A manifesto of sorts, proclaiming that the ubiquity of social media is not necessarily the end of the world, Luddites notwithstanding, even if those media need to be cajoled “into a healthier state.”
Luckett, formerly head of innovation at Disney, and one-time Wall Street Journal columnist Casey (The Unfair Trade: How Our Broken Global Financial System Destroys the Middle Class, 2012, etc.), currently a senior fellow at MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative, take a generally positive view of our connected, always-on digital world. However, pointing to Kim Kardashian butt shots and kitty videos, they caution, “not all evolution is progress.” Regardless, a swift evolution has glued us to our hand-held screens, and by the authors’ account, a sort of mass mind has spawned, patrolling the airwaves for ideas and deeds and punishing the bad while rewarding the good. Thus it is that when a Minneapolis dentist shot poor Cecil the Lion last year, the web came crashing down on him. “It is as if the Social Organism recognized Walter Palmer’s behavior as a harmful foreign substance,” write the authors, “a threat that needed to be expelled, akin to the racist Confederate flag.” So it is, as news travels less by media networks than by the peer-to-peer, instantly outraged spiderweb of Facebook and Instagram. The argument is the usual stuff of pop social science, in which carefully chosen anecdotes meet smatterings of fact. The approach is sometimes a little breezy and sometimes a little careless. It would seem ill advised, for instance, to characterize South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof as simply “a white twenty-one-year-old redneck,” though it’s certainly correct to observe that social media were supremely instrumental in channeling the grief and outrage of his murders into a campaign to remove Confederate symbols from the state house.
There’s not much new here apart from some synthesis of current theories about meme proliferation and networking, but the book should interest cyberspace completists.