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Understanding Digital Culture

Understanding Digital Culture

February 2011 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"This is an outstanding book. It is one of only a few scholarly texts that successfully combine a nuanced theoretical understanding of the digital age with empirical case studies of contemporary media culture. The scope is impressive, ranging from questions of digital inequality to emergent forms of cyberpolitics."
- Nick Gane,
York University

"Well written, very up-to-date with a good balance of examples and theory. It's good to have all the major issues covered in one book."

- Peter Millard, Portsmouth University

"This is just the text I was looking for to enable first year undergraduates to develop their critical understanding of the technologies they have embedded so completely in their lives."

- Chris Simpson, University College of St Mark & St John

This is more than just another book on Internet studies. Tracing the pervasive influence of 'digital culture' throughout contemporary life, this text integrates socio-economic understandings of the 'information society' with the cultural studies approach to production, use, and consumption of digital media and multimedia.

Refreshingly readable and packed with examples from profiling databases and mashups to cybersex and the truth about social networking, Understanding Digital Culture:

  • Crosses disciplines to give a balanced account of the social, economic and cultural dimensions of the information society.
  • Illuminates the increasing importance of mobile, wireless and converged media technologies in everyday life.
  • Unpacks how the information society is transforming and challenging traditional notions of crime, resistance, war and protest, community, intimacy and belonging.
  • Charts the changing cultural forms associated with new media and its consumption, including music, gaming, microblogging and online identity.
  • Illustrates the above through a series of contemporary, in-depth case studies of digital culture.

This is the perfect text for students looking for a full account of the information society, virtual cultures, sociology of the Internet and new media.

Revolutionary Technologies?

The Social Determinism of Technology

Technological Enablement

Base, Superstructure, Infrastructure

The Structure of the Book
Chapter 1: Key Elements of Digital Media
Technical Processes






Cultural Forms
Context (or Lack of It)




Immersive Experiences



Case Study: What Are Video Games? A Conundrum of Digital Culture
Are Video Games 'Narratives'?

Are Video Games 'Games'?

Are Video Games 'Simulations'?

Chapter 2: The Economic Foundations of the Information Age
Problems with the Post-Industrial Thesis

The Information Society
Post-Fordism and Globalization
Informationalism and the Network Society
The Structure of Networks

The Space Flows and Timeless Time

Network Economy and network Enterprise

Weightless Economies, Intellectual Property and the Commodification of Knowledge
Weightless Money

Weightless Services

Weightless Products

The Advantages of a Weightless Economy

(Intellectual) Property in a Weightless Economy

Information Feudalism

Chapter 3: Convergence and the Contemporary Media Experience
Technological Convergence
Regulatory Convergence
Media Industry Convergence
Concerns about Media Convergence

Convergence Culture and the New Media Experience
The Creation of Cross-Media Experiences

Participatory Media Culture

Collective Intelligence

Producers, Consumers and 'Produsage'
Case Study: The Changing Culture Industry of Digital Music
The Digitalization of Music and Its Discontents

'Mash-Ups' and the Crisis of Authorship in Digital Culture

Digital Music Cultures and Music Consumption

Chapter 4: Digital Inequality: Social, Political and Infrastructural Contexts
'Digital Divides' and 'Access'
Domestic Digital Divides

Global Digital Divides
Mobile Phones, Access and the Developing World
Economic Reasons

Social Reasons

Legislative Reasons

The Benefits of Mobile Telephony for the Developing World
Chapter 5: 'Everyone Is Watching': Privacy and Surveillance in Digital Life
The Changing Cultural Contexts of Privacy
Privacy as a Legal Construction: A Contradiction

Digital Surveillance: Spaces, Traces and Tools
Key Tools of Digital Surveillance

The Rise of Surveillance: Causes and Processes
Security Imperatives: Surveillance and the Nation State

Surveillance, Control Imperatives and Bureaucratic Structures


Commercial Imperatives and the Political Economy of Surveillance
Marketing and Personal Data Collection

Databases, Data-Mining, and Discourses

The Power of Profiling

Databases and Profiling: Pro's and Con's

Why Care about Surveillance Society?
Chapter 6: Information Politics, Subversion and Warfare
The Political Context of Information Politics
ICT-Enabled Politics

Internal Organisation and Mobilisation

External Collaboration and Coordination

Flexible Organisation and 'Smartmobs'

Permanent Political Campaigns: Linear Collaboration

An Internet Public Sphere?

Digital Disobedience: ICT-Based Activism
ICTs and Mainstream Politics
Cyber Politics by Another Means: Cyber Warfare
Cyber Warfare as Network-Centric Warfare

Cyber Warfare as Information Warfare

Cyber Warfare as Espionage

Cyber Warfare as Economic Sabotage

Cyber Warfare as Critical Infrastructure Attack

Adjunct Attacks

Chapter 7: Digital Identity
'Objects to Think With': Early Internet Studies and Post-Structuralism
Personal Home Pages and the 'Re-Centring' of the Individual
Personal Blogging, Individualisation and the Reflexive Project of the Self
Social Networks, Profiles and Networked Identity
Avatar and Identity
Case Study: Cybersex, Online Intimacy and the Self
The Late-Modern Context of Love and Intimacy

Cybersex: A Novel Form of Intimacy

Chapter 8: Social Media and the Problem of Community: Space, Relationships, Networks
Searching for Lost Community: Urbanisation, Space and Scales of Experience
Community, Globalisation, Technology and Individualism
'Virtual' Communities: The Next Step?
The Virtues of Virtual Communities

The Vices of Virtual Community

The Reality of the Situation

Network Societies, Network Socialities and Networked Individualism
The Network Society Revisited

Networked Individualism

The Truth about the Networks

Case Study: Social Networking, Microblogging, Language and Phatic Culture
Technology, Presence and the Post-Social

Language, Technology and Phatic Communication

Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology
The Body, Technology and Society
The Posthuman

Material as Information 1: Extropianism and disembodiment, or 'Flesh Made Data'

Material as Information 2: Technological Embodiment or 'Data Made Flesh'

Technology, Embodiment Relations and the 'Homo Faber'
Embodiment Relation and Mobile Technologies

Conclusion: Base, Superstructure and Infrastructure (Revisited)

'This is a terrifically wide-ranging and interesting dissection of the main causes, characteristics and consequences of increasingly all-pervasive digital cultures'
John Urry, Distinguished Professor,
Dept of Sociology, Lancaster University

'This is an outstanding book. It is one of only a few scholarly texts that successfully combine a nuanced theoretical understanding of the digital age with empirical case studies of contemporary media culture. The scope of this book is impressive, ranging from questions of digital inequality to emergent forms of cyberpolitics. It is essential reading for students and seasoned academics alike.'
Professor Nick Gane,
York University

Understanding Digital Culture is a perfect book to get familiar with the topic from scratch. The book answers main questions that arise discussing digital culture. The author's style of writing is understandable for non-native English readers. It lists the cited literature in the text. The reference list is very rich and helpful for further deeper analysis of topics. The structure of the book, topics, vocabulary and writing style makes it suitable for students from the various fields. Students do not need prior special knowledge in the field to understand the content. 

Dr Vincas Grigas
Library Science, Vilnius University
June 19, 2019

Miller's survey of digital cultures and communities is an excellent foundation for courses that examine the possibilities and pitfalls of our emerging digital landscape.

Dr Scott Mitchell
Speech Comm/Theatre Arts Dept, Univ Of Wisconsin-River Falls
May 11, 2018

Culture is rarely considered in other text books so this is a welcome addition

Mr Carol Sherriff
School of Business, Hertfordshire University
September 9, 2016

Understanding digital culture provides a comprehensive and well-structured overview of the most important aspects of digital culture. I have added this publication to the recommended reading list.

Mrs Ema Kusen
Dept of Information Systems & Operatio, Vienna Univ of Econ & Business Admin
September 22, 2015

The book gives a comprehensive overview of the field and is a great read for both beginners and more advanced students. I will be recommending it for my students in digital media theory.

Mr Baldvin Bergsson
Department of Political Science, University of Iceland
March 24, 2015

I have added this publication to the recommended reading list of several of my modules because it provides a relevant introduction the the digital phenomenon

Dr Cristina Costa
School of Education, Strathclyde University
November 18, 2014

A very good source of information on various aspects of digital culture, and its place within media environment. Useful for students researching this area at the HE level.

Miss Magdalena Marczak
Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Coventry University
August 19, 2014

Provides a good range of coverage of the various aspects of digital culture, and its place in the broader media environment. Useful for students researching a wide spectrum of issues that are related to the digital era.

Ms Lesley Albon
Department of Media, Chester University
February 21, 2014

I think this is an excellent little book, which covers a good range of the topics and issues that I teach on my second year New Media & Society module. It also addresses some fairly complex debates in a thoughful and engaging manner, using some excellent case studies. I don't use a core text book on the course but this will certainly be one of the recommended texts. When combined with other books that provide more of a historical overview of different media forms (e.g. Social History of the Media) this can be a really useful teaching / learning resource.

Dr Michael Skey
Sch of Political,Social&Int'l Studies, University of East Anglia
November 12, 2013

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Understanding Digital Culture: Privacy and Surveillance in Digital Life

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