Networked Publics


Published by the MIT Press in 2008, Networked Publics is the product of a year of scholarship by an interdisciplinary team of scholars at The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication, Networked Publics was a crucial early exploration of the ways in which the Internet became part of everyday life. With the mass media and mass audience analyzed by the Frankfurt School long past, now we inhabit multiple, overlapping and global networks such as user forums, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, and Twitter. The media industry which just two decades ago seemed well-established, is in flux, facing its greatest challenge ever. Networked Publics examines the ways that the social and cultural shifts created by these technologies have transformed our relationships to (and definitions of) place, culture, politics, and infrastructure.

Four chapters provide a synoptic overview along with illustrative case studies. The chapter on place describes how digital networks enable us to be present in physical and networked places simultaneously (on the phone while on the road; on the Web while at a café)—often at the expense of non-digital commitments. The chapter on culture explores the growth of amateur-produced and -remixed content online and the impact of these practices on the music, anime, advertising, and news industries. The chapter on politics examines the new networked modes of bottom-up political expression and mobilization, and the difficulty in channeling online political discourse into productive political deliberation. And finally, the chapter on infrastructure notes the tension between openness and control in the flow of information, as seen in the current controversy over net neutrality. An introduction by anthropologist Mizuko Ito and my widely republished conclusion frame the chapters, giving overviews of the radical nature of these transformations.

The Networked Publics site maintains an online record of that year, an early collaborative blog.