Lurking: How a Person Became a User

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published Oct. 3, 2020 by MCD.


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5 stars (2 reviews)

A concise but wide-ranging personal history of the internet from—for the first time—the point of view of the user

In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of—even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate—but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been.

In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. She charts what it is that brought people online and what keeps us …

4 editions

How we use and get used by the 'net

4 stars

A lot happens in "Lurking," but true to its title, the book mostly shines a light on what foul things other people are doing - and how one's odds of getting away with it depend on how much the man in the mirror looks like Zuck.

Ms. McNeil considers how social media have changed our behavior, first as offline interaction became normalized, and then as it has become weaponized.

Personal behavior is the focus here, so Google is mentioned only offhandedly. A leisurely defunct platform called Friendster opens the book, followed by crash courses in trolling on Twitter and 4chan and reverse-engineering what Facebook thinks you want.

Conversely, we hear about Wikipedia and successful efforts by the underrepresented to own and share their true stories.

But ultimately Ms. McNeil can't hold back: "...I have tried to maintain a consistent tone of criticism that is not openly combative... but I have …

Internet sociology at its best

5 stars

Loved this and not just because of all the kind words about libraries. As a contemporary of the author, this sounded a lot like my own experience with growing up online. McNeil does a fantastic job detailing the changes in agency & motivation of online “communities” and doesn’t hold back on her criticism of misdirected tech criticism, which I feel like warrants a book all its own (all of the “no one cares about your breakfast” potshots re: Twitter type stuff) - especially how the thinkpieces mistakenly targeted users vs Silly Valley giants for so long. Anyway, this readily makes my shortlist for my critical tech book club/bibliography.