Joseph Reagle

Joseph M. Reagle, Jr., is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. He is the coeditor of Wikipedia @ 20 and the author of Hacking Life (both published by the MIT Press) and other books.

  • Wikipedia @ 20

    Wikipedia @ 20

    Stories of an Incomplete Revolution

    Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner

    Wikipedia's first twenty years: how what began as an experiment in collaboration became the world's most popular reference work.

    We have been looking things up in Wikipedia for twenty years. What began almost by accident—a wiki attached to a nascent online encyclopedia—has become the world's most popular reference work. Regarded at first as the scholarly equivalent of a Big Mac, Wikipedia is now known for its reliable sourcing and as a bastion of (mostly) reasoned interaction. How has Wikipedia, built on a model of radical collaboration, remained true to its original mission of “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” when other tech phenomena have devolved into advertising platforms? In this book, scholars, activists, and volunteers reflect on Wikipedia's first twenty years, revealing connections across disciplines and borders, languages and data, the professional and personal.

    The contributors consider Wikipedia's history, the richness of the connections that underpin it, and its founding vision. Their essays look at, among other things, the shift from bewilderment to respect in press coverage of Wikipedia; Wikipedia as “the most important laboratory for social scientific and computing research in history”; and the acknowledgment that “free access” includes not just access to the material but freedom to contribute—that the summation of all human knowledge is biased by who documents it.

    Contributors

    Phoebe Ayers, Omer Benjakob, Yochai Benkler, William Beutler, Siko Bouterse, Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Amy Carleton, Robert Cummings, LiAnna L. Davis, Siân Evans, Heather Ford, Stephen Harrison, Heather Hart, Benjamin Mako Hill, Dariusz Jemielniak, Brian Keegan, Jackie Koerner, Alexandria Lockett, Jacqueline Mabey, Katherine Maher, Michael Mandiberg, Stephane Coillet-Matillon, Cecelia A. Musselman, Eliza Myrie, Jake Orlowitz, Ian A. Ramjohn, Joseph Reagle, Anasuya Sengupta, Aaron Shaw, Melissa Tamani, Jina Valentine, Matthew Vetter, Adele Vrana, Denny Vrandečić

    • Paperback $27.95
  • Hacking Life

    Hacking Life

    Systematized Living and Its Discontents

    Joseph Reagle

    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
    • Paperback $17.95
  • Reading the Comments

    Reading the Comments

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

    Joseph Reagle

    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 $29.00
    • Paperback $20.00
  • Good Faith Collaboration

    Good Faith Collaboration

    The Culture of Wikipedia

    Joseph Reagle

    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
    • Paperback $20.00

Contributor

  • World Brain

    H.G. Wells

    In 1937, H. G. Wells proposed a predigital, freely available World Encyclopedia to represent a civilization-saving World Brain.

    In a series of talks and essays in 1937, H. G. Wells proselytized for what he called a “World Brain,” as manifested in a World Encyclopedia—a repository of scientifically established knowledge—that would spread enlightenment around the world and lead to world peace. Wells, known to readers today as the author of The War of the Worlds and other science fiction classics, was imagining something like a predigital Wikipedia. The World Encyclopedia would provide a summary of verified reality (in about forty volumes); it would be widely available, free of copyright, and utilize the latest technology.

    Of course, as Bruce Sterling points out in the foreword to this edition of Wells's work, the World Brain didn't happen; the internet did. And yet, Wells anticipated aspects of the internet, envisioning the World Brain as a technical system of networked knowledge (in Sterling's words, a “hypothetical super-gadget”). Wells's optimism about the power of information might strike readers today as naïvely utopian, but possibly also inspirational.

    • Paperback $24.95