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Documentary filmmaker Taylor skewers the romanticism of utopian new net heralds. That the promise of an open, democratic internet has been subverted by corporate overlords, monopolistic titans, public relations shills, and destructive wasteful advertising interests. In the process, shredding journalism (to which Taylor repeatedly refers to now as "churnalism") and transforming the media realm into hamster wheel (my words here, not hers) where every click is measured and logged for the science of predictive marketing. Depressing, because she is correct here -- though I do believe it's not in complete entirety and that this state is due in large part to web users themselves, who are indeed attracted to this model. Saddening, because reading this confirmed my own evolving darkened view of the web, as once I had so much faith in the power of the networked web. Taylor chronicles the obscenity of pay-per-click, the wasted resources (in both money and carbon). Even noting the irony that it was government that created these modern marvels, only to witness now private corporate entities siphon all the goodness in erecting their media empires and their quest to swallow all. That this unethical conflict of interest and crass commercialism reigns in the online realm, where it be considered offensive anywhere else. In the meantime, she questions whether this is a good arrangement for creative workers, who now are relegated to compete in a winner-take-all lottery, with no security, and most not making even enough to live on. Here, it's personal for Taylor -- while she strives to adopt an objective mantle, her experiential background surfaces again and again. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read Astra Taylor’s heartfelt appeal on behalf of the cultural commons, and other critical books by Nicholas Carr (The Shallows), Robert Levine (Free Ride) and Jaron Lanier (Who Owns The Future and You Are Not A Gadget), I have come to the realization that until we can all agree on what the internet is and succinctly describe it we will never be able to harness its power for the benefit of humanity. By describing it I don’t mean stuff like “the internet is an opportunity for families and businesses to participate in the digital economy.” Or, it’s a place where the masses hang out liking and linking to everyone else’s trivialities.

Before I offer my own description here’s my rating for Astra Taylor’s book: four stars out of five. I deducted one because of two notions I feel compelled to challenge. 1) The Internet is another world, separate to the one we all live in. Cyberspace. This silly perception perpetuates special treatment for the winner-takes-all mentality, allowing them to manipulate us. There is only one world. We all live in it. The rules should apply equally whether we’re online or offline. 2) The dangerous notion that copyright is an impediment to creativity. This also allows the few to exploit the many. Copyright, besides enabling creators/owners to profit from their own creations actually encourages creativity by forcing artists — at least those who need coercion — to be original. It’s a demanding interface/a desirable obstacle that helps shape the artist.

Now, for the record, my dictionary-styled definition —

The Internet is a parallel marketplace dominated by an advertiser-funded oligopoly, a handful of mega-powerful digital corporations exploiting a tangled network of loopholes — economic, legal, moral, social, cultural — that previously didn’t exist (or were neutralized in the pre online era). Before these loopholes are closed the Internet will have done enormous and largely irreparable damage to civilisation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I cannot recommend it highly enough Among one of my favorites
This book is filled with so many research-based insights and simple common sense about the effect of the Internet on our lives, I cannot recommend it highly enough Among one of my... Read more
Published 3 months ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book was really important for me as a singer/songwriter.
Published 3 months ago by Morgan
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong on culture, less so on power
Every major advance in 20th century communications technology brought a promise of mass education, and popular control. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Michael McCallister
4.0 out of 5 stars The most considered and thoughtful book i have read on ...
The most considered and thoughtful book i have read on the cultural and economic results of our fascination with the Internet
Published 4 months ago by Bill Whelan
3.0 out of 5 stars The Social Media Regime!
An eye-opening book about the past present and future of the socialedia regime. Important work of research on scattered facts. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Naz
5.0 out of 5 stars Occupy the cultural commons
“The People’s Platform” by Astra Taylor is a timely discussion about the Internet, media and artistry. Ms. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Malvin
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book!
I suggest everybody interested in influence of social media read this book. The Author has developed a strong argument for developing a digital public square where everybody not... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
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