The web allows us to see ourselves writ large…and that causes discomfort if it exposes things we’re not happy to see.

In this interview with me for The Frankfurt Book Fair Blog, I go off piste from Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You and talk about the future of publishing. There’s a healthy emphasis on the sentiment of the quote above. Here’s an extract: 

Has the web with its open publishing tools enabled us to return to the original form of human storytelling with stories being changed as they are passed on instead of being transfixed for all times in print?

The superfan community is an engaging and exciting feature of our existing communities that have been exposed by the web. There were already fan clubs and writing groups who continued storytelling from an author’s starting point, but now there’s a global group of like minds who come together to continue the tale. The online space is a continuation of the collaborative storytelling experience, but with a networked edge that both connects people from elsewhere, quickly, and then produces artefacts for the next generation of people to continue to engage with, long after the original article’s author(s) have moved on. The story has always been a social construct, released by an author (or authors) to the community. This is just making it visible.

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop, on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

OK. Now the end is *really* nigh

You have until Monday 7 October to get 50% off Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You at The Guardian bookshop if you use code UTW07FG at checkout..

Go go go go go!

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

The end of the offer is nigh, my friends… 

You have until tomorrow, 2 September, to get 50% off Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You at The Guardian bookshop if you use code UTW07FG at checkout..

Quick! Christmas is coming, baby!

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

hammersley
We must, at some level, need this to be true, since we think it’s true about so many different kinds of things. We experience this sense of fracture so deeply that we ascribe it to machines that, viewed with retrospective detachment, don’t seem remotely capable of producing it. If all you have is a hammer, the saying goes, everything looks like a nail; and, if you think the world is broken, every machine looks like the hammer that broke it.

Tom Standage, The Economist's digital editor, has brought my attention to Wired Love by Ella Cheever Thayer, a book about “A Romance of Dots and Dashes”.

Tom first mentioned Wired Love in his own book, The Victorian Internet (oft covered on this tumblog). Most recently, though, he pointed me  via Twitter to Clive Thompson’s review of this “tale of catfishing, OK Cupid, and sexting…from 1880”.

From Clive’s coverage:

It’s all quite nuttily modern. Wired Love anticipates everything we live with in today’s online, Iphoned courtship: Assessing whether someone you’ve met online is what they say they are; the misunderstandings of tone and substance that come from communicating in rapid-fire, conversational bursts of text; or even the fact that you might not really be sure of the gender/nationality/species of the person you’re flirting with.

As it turns out, Nattie quickly figures out that “C” is, indeed, a man. But the conversations she and her friends have about her online courtship are utterly wild to read: They have the arch elocutions of Victorian-era America, mixed with concepts that are so thoroughly modern that book feels like it was written this year, by someone merely emulating the language of 1880.

You can read Wired Love in full here. And I interview OK Cupid CEO & co-founder here.

I continue Clive’s theme in the iLove chapter of Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You:

It may seem ironic that a cold, logical computer has become an important mediator for the most warm and fuzzy of human emotions, but mediated love isn’t a new thing. Elizabeth Barrett Browning fell in love with her future husband Robert via letter between 1845-1846, and the telegraph ushered in its fair share of love affairs around the time that our modern concept of romance first emerged. Tom Standage describes the first “online” wedding between a bride in Boston and a groom in New York in 1848 in The Victorian Internet: “At the appointed hour [the bride] was at the other end of the wire in the Boston telegraph office and, with the telegraph operators relaying their words to and fro in Morse code, the two were duly wed by the magistrate.” Terribly romantic, no?

Almost 150 years later the first web-based marriage took place between Andy (from Somerset, England) and Lisa (from Palm Beach, Florida). The pair had been introduced by a mutual virtual friend in a chatroom on Saturday 25th May 2006. “It was after only a week of chatting on-line that I asked Lisa to come over to visit me in England,” says Andy. It worked. Lisa moved to the UK in July, and the pair were engaged within a week. Four months later, they were married: the bride and groom were in a cyber cafe in Taunton in Somerset in England, and the officiant, the Reverend Mike Bugal, was sitting at his computer in Seattle, Washington in the USA. Another Reverend was due to bless the marriage from his computer in Lyndhurst, England at 8pm, but a broken cable wiped out all of Taunton’s telecommunications at exactly that time delaying events: “More frantic phone calls with BT eventually managed to sector a standard telephone link with the Internet,” explains the couple’s homepage. “After over two hours of waiting, the blessing could finally re-commence.” 

The congregation, logged into the #cyberwedding chatroom from all corners of the globe, watched and read as <RevMike> typed, “Will you take Andrew (^Cloud9) to be your wedded husband? Will you love, comfort, honour and respect him?” and as Lisa responded, “I will.” 

Despite the technological hiccups that caused <RevMike>’s internet connection to repeatedly log him out of the IRC chat in the middle of the proceedings, the two promised to “share all life has to offer both on-line and IRL (in real life)” together, and were congratulated by the hundreds of people who attended the celebration, and who they knew from the web but had never meet in the flesh before.

But later, I propose that something *is* different about online love:

The web is making the happy accident obsolete.

In a 2009 report for the world’s biggest online dating conglomerate, Match.com, Professor Whitty and her research team found that more than half of women and 43% of men have become fussier about who they date. This is a trend, they say, that’s increasing year on year. And the OII’s research has found that people have become more “instrumentally focused…increasingly considering the practice of finding a mate as a distinct and intentional activity with its own sets of contexts and conventions, rather than something that ‘just happens’ as one goes about other activities.”

The dating market has indeed become a market. 

Read more of the online love research I cover in the book elsewhere on this blog, and the whole chapter in the book!

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

I don’t want to get rid of technology completely, but somehow something’s happening, outside our control.

A special episode of the award winning Download This Show in which ABC Radio National’s Marc Fennell turns the table on me, the psychologist, by digging around my mind. 

We recorded this conversation about Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You in front of a live audience at the Sydney Writer’s Festival in May.

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

Untangling the Web covers the spectrum of stuff we need to think about…to topics to which we don’t pay enough attention

Prof John Naughton, who’s most recent book about the Web is worth a read, reviewed Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You in this weekend’s Observer:

Untangling the Web, is a collection of 17 thoughtful essays on the impact of comprehensive networking on our lives. These essays cover the spectrum of stuff we need to think about – from the obvious ones (such as privacy, identity, the concept of online “friendship” and the psychological and social impact of the net) to topics to which we don’t pay enough attention (such as the ways in which online anonymity empowers those who are physically disabled or disfigured, and what medics sneeringly call “cyberchondria" – the ways in which the net can increase health anxieties)

The Serendipity Engine also gets a mention.

Read the whole thing here.

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

What happens if the internet goes away?

I had the chance to speak on a whole host of radio and TV shows about Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You when I was in the Pacific Rim earlier this year.

This was my favourite, on Weekend Variety Wireless with Graeme Hill on Auckland’s RadioLIVE. I was ridiculously jet lagged. I don’t think it shows. It was also the first time I’d seen the book. It was very exciting.

Graeme didn’t pull any punches. Here, we talk about dictators and propaganda, explicit content and falling in love and the terrifying reality of possible future after the internet stops working.

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

Q: Do you think we should be more concerned the web is largely controlled by monopolies, specifically Amazon, Google and Facebook? A: Absolutely.

Rachel Botsman asks the questions for Financial Review*. I answer.

Continuing the above quote:

To mangle a quote in Rebecca MacKinnon’s excellent book, Consent of the Networked, we know how power works offline, but we don’t know how it works on the web. These organisations sift the content we see when we traverse the web. They effectively act as the captain of our ship on the ocean of online information. If knowledge is power, they hold the keys.

More than that, who are the people making the decisions that affect how we make and perform relationships, what we buy and what knowledge we have access to? What are their politics, their ideals, their mottos, their philosophies? That’s what I’m interested in.

Here’s another:

You are given the task of explaining to a class of teenagers how the web has changed the concept of privacy. How do you explain the loss of control of information we give away? I’d rather talk to people about how to recognise that the job applicant they’ve just looked up on Google or Facebook may be the same physical person in the photos, but whatever they’re doing and whatever they’ve put online might not be the same psychological person they’re making assumptions about.

More at Interface: Untangling the web (paywall).

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

* Australians! I’ll be in Sydney from 29 July to 4 August at the Wired for Wonder conference.