New chapter on Ethnographic research in ‘Geographies of the Internet,’ out soon on Routledge

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I have a chapter in the new Geographies of the Internet volume in the Routledge Studies in Human Geography series entitled “Ethnographic research and the internet.” It is available via the Routledge site here and, ideally, your campus library!

Special thanks to Barney Warf for inviting me to contribute. It was already a challenge pushing this long-term project through the process with Routledge, and I’m sure the pandemic hasn’t made things any easier.

I’ll paste the book description and table of contents here:

This book offers a comprehensive overview of recent research on the internet, emphasizing its spatial dimensions, geospatial applications, and the numerous social and geographic implications such as the digital divide and the mobile internet.

Written by leading scholars in the field, the book sheds light on the origins and the multiple facets of the internet. It addresses the various definitions of cyberspace and the rise of the World Wide Web, draws upon media theory, as well as explores the physical infrastructure such as the global skein of fibre optics networks and broadband connectivity. Several economic dimensions, such as e-commerce, e-tailing, e-finance, e-government, and e-tourism, are also explored. Apart from its most common uses such as Google Earth, social media like Twitter, and neogeography, this volume also presents the internet’s novel uses for ethnographic research and the study of digital diasporas.

Illustrated with numerous graphics, maps, and charts, the book will best serve as supplementary reading for academics, students, researchers, and as a professional handbook for policy makers involved in communications, media, retailing, and economic development.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction Barney Warf

PART I Conceiving the history, technology, and geography of the internet

2 Is cyberspace there after all? Aharon Kellerman

3 The World Wide Web as media ecology Michael L. Black

4 Robustness and the internet: a geographic fiber-optic infrastructure perspective Ramakrishnan Durairajan

5 The history of broadband Elizabeth Mack

6 The mobile internet Matthew Kelley

7 Geographies of the internet in rural areas in developing countries Jeffrey James

8 Geographies of global digital divides James B. Pick and Avijit Sarkar

PART II Political economy of the internet

9 The geography of e-commerce Bruno Moriset

10 Online retailing Emily Fekete

11 Finance and information technologies: opposite sides of the same coin Jayson J. Funke

12 E-tourism Irene Cheng Chu Chan and Rob Law

13 The state and cyberspace: e-government geographies Barney Warf

14 A geography of the internet in China Xiang Zhang

PART III The internet in everyday life

15 Google Earth Todd Patterson

16 Augmented Reality: an overview Mark Billinghurst

17 Twitter Matthew Haffner

18 Neogeography Wen Lin

19 Ethnographic research and the internet Tyler Sonnichsen

20 Cyber-spatial cartographies of digital diasporas Michel S. Laguerre

21 Wearable internet for wellness and health: interdigital territories of new technology Monica Murero

22 The Internet of Things Anurag Agarwal and Bhuvan Unhelkar

Index

Condition: Jawbreaker

41o2-subljl-_sx364_bo1204203200_I recently read Ronen Givony’s book on Jawbreaker’s 1994 album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Bloomsbury 33 1/3 series), which I highly recommend to anybody interested in the pre-internet circulation of underground music. While it’s so easy to wax poetic and nostalgic about 20th century pop culture, Givony illuminates the dark side of that era. The backlash that Jawbreaker faced for signing to a major label was downright savage. As many of their friends and colleagues have implied, it would likely not have mattered if it had happened five years earlier or later; the conditions in 1995 were just right for righteous indignation among their fans.  The Dismemberment Plan, who I’ve focused a lot of my music writing on, followed a similar early-to-the-party/first-to-leave timeline (though it took Jawbreaker 21 years to reunite, whereas the Plan reunited in earnest within 8).

Givony’s Jawbreaker story made my jaw drop exactly twice.

1979970_700682193307329_4809697842692758554_oFirst, I was genuinely amazed to discover that their bassist Chris Bauermeister went to high school in my hometown. He grew up in a German-speaking household in Connecticut and attended a prep school in Madison that closed down in 1991. I only have vague memories of the school; my mom recently told me she voted in the town’s referendum on whether to purchase the property (with the school building on it). I didn’t have any real overlap with Chris, who graduated and moved away to New York in 1985, the year before my family moved to town. Still, it’s a remarkable coincidence considering how (1) I always considered Jawbreaker to be a quintessential San Francisco band, and (2) I tended to assume nothing cool ever came out of my hometown. It’s taken half a lifetime away, a PhD dissertation, and some sprinkled-in hindsight to realize how wrong I was about that. Also, the youngest person to graduate from Hammonasset is in their mid-forties now.

Second, in the middle of a “get off my lawn” screed about the contemporary state of the music industry, Givony drops an incisive observation that I think bears block-quoting here (emphasis mine):

In the music and media industries today, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a band in possession of a good single must be in want of a fortune. In a time when almost no one still buys albums, and tens of thousands of streams will earn a band pennies, the reasoning goes, artists deserve to get paid any way they can manage, and rightly so. Who are we to blame them if the only people still paying musicians their true worth are corporate advertising and branding companies? It’s a difficult claim with which to argue, which is why almost no one ever still does.

As much as I balked at the assertion that “almost no one still buys albums” (pressing plants wouldn’t be backed up to hell if that were true), this bold statement hit me like a ton of bricks. The idea that musicians can only make a healthy living through licensing (title idea: Better Living through Licensing) has been analyzed comprehensively at this point. Todd in the Shadows broke it down beautifully in this video late last year. However, the specific angle that corporations were the only ones either capable of (or willing to) pay musicians their true worth has been banging around in my head for days. I am steadfast that Google and Spotify have both been instrumental in institutionally and purposefully devaluing music to create a paradox in which artists would be beholden to them. I’m aware that music piracy on the internet long pre-dates either of those companies, and label heads were freaking out over cassette tapes much more in 1987 than they were over MP3.com in 1997 (Thanks, Telecom Act!). Regardless, whether people want to pay for music is not the issue. That so many people feel entitled to not pay for music, or even own it, is noteworthy. Then again, this is nothing new, and people have still not slowed at creating art. Artists, as Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964, always have the advantage since they are sitting at the point of creation:

In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs.

We can’t travel back to the point in time when 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was created, but fortunately the internet has enabled the next best thing: virtual flânerie! Here is some Super-8 footage that Adam Pfahler found of the trio driving around their adopted neighborhood in 1992. Just like Jawbreaker encapsulated the pre-internet era of underground America in their music, this video does well to provide a peek into pre-Google, pre-Facebook San Francisco, when the Mission was cheap and bursting with potential. Also, it gives “Boxcar” the long-overdue music video it deserves.

Did Alexis de Tocqueville Predict the Internet?

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Did Alexis de Tocqueville anticipate the internet in 1835?

Long answer, “no” with a “but.” Short answer, “yes” with an “if you think about the internet more conceptually and we’re talking about the metaphysical and social dynamics rather than literal mechanics, sure.”

Anyway, I was looking for some quotable quotes in the late-70’s abridged edition of Democracy in America, which I recently purchased in my favorite bookstore on the planet (Capitol Hill Books), landed on this, and thought “wow, that’s pretty much where we are today.”

The artisan readily understands these passions, for he himself partakes in them: in an aristocracy, he would seek to sell his worksmanship at a high price to the few; he now conceives that the more expeditious way of getting rich is to sell them at a low price to all (p. 170).
In America, parties do not write books to combat each other’s opinions, but pamphlets, which are circulated for a day with incredible rapidity, and then expire.
In the midst of all these obscure productions of the human brain appear the more remarkable works of a small number of authors, whose names are, or ought to be, known to Europeans (p. 173).
Who said we ever needed the internet to have internet culture?
Seriously, if you’re ever in DC, visit Capitol Hill Books before doing anything else at all. Well, maybe get hydrated first because it’s a sauna there, but then visit this store. It will make you love books even more than you already thought you did, and the gentrification/development going on in Eastern Market is making me worried, and all those museums and monuments up the street aren’t going anywhere.