The Age of Sharing

My book, The Age of Sharing, is published by Polity. You can order it from Amazon, Book Depository and from Polity. The book won the Best Book award from the Israel Communication Association, and the Nancy Baym Book Award from the Association of Internet Researchers.

I was interviewed by Tal Zalmanovich for the New Books Network. Listen to us chat about the book. Or if you prefer reading, head over to Culture Digitally where you'll find an excerpt from Chapter 1 and a set of reflections by some pretty great academics (Ben Peters, Stephanie Schulte, Annette Markham, Gina Neff and Jean Burgess). Also, the website Shareable.net has run a couple of pieces about the book: one, by me, offering a brief history of the word, and another, a Q&A about the book.  

It has been endorsed by two terrific academics whom I admire hugely. Nancy Baym says:

The word “sharing” has become so ubiquitous that we rarely stop to inquire into its meanings, let alone the ideological work it does in the diverse contexts of its use. John’s engaging historical analysis of “sharing” across three domains is essential reading, offering deep insight into the implicit values that shape our interactions and economies.

Russell Belk says:

The Age of Sharing is an insightful and careful excavation of the concept and practice of sharing both material and immaterial things.  It broadly interrogates primates and early humans to the latest social media and “sharing” apps, for clues about our basic human nature.  

The blurb bit on the back says:

Sharing is central to how we live today: it is what we do online; it is a model of economic behavior; and it is also a type of therapeutic talk. Sharing always comes with a warm glow around it, embodying positive values such as empathy, communication, fairness, openness and equality. The Age of Sharing shows how and when sharing became caring, and explains how its meanings have changed in the digital age.

Sharing, though, is also a word used to camouflage commercial or even exploitive relations, leading many to bemoan that ‘It isn’t really sharing’. Websites say they share data with advertisers, though actually they sell it, while parts of the sharing economy look much like rental services. But The Age of Sharing ultimately argues that practices described as sharing and critiques of those practices have common roots. Consequently, the powerful metaphor of sharing now constructs significant swathes of our social practices and provides the grounds for critiquing them; it is a mode of participation in the capitalist order and a way of resisting it.

Taking in nineteenth century literature, Alcoholics Anonymous, the American counterculture, reality TV, hackers, Airbnb, Facebook and more, The Age of Sharing offers a rich account of a complex contemporary keyword.

The Age of Sharing will appeal to students and scholars of the Internet, digital culture, and linguistics.

Cover design by Jason Anscombe