Wanna know the philsophical underpinnings of some of our posts here at Medialoper? (I’ll pretend you said “yes.”) The following books have helped me work out some of the concepts that infuse nearly everything that I write about what we are calling the “new media.”
Here they are, alphabetical by author:
- Author: John Alderman
Title: Sonic Boom
Subtitle: Napster, MP3, and the new Pioneers of Music
Year published: 2001
Synopsis: A look at the pre-iTunes days of digital music, the rise of the .mp3 as the defacto standard of digital music and how Napster ruled the world prior to its brutal takedown by the RIAA.
You should read this because: It presents a great snapshot of the total panic that digital downloads caused at the major record labels, and why it totally freaked them out that music fans would so fully embrace what they considered stealing of their property. Meanwhile music fans had a bit of a freak-out of their own, trading out quality for speed (remember, this started during dial-up), and feeling that P2P was just payback for years and years of price-gouging by the major labels. Payback has been a bitch for everybody involved.
- Author: Chris Anderson
Title: The Long Tail
Subtitle: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More
Year published: 2006
Synopsis: How the digitalization of content, the democratization of production tools, and the demographization of marketing are all combining to revolutionize business.
You should read this because: We’ve actually been living in a Long Tail world for quite some time now, but Anderson has been able to identify the phenomenom and put a coherent and scaleable theory behind it. The really not-that-ironic success of his book should be the tipping point for the Long Tail.
- Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Title: The Tipping Point
Subtitle: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Year published: 2000
Synopsis: A look at how ideas seem to suddenly penetrate our culture.
You should read this because: Not only did it contribute several instant buzzwords to the vernacular, it’s practically the ur-text of how to market in the digital age. It’s always fun to say things like “that ‘Lazy Sunday’ video was obviously the tipping point for YouTube.” Also: purely from the writing standpoint, Gladwell is never less than entertaining, and his character studies and ancedotes are cogent and insightful.
- Author: Michael Lewis
Subtitle: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Year published: 2003
Synopsis: How the Oakland Athletics leveraged new ways of looking at the same raw data to field competitive teams despite having a tiny budget.
You should read this because: Technology can revolutionize the way we think about and look at almost anything, even a game that has barely changed its basic structure for 150 years. Also, the Baseball establishment reacted as violently to the Moneyball enthusiasts as the major record labels did to digital music. Which would make Theo Epstein the parallel to iTunes: proof that this stuff could actually work.
- Author: Steven Johnson
Title: Everything Bad is Good For You
Subtitle: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
Year published: 2005
Synopsis: The immersive universes and multi-character narratives of of today’s hit TV shows and videogames are far more demanding than anything ever before, and rather than turning their fans into drooling idiots, are actually stimulating their minds.
You should read this because: Since this book has been published, it has been become more obvious, as a TV show like Lost spins off into the Lost Experience, or The Office knows that its fans will get the secondary character-driven jokes that fuel its webisodes. It also supports one of my long-held theories: the real idiots are the ones who assume that popular culture is only for the dumb masses.
- Author: Edward Tenner
Title: Why Things Bite Back
Subtitle: Technology And The Revenge of Unintended Consequences
Year published: 1996
Synopsis: At the dawn of the internet age, a study of several cases of what Tenner calls “The Revenge Effect” of new technology in all walks of life.
You should read this because: There are always going to be unexpected results to every bit of technology, some good and some bad, but they are always going to exist. Knowing that in advance could help you plan for them, maybe even minimize their impact.
Like I said, this is just my list. You might think that it’s a bit obvious; you might think that I’ve missed something (or things) that are essential. You probably have your own suggestions. If so, I’d love to hear them.