Status Update

A while ago, Artsy’s CTO dB read a book and told Orta that he should really read it too. Orta read it, and then recommended it to me. I’ve read it, and now I’m recommending it to you.

The book is titled Status Update written by Alice E. Marwick. It examines the topic of social status within Silicon Valley and throughout social media. And if you’re a software developer, you really need to read it.

The best summary is this headline from an Amazon review: “All the right people hate it.” I can see why.

When I started the book, I thought it would talk about “social media” the same way that people on CNN do: not really understanding it from a participant’s perspective. To the contrary, the book demonstrates a keen awareness of what social media is and how it works, and just presents it in an accessible way.

A lot of norms that I’ve always just taken for granted about life on the internet have histories that I had never heard explained thoroughly before. It was really cool to be taken back through the history of the tech industry by someone willing to cut through Silicon Valley’s over-the-top rhetoric.

The central core of the book is really an in-depth breakdown of status-seeking techniques within the tech world. But it’s not just a description of status, it’s a deconstruction: who can participate in these status-seeking activities? Who benefits from them, and who doesn’t? How are society’s existing power structures around gender and race represented? How are they reinforced?

The book has given me a lot to think about – it’s well worth a read.


Posted on June 29, 2016