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The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age Hardcover – April 15, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805093567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

“Taylor’s critique hits hard... The People’s Platform should be taken as a challenge by the new media that have long claimed to be improving on the old order.”
—Tim Wu, The New York Times Book Review

“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’ The Book Reader

“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

“Do you use the Internet? Then you have to read Astra Taylor’s The People’s Platform, one of the most important books of the year…. Taylor is a clear-eyed writer and a provocative thinker, covering the shifting grounds of how the Internet changes and affects today’s culture, from journalism to music. It makes you very wary about having a Facebook page.”

“A bracing expression of intelligent outrage—with the manifesto vibe of No Logo and the prescience of Silent Spring. By delivering a streetwise economic analysis of our technological reality, Taylor leaves her reader feeling at once charged and newly aware of being duped…. A smart and needful reminder that we sacrifice our systems of knowledge and communication to corporate interests at our great peril. More importantly, it reminds us that there is no single destiny for us; that we can, and must, engineer more than machines—we must engineer modes of use.”
Globe and Mail (Canada)

“In her excellent new book The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor thinks through issues of money and power in the age of the Internet with clarity, nuance, and wit. (The book is fun to read, even as it terrifies you about the future of culture and of the economy.).”
—The Awl

“Meticulously details how work, education, and the public sphere have been eroded.”
—National Post (Canada)

“We need books like this. Astra Taylor is a talented documentary-maker who was dismayed by the way her work was appropriated and pirated online. But instead of fuming silently in her studio, she set out to seek an understanding of the paradoxical world that the merging of cyberspace and meatspace has produced. What she finds is a world which is, on the one hand, hooked on an evangelical narrative about the liberating, empowering, enlightening, democratising power of information technology while, on the other, being increasingly dominated and controlled by the corporations that have effectively captured the technology.... The People’s Platform will be an invaluable primer for anyone seeking to understand why our networked world isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.”
—The Observer (UK)

“A thoughtful corrective about the nature of a medium that has promoted itself as the great equalizer. Taylor delves deep into a world often assumed incomprehensible to anyone but the archetypal techno-geek. She expertly surveys a broad range of research and opinion, and her conclusions will shake the complacency of anyone who thinks that their computer’s firewalls will protect personal privacy and keep them free of the hidden corporate hand surreptitiously shaping their search results.”
—Quill & Quire (Canada)

“A phenomenally important book… The People’s Platform isn’t easy to stomach—and that’s because it presents plenty of devastating truths….The People’s Platform is nothing short of a clear-headed gut-check, but Taylor’s message is deceptively simple: That technology is a tool, not a solution. And even if technology has boundless democratizing potential, at current, it hasn’t levelled inequalities.”
—Fast Forward Weekly (Canada)

“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.”

“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

“The scariest book I’ve read in a while is also the most exhilarating: there is no better, stronger picture of our bleak new technological landscape and the peppy delusions and deceptions of its profiteers than The People’s Platform. But 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 The Faraway Nearby

“The promise was so utopian, and it really seemed possible! Now we watch as the lauded instrument of ‘creative destruction’ ends up in the hands of a few giant corporations. What happened? Is there a way out beyond pulling the plug? In response, Astra Taylor has laid out clear arguments, sobering information, and inspiring insights. There have been a lot of books about how the Internet is changing our world, but this is absolutely one of the best. Beautifully written and highly recommended.”
—David Byrne, author and musician

“Internet policy books seem only to come in two colors: bright dream or dark nightmare. Enter The People’s Platform—it’s a rainbow of insight. With nuance and a light touch, Astra Taylor exposes the fallacies in contemporary digital punditry. Unlike her peers, she has her eyes on a truly democratic politics. Which makes this a rare book—one that can radically change the way we see the future of digital social change.”
—Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing and Stuffed and Starved

“What happened to the Internet revolution? Why, if everything’s so different, does it feel like everything’s still the same? Astra Taylor breaks it down here with humor, patience, and an unerring moral sense. This is a brave, inspiring, and necessary book.”
—Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

“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, author of The Ecstasy of Influence

“In this, perhaps the most important book about the digital age so far this century, Astra Taylor reveals the unacknowledged economic system actually running the net. It’s a landscape in which 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: Why Everything Happens Now

“Lucid, unsparing, and brilliant, The People’s Platform demonstrates how the Internet, hardly a paradise of freedom and equality, has been left in the hands of moguls, oligarchs, and corporate scamsters to produce little more than new forms of exploitation. But it also shows that the utopian promise is not all hot air. Freedom doesn’t just happen. It has to be conquered, and this book begins to tell us how.”
—David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“Why has the invention most celebrated for putting the means of expression in the hands of the people produced a few billionaire moguls and a mass of creative producers expected to work for free? Confronting this core inequality of the digital age, Astra Taylor opens a new front in the battle for sustainable culture—and gives us good reason to think that this is a battle we can win.”
—Jodi Dean, author of Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting reading.
Jeff D
This is a must read for anyone interested in creativity and cultural production.
Ted Hope
Ms. Taylor reminds us that the on-and offline worlds are deeply connected.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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.
Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 26, 2014
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 By Mike Wade on June 15, 2014
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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