[Cross-posted from New Books in Critical Theory] Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation (Palgrave, 2013) is written by David Beer, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at York University in the UK. He blogs here and tweets here. The book attempts to describe and analyse the impact of new media on culture and society, using a range of critical theoretical starting points. Its use of theory is especially important to such a fast moving topic. The book aims to have continued and longer term relevance to debates about culture, even as specific technologies come and go, as a result of its theoretical basis
David’s book raises a series of challenges for a range of academic areas. Perhaps the most important is the impact of media communications on the sociology of culture. Sociological studies of culture have been slow to consider the impact of new media, as they have tended to focus on debates about the relationship between tastes and class or social status. Popular Culture and New Media argues that the architecture underlying the way many people access culture, from Amazon.com recommendations, through to the metadata tag associated with archiving new media users activity, profoundly shapes peoples relationship to culture. In order to critically engage with modern culture we must understand how cultural objects and artifacts circulate and the modes of that circulation. In addition, David’s book draws our attention to how culture is increasingly becoming a form of data whilst, at the same time, data is becoming culture. Attempts to track what is trending online, what people are interested in, is itself a cultural practice. The emergence of large scale data sources have provided new ways to produce cultural artifacts. Culture is data and data is culture.
The book will be of interest to readers from across the social sciences, in particular communications studies, sociology and social theory. However it also speaks directly to what it is like to live and participate in modern culture. It will, therefore, be a good read for anyone interested in the mechanisms that allow contemporary cultural life to function.