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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.

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Series Index

General Editor: Steve Jones

Digital Formations is the best source for critical, well-written books about digital technologies and modern life. Books in the series break new ground by emphasizing multiple methodological and theoretical approaches to deeply probe the formation and reformation of lived experience as it is refracted through digital interaction. Each volume in Digital Formations pushes forward our understanding of the intersections, and corresponding implications, between digital technologies and everyday life. The series examines broad issues in realms such as digital culture, electronic commerce, law, politics and governance, gender, the Internet, race, art, health and medicine, and education. The series emphasizes critical studies in the context of emergent and existing digital technologies.

Other titles include:

Felicia Wu Song

Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone,

Online Together

Edited by Sharon Kleinman

The Culture of Efficiency: Technology in

Everyday Life

Edward Lee Lamoureux, Steven L. Baron, & Claire Stewart

Intellectual Property Law and Interactive

Media: Free for a Fee

Edited by Adrienne Russell & Nabil Echchaibi International Blogging: Identity, Politics and Networked Publics

Edited by Don Heider

Living Virtually: Researching New Worlds

Edited by Judith Burnett, Peter Senker & Kathy Walker

The Myths of Technology:

Innovation and Inequality

Edited by Knut Lundby

Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in New Media

Theresa M. Senft

Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks

Edited by Chris Paterson & David


Making Online News: The Ethnograph

To order other books in this series please contact our Customer Service Department: (within the U.S.) (outside the U.S.)

To find out more about the series or browse a full list of titles, please visit our website: