Author(s): Astra Taylor
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 democratising force, a place where everyone can participate. * So why are minorities and marginalized groups under-represented on user-generated websites, with less than 15% of Wikipedia written by women? * Why does keyword-jammed and star-studded churnalism proliferate, at the expense of in-depth, investigative journalism? * And how have a handful of giant corporations like Facebook, Google and Apple seized control of our creativity, galvanizing individuals to produce content for free? 'The People's Platform' argues that for all our 'sharing', the internet reflects real-world inequalities as much as it reduces them. Attention accrues to those who already have it. Cultural products are increasingly valued more as opportunities for data collection for distributors - content creators receive little for their efforts. News filters mean people mistake what interests them for what is really important. And we pay for our 'free' access to content by offering up our personal details to advertisers.
The online world does offer a unique opportunity for greater freedom, but a democratic community that supports the diverse and lasting will not spring up from technology alone. If we want the internet to be a people's platform, we will have to make it so.
'If you want to understand the web not as some invasive, alien dimension but an extension of our own world, 'The People's Platform' is an excellent place to start.' Oliver Moody, The Times 'We need books like this ... [Taylor's] done a lot of homework and writes well, so '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.' John Naughton, Observer 'Public discourse on the subject of technology is skewed to the margins, to the extremes ... credit is due, then, to Astra Taylor, for trying to reject such simplistic divisions ... She has highlighted a genuine problem facing the world - the difficulty of promoting art, culture and public- spiritedness in the internet age.' **** Tom Chivers, Sunday Telegraph '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 'Sane, lucid, and generous. This book adjusted my thinking on several scores.' Jonathan Lethem 'This timely book lands just as the valuations of technology companies soar and cracks have begun to show in the public's reverence for the likes of Google and Facebook ... 'The People's Platform' is packed with facts that give weight to this argument ... Taylor's nightmare and Zuckerberg's dream may well come true: we'll be living in a Facebook world.' Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times 'Perhaps the most important book about the digital age so far this century.' Douglas Rushkoff '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
Astra Taylor is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Her films include Zizek!, a feature documentary about the world's most outrageous philosopher, and Examined Life, a series of excursions with contemporary thinkers. Her writing has appeared in The Nation, Salon, Monthly Review, The Baffler and other publications. She lives in New York City.