Joseph M. Reagle, Jr.

Joseph M. Reagle Jr. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. He is the author of Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia and Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web, both published by the MIT Press.

  • Hacking Life

    Hacking Life

    Systematized Living and Its Discontents

    Joseph M. Reagle, Jr.

    In an effort to keep up with a world of too much, life hackers sometimes risk going too far.

    The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from the MIT Libraries.

    Life hackers track and analyze the food they eat, the hours they sleep, the money they spend, and how they're feeling on any given day. They share tips on the most efficient ways to tie shoelaces and load the dishwasher; they employ a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as a time-management tool.They see everything as a system composed of parts that can be decomposed and recomposed, with algorithmic rules that can be understood, optimized, and subverted. In Hacking Life, Joseph Reagle examines these attempts to systematize living and finds that they are the latest in a long series of self-improvement methods. Life hacking, he writes, is self-help for the digital age's creative class.

    Reagle chronicles the history of life hacking, from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack through Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Timothy Ferriss's The 4-Hour Workweek. He describes personal outsourcing, polyphasic sleep, the quantified self movement, and hacks for pickup artists. Life hacks can be useful, useless, and sometimes harmful (for example, if you treat others as cogs in your machine). Life hacks have strengths and weaknesses, which are sometimes like two sides of a coin: being efficient is not the same thing as being effective; being precious about minimalism does not mean you are living life unfettered; and compulsively checking your vital signs is its own sort of illness. With Hacking Life, Reagle sheds light on a question even non-hackers ponder: what does it mean to live a good life in the new millennium?

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
  • Reading the Comments

    Reading the Comments

    Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web

    Joseph M. Reagle, Jr.

    What we can learn about human nature from the informative, manipulative, confusing, and amusing messages at the bottom of the web.

    Online comment can be informative or misleading, entertaining or maddening. Haters and manipulators often seem to monopolize the conversation. Some comments are off-topic, or even topic-less. In this book, Joseph Reagle urges us to read the comments. Conversations “on the bottom half of the Internet,” he argues, can tell us much about human nature and social behavior.

    Reagle visits communities of Amazon reviewers, fan fiction authors, online learners, scammers, freethinkers, and mean kids. He shows how comment can inform us (through reviews), improve us (through feedback), manipulate us (through fakery), alienate us (through hate), shape us (through social comparison), and perplex us. He finds pre-Internet historical antecedents of online comment in Michelin stars, professional criticism, and the wisdom of crowds. He discusses the techniques of online fakery (distinguishing makers, fakers, and takers), describes the emotional work of receiving and giving feedback, and examines the culture of trolls and haters, bullying, and misogyny. He considers the way comment—a nonstop stream of social quantification and ranking—affects our self-esteem and well-being. And he examines how comment is puzzling—short and asynchronous, these messages can be slap-dash, confusing, amusing, revealing, and weird, shedding context in their passage through the Internet, prompting readers to comment in turn, “WTF?!?”

    • Hardcover $9.75 £7.99
    • Paperback $17.95 £13.99
  • Good Faith Collaboration

    Good Faith Collaboration

    The Culture of Wikipedia

    Joseph M. Reagle, Jr.

    How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia.

    Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture.

    Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology—which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.

    Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £19.95
    • Paperback $18.95 £14.99