Show Less
Open access

Media Distortions

Understanding the Power Behind Spam, Noise, and Other Deviant Media


Elinor Carmi

Media Distortions is about the power behind the production of deviant media categories. It shows the politics behind categories we take for granted such as spam and noise, and what it means to our broader understanding of, and engagement with media. The book synthesizes media theory, sound studies, science and technology studies (STS), feminist technoscience, and software studies into a new composition to explore media power. Media Distortions argues that using sound as a conceptual framework is more useful due to its ability to cross boundaries and strategically move between multiple spaces—which is essential for multi-layered mediated spaces.

Drawing on repositories of legal, technical and archival sources, the book amplifies three stories about the construction and negotiation of the ‘deviant’ in media. The book starts in the early 20th century with Bell Telephone’s production of noise, tuning into the training of their telephone operators and their involvement with the Noise Abatement Commission in New York City. The next story jumps several decades to the early 2000s focusing on web metric standardization in the European Union and shows how the digital advertising industry constructed web-cookies as legitimate communication while making spam illegal. The final story focuses on the recent decade and the way Facebook filters out antisocial behaviors to engineer a sociality that produces more value. These stories show how deviant categories re-draw boundaries between human and non-human, public and private spaces, and importantly, social and antisocial.

Show Summary Details
Open access


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Carmi, Elinor, author.

Title: Media distortions: understanding the power behind spam, noise, and other deviant media / Elinor Carmi.

Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2020.

Series: Digital formations, vol. 121 | ISSN 1526-3169

Includes bibliographical references.

Identifiers: LCCN 2019030952 | ISBN 978-1-4331-6691-4 (hardback: alk. paper)

ISBN 978-1-4331-6693-8 (ebook pdf)

ISBN 978-1-4331-6694-5 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-6695-2 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Information technology—Social aspects. | Mass

media—Social aspects. | Spam (Electronic mail)—Social aspects. |

Noise—Social aspects.

Classification: LCC HM851 .C3667 | DDC 302.23—dc23

LC record available at

DOI 10.3726/b15334

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie” detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

This open access publication was funded by the University of Liverpool.

The online edition of this publication is available open access. Except where otherwise noted, content can be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0). For details go to

© 2020 Elinor Carmi

Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York

29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006