Osborne’s Player Piano: The Post-Industrial Society and Kurt Vonnegut

“If it weren’t for the people, the god-damn people’ said Finnerty, ‘always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, the world would be an engineer’s paradise.”
(Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut)

The internet (and therefore I presume the humans – or maybe algorithms – behind it) is in a furore about Osborne’s Work-for-Benefits plan. The key message of it is that those who fail to find work on the privatised back-to-work systems will be required to work in various occupations such as picking up litter, cleaning graffiti and caring for the elderly. They will do this or lose their benefits, and they will do it until they make the conscious decision not to be unemployed any more and take on one of the many jobs in this burgeoning economy of ours. If they don’t get a job, they will remain as a worker for the state. The whole thing seems a little bit Player Piano to me.

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My Book is Out Now!

Book cover: Digital Culture IndustryDigital Culture Industry:
A History of Digital Distribution

I’m very happy to announce that my book is finally out with Palgrave Macmillan.

If you’re interested in the history of peer-to-peer piracy and how it shaped digital media today this is the book for you. Covering MP3.com, Napster, GNUtella, Kazaa, Streamcast, Grokster, BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay this comprehensive history is a great read for anyone interested in the field of digital media.

….if I do say so myself.

For a more comprehensive overview of the book head over to the book page where you can see reviews and chapter summaries.

There was a lot of research that went into the book, and a lot of resources to boot. If you’d like to see some of the things I made related to the book head over to this blog post and also take a look at the resources.

Available now from…


Academic Therapy

There are no books in my collection that I value quite as much as the one’s that would (or should) fall into the category of ‘Academic Therapy’. Designed with the intention of providing helpful practical guidance on topics such as academic writing, how to teach, or getting published, these texts inevitably end up more therapists couch than An Idiot’s Guide to…

My first of these type of books was Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists, a comfortingly small book that, rather than scoldingly reminding you of the grammar you should have learnt years ago, soothingly assured me that feeling completely at odds with your own brain, was actually fairly common amongst the academic population. I haven’t read Becker for a while so for the moment all I will say is this: If you get the feeling that, despite wanting to write, despite knowing what to write, and despite the deadline that means you have to write, that your brain is conspiring against you, then you need to read Becker.

The most recent addition to the Academic Therapy collection is William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book. The title says it all; how to turn your recently minted PhD thesis, into a marketable, pleasantly readable (lets admit now that they usually aren’t) book. Coming from the position of both a social scientist, and as an editor, Germano understands…. he just understands. Germano understands that in all likelihood you would like your thesis to be a book, but would rather never look at the thing again. He understands that you are plagued with doubt about whether you’ve actually done anything worthwhile for the past however many years that thing took you. He understands that your literature review exists only because the people in charge of the shiny certificates said you had to. However most importantly, he also understands what an editor is thinking when you naively hand them your book proposal and say “I wrote a book me!”

If you’ve just finished your PhD, and you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, that slab of paper you just created might have a book in it somewhere, Germano will help you really decide if you do, and then tell you what to do. The practical advice is brilliant, from prepping the manuscript, through revising, restructuring, it’s all there. However where it shines is the therapy. The book never makes you feel like you should be the expert, nor that something is obvious. You’ve just finished your PhD for God’s sake, you’re lucky you survived in the first place. You don’t know anything about publishing, you were busy contemplating the minutia of your topic and trying to remember to eat now and again. You might be an expert in your field, but equally likely you know bugger all about how the real world works.

Not to worry, Germano’s got your back. With a soothing sympathetic tone this book will guide you not only through the practical hurdles, but also the one’s your brain will throw up for you too.

New Media: 1740-1915

New Media: 1740-1915, (2003) Edited by Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree, MIT Press.

Putting media and mediums into historical context is important. This book does a pretty solid job of it.

Description from MIT Press

Reminding us that all media were once new, this book challenges the notion that to study new media is to study exclusively today’s new media. Examining a variety of media in their historic contexts, it explores those moments of transition when new media were not yet fully defined and their significance was still in flux.

For other book suggestions take a look at the books category or visit my bookshelf.