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New Noise

A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption


Simon Lindgren

This book is about online subcultures thriving in the border zones between pop cultural and political engagement. Combining classic theories of space, power and resistance with current case studies of digital piracy, online activism and remix culture, the book develops a cultural theory of social movements in the digital age.
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A few pages into New Noise, Simon Lindgren provides a telling quote from John Fiske’s book Understanding Popular Culture. Fiske observes, with dismay, that scholars of popular culture have typically fallen into one of two camps: those who don’t situate their analysis within ‘a model of power’, and so are free to be nice about their subject matter, and those who do, and therefore feel obliged to condemn it. Both approaches therefore become predictable rather than challenging. Fiske suggests that there could be a ‘third direction’, which balances consideration of the power of media systems with the power of ordinary people. What a novel idea!

Fiske’s book was published in 1989, almost 25 years ago. For me, this was the year I left home and went to university. The media landscape in the UK was print, radio, and 4 channels of TV; the World Wide Web had not been invented yet. ‘Interactivity’ referred to the capacity to call up a weather forecast on teletext, which, as the name suggested, was a set of texts available on your telly. In short, it was ages ago.

Since then, the idea of a ‘third way’ in other spheres—notably politics—has come to seem ordinary, and then outdated. It is ordinary because it’s no longer a new idea, but also because the general principle came to be broadly ← xiii | xiv → accepted, even if the ‘third way’ phrase was not. In many countries, mainstream politics is rarely about...

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