Understanding digital technology in daily life: why we should think holistically in terms of a digital environment instead of discrete devices and apps.
Increasingly we live through our personal screens; we work, play, socialize, and learn digitally. The shift to remote everything during the pandemic was another step in a decades-long march toward the digitization of everyday life made possible by innovations in media, information, and communication technology. In The Digital Environment, Pablo Boczkowski and Eugenia Mitchelstein offer a new way to understand the role of the digital in our daily lives, calling on us to turn our attention from our discrete devices and apps to the array of artifacts and practices that make up the digital environment that envelops every aspect of our social experience.
Boczkowski and Mitchelstein explore a series of issues raised by the digital takeover of everyday life, drawing on interviews with a variety of experts. They show how existing inequities of gender, race, ethnicity, education, and class are baked into the design and deployment of technology, and describe emancipatory practices that counter this—including the use of Twitter as a platform for activism through such hashtags as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. They discuss the digitization of parenting, schooling, and dating—noting, among other things, that today we can both begin and end relationships online. They describe how digital media shape our consumption of sports, entertainment, and news, and consider the dynamics of political campaigns, disinformation, and social activism. Finally, they report on developments in three areas that will be key to our digital future: data science, virtual reality, and space exploration.
“In this beautifully crafted book, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein take us on a fascinating journey into what our lives with digital media are, could be, and should be.”
Limor Shifman, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; author of Memes in Digital Culture
“Expansive, thoughtful, and provocative, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein take readers on a rich tour of the key ideas, hot debates, and hidden forces defining digital life today.”
Mike Ananny, Associate Professor, Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California; coeditor of Bauhaus Futures and author of Networked Press Freedom
“Digital lives are anything but simple and seamless—we all need some help. This is what Pablo and Eugenia offer with their lucid and assured account of our environment and how to make sense of it."
Mark Deuze, author of Media Life
“The timing for this excellent book could not be more perfect. The global pandemic has only intensified what The Digital Environment examines: how our all-encompassing digital ecosystem is reshaping nearly every aspect of our daily lived experiences, from our leisure time to our parenting, schooling, relationships, and access to information, both reliable and corrupt. Drawing from the research of major scholars in the field, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein lay out the impact of this transformation in our lives and pay special attention to how inequality and oppression are structured into the very scaffolding of these media systems. Engagingly written and analytically astute, The Digital Environment is a must-read and is especially valuable in demystifying this ecosystem for our students.”
Susan J. Douglas, Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication and Media, The University of Michigan