And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture

3.33 avg rating
( 221 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780670020843: And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture

Breaking news, fresh gossip, tiny scandals, trumped-up crises-every day we are distracted by a culture that rings our doorbell and runs away. Stories spread wildly and die out in mere days, to be replaced by still more stories with ever shorter life spans. Through the Internet the news cycle has been set spinning even faster now that all of us can join the fray: anyone on a computer can spread a story almost as easily as The New York Times, CNN, or People. As media amateurs grow their audience, they learn to think like the pros, using the abundant data that the Internet offers-hit counters, most e-mailed lists, YouTube views, download tallies-to hone their own experiments in viral blowup.

And Then There's This is Bill Wasik's journey along the unexplored frontier of the twenty-first century's rambunctious new-media culture. He covers this world in part as a journalist, following "buzz bands" as they rise and fall in the online music scene, visiting with viral marketers and political trendsetters and online provocateurs. But he also wades in as a participant, conducting his own hilarious experiments: an e-mail fad (which turned into the worldwide "flash mob" sensation), a viral website in a month-long competition, a fake blog that attempts to create "antibuzz," and more. He doesn't always get the results he expected, but he tries to make sense of his data by surveying what real social science experiments have taught us about the effects of distraction, stimulation, and crowd behavior on the human mind. Part report, part memoir, part manifesto, part deconstruction of a decade, And Then There's This captures better than any other book the way technology is changing our culture.



"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Bill Wasik is a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, where he has written on culture, media, and politics. He is the editor of the anthology Submersion Journalism and has also written for The Oxford American, Slate, Salon, and McSweeney’s.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

2.

ANNUALS

EXPERIMENT: STOP PETER BJORN AND JOHN

SUBCULTURES OF NARCISSISM

In June 2004, a twenty-nine-year-old prosecutor named David Lat, who spent his days working at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, New Jersey, began a hobby that eventually cost him his job but also elevated him as an icon of both his profession and his time. Adopting a persona called "Article III Groupie," a drink-addled female devotee of constitutional law, he began writing a legal blog—"Underneath Their Robes"—which promised, in its first post and de facto manifesto, to apply the methodology of celebrity magazines (Lat listed as his models People, Us Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tiger Beat) to the rarefied culture of appeals-court juristry. In an early series of posts, Lat selected the "Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary," male and female; of Supreme Court justice David Souter he wrote, "Certiorari is GRANTED to that hot, lean body!" Lat encouraged readers to send in anonymously sourced "blind items" on high-ranking judges, whose identities would be left to the reader's best guess, e.g.:

This southeastern district judge had her clerks pack her belongings so she could move out after she and her husband filed for divorce.

This well-known circuit court judge . . . has issues concerning the appropriate treatment of female clerks in his chambers.

The dark joke underlying Lat's antics was obvious: take the lowest form of cultural analysis (celebrity gossip), apply it to one of the more intellectual and obscure reaches of American culture (appellate law), and what you get is comedy gold. Except it didn't play as comedy, or at least not just as comedy. Appellate judges really were a sort of celebrity to a certain—if small—segment of the population, namely those lawyers who, like Lat, worked in that corner of the profession. These lawyers all avidly read Lat's blog. Few of them had previously thought of their profession as a hotbed of salacious gossip, but once a site had bothered to collect it all and present it in a jaundiced tone, the evidence was indisputable. During the two years that Lat kept up his blog (before he was exposed and stepped down from his day job), Underneath Their Robes not only tweaked its profession but on some level transformed it. The lofty reaches of constitutional law had become infected with the media mind.

So it has gone with other subcultures in our viral age, when the Internet—with its worldwide accessibility and infinite capacity for segmentation—has allowed us to connect with farther-flung people who are more and more like ourselves. Much of the emergent Internet culture is in fact a collection of a wide array of niche cultures, in keeping with the "Long Tail" argument put forward by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his book of that name: "People are re-forming," he writes, "into thousands of cultural tribes of interest, connected less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interests." But what the Internet has done is arguably less to form such tribes than to change how they see themselves. Think about the offline publications that have traditionally catered to subcultures: many of them can still be found lining the magazine racks of one's local Barnes & Noble, those rows of sleepy titles devoted to individual professions, sports teams, musical genres, political preferences, ethnic communities, and so on. The very way we find these publications, each tucked among a slew of unrelated others, makes us keenly aware of their narrow purview, and one can sense in their pages that they realize this too. The difference online, where subcultures converse incessantly among themselves in an intense, always-on, inwardly directed banter, is that every crowd comes to talk and think about itself as if it were the center of the entire universe.

The most obvious symptom of this shift has been the online democratization of fame—what the technology writer Clive Thompson has dubbed "microcelebrity." Just as David Lat treated the 877 members of the appellate judiciary (and sometimes even their clerks!) as celebrities, and just as some flash-mobbers wanted to make "Bill" into a movement luminary, so does each subculture online tend to coronate its own small claque of mini-stars. On the Silicon Valley gossip blog Valleywag, readers follow the exploits of the young founders of Google and Facebook (and of far lesser business figures such as Jakob Lodwick, a marginally successful young web entrepreneur whose chief occupation seems to be seeking microcelebrity) in the same manner that Us Weekly stalks Tom Cruise. Even within user-run communities, fame finds a way of attaching itself to the most provocative members. The New York Times reported that when "DaShiv"—a photographer and popular commenter on the group blog MetaFilter—came to visit New York, three different parties were given in his honor by online associates.

But such nanofame is just part of a larger move toward nanostories— toward more narratives, and more perishable narratives—that has taken place within online subcultures. The reason for this larger shift is simple: the blinding speed and vast capacity of the medium essentially requires it. If impassioned chatter keeps up for days over the question of whether the forthcoming Corvette engine was unduly copied from a BMW engine—as was the case in early January 2008 on Autoblog, the biggest blog for car enthusiasts—it is only because a community that reviews twenty or more "breaking" car news stories in any given day will naturally seize on at least one story a week as earth-shattering. Moreover, the writers, seeing how readers love squabbles, begin to bake this into their posts: one imagines that PurseBlog, a site that reviews designer handbags, would not get 200,000 visits a day (making it by one count the twentieth most popular blog in America) if it did not regularly trash high-priced bags as "fug." (In one case, about a bag that went "out on a limb," it remarked: "Your limb is hanging over a river infested with piranhas and your branch just broke.") Traditionally, niche cultures were less fickle than the mainstream, because their adherents, aware of their marginal status and prizing group loyalty, wanted nothing more than to trumpet their own stars and stories into the wider culture. But today, when each subculture gets more niche news than even its fanatics can swallow, members become starved for deeper diversions, and their hit-hungry sites are more than happy to oblige.

Not long ago, I spent six months following the niche culture of indie rock—i.e., the loose musical genre, popular among collegians and young urbanites, that is defined not by any particular sound but by an opposition to (or at least exclusion from) corporate radio and labels. This subculture predates the Internet, to be sure—its lineage stretches back to the hardcore scene of the 1980s, if not before, and as a community it has been perpetuated through the years by a network of college radio stations, rundown clubs, obscure magazines, and boutique record stores. Precisely because of its oppositional roots, indie rock (like punk before it) had an even more fierce devotion than other niches to its subcultural stars: acts like Fugazi, the Pixies, Guided by Voices. But the Internet has utterly transformed indie rock, as tracks leaked through MySpace and file-sharing have allowed unknown bands to become overnight subcultural sensations, their uptake and abandonment egged on by scores of popular blogs. After observing some of these spikes flicker through the hipster hive-mind, I wondered whether I might choose one and attempt, as best I could, to document it as it actually happened. What I found, in the story of a band called Annuals, was a parable not just of fickle indie-rock fame but of a paradoxical new cultural force: the rise of niche sensationalism.

GET READY TO GET SICK

On July 17, 2006, a man named Mike on the indie-rock blog Postcore. com made what could only be called a preemptive strike. "[W]ord on the street," he wrote, "is that Pitchfork"—the Internet's most influential music site, and arguably the independent music scene's chief tastemaker, online or off—"is getting the jump on this band tomorrow, which means we're going to throw it out there today." He went on:

[T]his band's got it all: young songwriter who begs for the "wunderkind" title . . . inventive and semi-electronic production, full support from the most influential music blog out there (not this one), songs that explode halfway through, and about a hundred music blogs who feel the pressure to write about a different band every day. I'm just saying, get ready to get sick of hearing about this band.

"Get ready to get sick of hearing about this band": it would be difficult to think of a more apt motto for indie rock—or any niche culture, for that matter—in the age of the Internet. Finding out about important new culture used to depend on whom you knew or where you were. In the indie-rock scene of the 1980s, news spread almost exclusively through word of mouth, through photocopied 'zines (often with circulations in three or even two digits), or through low-watt college radio stations. Today, indie-rock culture remains an underground culture, basically by definition, in that its fans shun mainstream music in favor of lesser-known acts. But now, MySpace, iTunes, and Internet radio make location and friends irrelevant for discovering music. Blogs and aggregators enable fans to determine in just a few minutes what everyone else is listening to that day. What you know, where you are—these matter not at all. To be an insider today one must merely be fast. Once Mike found out that Pitchfork would be posting about the new band, one cannot blame him for his haste, because aprè...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Your Online Bookstore
(Houston, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0670020842. Bookseller Inventory # HGT3346CPBR102916H1737A

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 1.00
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 2.95
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult 2009-06-11 (2009)
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 10
Seller
Ebooksweb COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult 2009-06-11, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. 0670020842. Bookseller Inventory # Z0670020842ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 4.57
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller
Booklot COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0670020842. Bookseller Inventory # Z0670020842ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 4.57
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Wasik, Bill
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Grandisbooks
(Neptune, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. New and unused. Light shelfwear from storage with other items. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. Bookseller Inventory # 3148ZA000HBX

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 2.47
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.00
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Wasik, Bill
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Castle Rock
(Pittsford, NY, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97806700208431.0

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.62
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult (2009)
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0670020842

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.01
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult (2009)
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0670020842

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 14.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult (2009)
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Mad Hatter Bookstore
(Westbank, BC, Canada)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Description: Clean unmarked 202 page first edition hardcover with "1" present in number line. Wasik journeys along the unexplored frontier of how stories live and die in viral culture to reveal how anyone on a computer can spread a story almost as easily as "The New York Times, CNN," or "People." Has 26 diagrams and illustrations scattered throughout. Synopsis: Breaking news, fresh gossip, tiny scandals, trumped-up crises-every day we are distracted by a culture that rings our doorbell and runs away. Stories spread wildly and die out in mere days, to be replaced by still more stories with ever shorter life spans. Through the Internet the news cycle has been set spinning even faster now that all of us can join the fray: anyone on a computer can spread a story almost as easily as The New York Times, CNN, or People. As media amateurs grow their audience, they learn to think like the pros, using the abundant data that the Internet offers-hit counters, most e-mailed lists, YouTube views, download tallies-to hone their own experiments in viral blowup. And Then There's This is Bill Wasik's journey along the unexplored frontier of the twenty-first century's rambunctious new-media culture. He covers this world in part as a journalist, following "buzz bands" as they rise and fall in the online music scene, visiting with viral marketers and political trendsetters and online provocateurs. But he also wades in as a participant, conducting his own hilarious experiments: an e-mail fad (which turned into the worldwide "flash mob" sensation), a viral website in a month-long competition, a fake blog that attempts to create "antibuzz," and more. He doesn't always get the results he expected, but he tries to make sense of his data by surveying what real social science experiments have taught us about the effects of distraction, stimulation, and crowd behavior on the human mind. Part report, part memoir, part manifesto, part deconstruction of a decade, And Then There's This captures better than any other book the way technology is changing our culture. Bookseller Inventory # 003271

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 23.16
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 16.95
From Canada to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Wasik, Bill
Published by Viking Adult (2009)
ISBN 10: 0670020842 ISBN 13: 9780670020843
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 3
Seller
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Viking Adult, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110670020842

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 40.22
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 2.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds