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Tales from Facebook 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0745652108
ISBN-10: 0745652107
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Editorial Reviews


"It is Miller's focus on Trinidad and his beguilingly intimate style of writing that makes this work special. Prepare to have your expectations confounded."
The Age

"A very welcome and distinctive contribution to what is currently a small body of work on emerging online social networks."
LSE Politics Blog

"With social media playing an increasingly dominant role in our lives, it was about time somebody undertook a serious academic study of the way the Facebook phenomenon is changing and shaping behaviour...Whatever your feelings about the ever-present Facebook, Twitter etc, they are here to stay, so this book is an intriguing guide to as-yet uncharted territory."
The Style King

"Miller has written an insightful and engaging look at what Facebook has done to Trinidad and, more intriguingly, what Trinidad is doing to Facebook. For anyone keen to understand what human culture is becoming as the internet becomes its nearly universal vehicle, Tales from Facebook is obligatory reading."
Julian Dibbell, contributing editor for Wired magazine and author of My Tiny Life and Play Money"

Tales from Facebook is a genre-busting tour de force. Miller moves between fascinating stories of the often unexpected ways Trinidadians (for whom the verb 'to friend' is over a century old) use Facebook to thought-provoking discussions of the broad implications of social networking sites. Readers from a wide range of backgrounds will find this book an insightful treasure.
"Tom Boellstorff, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, and author of Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human

From the Back Cover

Facebook is now used by nearly 500 million people throughout the world, many of whom spend several hours a day on this site. Once the preserve of youth, the largest increase in usage today is amongst the older sections of the population. Yet until now there has been no major study of the impact of these social networking sites upon the lives of their users. This book demonstrates that it can be profound. The tales in this book reveal how Facebook can become the means by which people find and cultivate relationships, but can also be instrumental in breaking up marriage. They reveal how Facebook can bring back the lives of people isolated in their homes by illness or age, by shyness or failure, but equally Facebook can devastate privacy and create scandal. We discover why some people believe that the truth of another person lies more in what you see online than face-to-face. We also see how Facebook has become a vehicle for business, the church, sex and memorialisation.

After a century in which we have assumed social networking and community to be in decline, Facebook has suddenly hugely expanded our social relationships, challenging the central assumptions of social science. It demonstrates one of the main tenets of anthropology - that individuals have always been social networking sites. This book examines in detail how Facebook transforms the lives of particular individuals, but it also presents a general theory of Facebook as culture and considers the likely consequences of social networking in the future.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (April 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745652107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745652108
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I want to write this review simply to suggest to anyone thinking about using this in an academic setting to reconsider...It may be a useful read if you are looking for something in the "teaching students how to critique a work" category, but the bulk of this book is- as he mentions in the foreward, a mix of short-story and travelogue more than detailed anthropological description. The aspects of Trinidadian culture are interesting, but for the most part, the description of uses of Facebook are pretty common and will be familiar and unsurprising, particularly to anyone of student-age.

The actual "anthropological" portion of the book at the very end contains some good discussions about Facebook/social media, but it is maybe only the last third of the book and does not really do a great job of connecting to the research in the first part of the book.

Ultimately, I think this book is too polarized between the world of pop-non-fiction and anthropology to really sit comfortably in either realm. It was an interesting read for me to think about how I would NOT go about writing an anthropological text, but again I would strongly suggest those thinking about using this in a class setting to reconsider....possibly good for an 101-level media or anthro class but otherwise, I would avoid this text.

That said, his writing is not terrible and for those not too academically oriented this is probably a pretty interesting read.
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Format: Paperback
Amazon Vine(tm) Review

These days, it is increasingly hard to escape Facebook, whether or not one is actually signed up to it or not. Even the main news stories carry occasional stories about Facebook, most of them negative. Yet Facebook can also be a force for good, although the good stories don't generally make the headlines. This book is the first serious study that I've read about Facebook. It illustrates the impact through twelve short stories, averaging about twelve pages each, each focusing on an individual, their use of Facebook and how it affected their lives. A thirteenth short story focuses on a food that has its own Facebook fan page.

The thirteen stories are all from Trinidad, a former British colony in the Caribbean whose inhabitants have (it seems) taken Facebook to their hearts. While one may argue about the choice of Trinidad as a research base, it does allow the author to add interest to the book by telling us about various aspects of Trinidad, its people, their life and culture. That said, if you really want to learn about Trinidad, there are plenty of other books devoted to the subject. While Trinidad is very different in many ways from any major industrialized country you care to name, there are enough similarities to make it a viable research base. People still have the same basic needs even though they may express them in different ways.

The first story here focuses on a marriage that might have been in trouble anyway, but Facebook usage destroyed it. Some of the detail may be Trinidadian, but the basic story could easily be British or American. On a more positive note, a man who becomes wheelchair-bound discovers Facebook and finds that he can still communicate with the outside world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. It had an unusual organization but it really worked. The first ten or so chapters were profiles of different peoples uses of Facebook. Each was a rich portrait of a person and how Facebook was woven into their lives. The last three chapters built on those portraits to offer an anthropological analysis of Facebook. The author seemed to me to imply that you could just read the portraits or if you were more interested in the anthropology also read the last chapters. I read it all and throughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback
There aren't a lot of books like this: a "quick" academic book that was written and produced quickly (there's no index, no doubt because of its quick schedule). It's no surprise that this isn't a particularly well or deeply argued book. But I think there is some virtue in people daring to write about a new phenomenon like Facebook from a scholarly perspective, even if that scholarly perspective isn't particularly meaty. The book will likely be out of date within a couple of years, but if you're teaching a class on social media or anthropology of media this year or next, it could be productive. The "analytical" chapters coming at the back is a mistake: the chapters that precede them are not interesting enough to stand on their own.

That said, this book seems to have its share of contradictions and missteps. The most glaring is that the author makes the bold and absurd argument that Facebook is "reversing two centuries of flight from community." Really? Hmmm. At the same time, he resists such oversized claims from people who claim that Facebook has the potential to foment democratic revolutions. Why is his own claim any more plausible?

Also, Miller, in favoring the user side of things, is perhaps too quick to dismiss the context that Facebook is: a commercial site that profits from collecting user-generated data (otherwise known as private information). He doesn't want to talk about "corporate" anything, but his perspective seems to me arbitrarily incomplete, especially when he claims to be thinking seriously about privacy.
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