Addresses how tech empowers community organizing and protest movements to combat the systems of capitalism and data exploitation that helped drive tech’s own rise to ubiquity.
Our smartphones have brought digital technology into the most intimate spheres of life. It’s time to take control of them, repurposing them as pathways to a democratically designed and maintained digital commons that prioritizes people over profit.
Smartphones have appeared everywhere seemingly overnight: since the first iPhone was released, in 2007, the number of smartphone users has skyrocketed to over two billion. Smartphones have allowed users to connect worldwide in a way that was previously impossible, created communities across continents, and provided platforms for global justice movements. However, the rise of smartphones has led to corporations using consumers’ personal data for profit, unmonitored surveillance, and digital monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon that have garnered control over our social, political, and economic landscapes.
But people are using their smartphones to fight back. New modes of resistance are emerging, signaling the possibility that our pocket computers could be harnessed for the benefit of people, not profit. From helping to organize protests against the US-Mexico border wall through Twitter to being used to report police brutality through Facebook Live, smartphones open a door for collective change.
About the Author
Nicole Aschoff is a writer, editor, and sociologist. She is the author of The New Prophets of Capital, an editor-at-large at Jacobin magazine, and managing editor of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. She holds a PhD in sociology from Johns Hopkins University and previously taught at Boston University. Her writing about corporate power, inequality, and social movements has appeared in the Guardian, the Nation, Dissent, and Al Jazeera, among many other places, and she contributes regularly to podcasts and radio shows. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Connect with her on Twitter (@NicoleAschoff) and online (nicholeaschoff.com).
“A concise analysis of how best to live within the brave new smartphone world.”
“Aschoff introduces a creative and appealing way to discuss societal issues; this book will make readers contemplate their relationship with their phone and their own place in society.”
“[Aschoff] encourages us all to be more deliberate, thoughtful, and aware of how we impact our phones and how they impact us.”
“Aschoff’s analysis of our relationship to our phones is relevant and urgent. She gives us enough context to understand our addictions, our willingness to be surveilled and manipulated, and, better yet, the avenues of resistance against the tech titans that increasingly control our time, attention, and futures.”
—Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy and CEO of O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing
“An antidote to the typical screen panic, The Smartphone Society reframes our phones as a new frontier of American life. It’s a useful read for anyone worried about how we live with technology, and that should be all of us.”
—Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days: The Making of Millennials
“The Smartphone Society pierces the fog of the Silicon Valley fantasy, showing us how these little pocket computers control our lives for profit—but also how they open new paths to justice. Nicole Aschoff has given us that rare book, packed with insights and written with verve. I will never look at my smartphone the same way—and after reading The Smartphone Society, neither will you.”
—Jason W. Moore, professor of sociology and author of Capitalism in the Web of Life
“The Smartphone Society is not your average tech book—it’s one about who controls our future. In our New Gilded Age, the book persuasively argues, it’ll be either dictatorial tech giants or the democratic power of free citizens. I know which outcome I prefer, and I can think of few better intellectual defenders of a better, more just future than Aschoff.”
—Bhaskar Sunkara, editor and publisher, Jacobin magazine
“In The Smartphone Society, Nicole Aschoff gives us fresh insight into how the device and our everyday lives have morphed into one another. She considers the good and the bad, and helps us to understand how the smartphone has reshaped society in innumerable ways. With accessible prose, she looks into selfies and social media, politics and protest, profit and women’s unpaid work. It is a cogent read in the era of the smartphone.”
—Rich Ling, Shaw Foundation Professor of Media Technology, Nanyang Technological University