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Participatory Culture, Community, and Play

Learning from Reddit


Adrienne L. Massanari

What does online community look like in the age of social networking? How do participatory culture platforms reflect both their designers’ intentions and the desires of their users? In this incisive and timely work, Adrienne L. Massanari discusses how culture is created and challenged on, the self-proclaimed «front page of the internet». Reddit enables the sharing of original and reposted content from around the web, and provides a platform for like-minded individuals to commune around topics of interest – everything from the joys of drinking beer in a shower (/r/showerbeer) to celebrating the pleasures of tidy penmanship (/r/penmanshipporn). Massanari’s ethnographic work provides a detailed examination of the contradictions that shape Reddit’s culture and how they reflect its role as an epicenter of geek culture. The book explores the ways in which community on Reddit is formed and solidified through play and humor, and the complex ways in which Redditors come together, which demonstrate a deep capacity for altruism and charitable giving, but can easily lapse into mob action. It also explores the community’s troubling gender and racial politics and how some Redditors are carving out their own space on the site to fight back.
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This book has benefited greatly from discussion with my colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as those at other institutions with whom I have had the pleasure of discussing early versions of this work at conferences. Thank you to all of the folks at Peter Lang who have been a pleasure to collaborate with on this process, and especially my editor (and colleague) Steve Jones, who I feel incredibly lucky to work with on a daily basis.

I must express my deepest gratitude to the reddit community, without whom this book would not exist. Thanks especially to all of you willing to answer my interview questions honestly and give me a sense of your experiences with reddit, both the good and the bad.

Also, special thanks to my family and friends, especially my parents, Alice and Jared, who were incredibly supportive throughout the writing process and read early drafts of this book. And, Grandpa Massanari, this one’s for you.

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