When we talk about technology we always talk about the future—which makes it hard to figure out how to get there. In Future Histories, Lizzie O’Shea argues that we need to stop looking forward and start looking backwards. Weaving together histories of computing and social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O’Shea constructs a “usable past” that help us determine our digital future.
What, she asks, can the Paris Commune tell us about earlier experiments in sharing resources—like the Internet—in common? Can debates over digital access be guided by Tom Paine’s theories of democratic economic redistribution? And how is Elon Musk not a visionary but a throwback to Victorian-era utopians?
In engaging, sparkling prose, O’Shea shows us how very human our understanding of technology is, and what potential exists for struggle, for liberation, for art and poetry in our digital present. Future Histories is for all of us—makers, coders, hacktivists, Facebook-users, self-styled Luddites—who find ourselves in a brave new world.
“Before we became big data bundles for the lackeys of Dorsey, Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Bezos, to exploit, the digital revolution seemed to promise a democratic utopia, a commons in cyberspace not governed by neoliberal norms. Can we realize that revolutionary dream and stop desiring our own domination? Incredibly, yet thrillingly and plausibly, Lizzie O’Shea argues that, if only we can mobilize history to serve rather than enervate us, the answer is yes.”
“There has never been a better time to pull the politics of platform capitalism into the foreground where it belongs. Lizzie O’Shea brings a hacker’s curiosity, a historian’s reach and a lawyer’s precision to bear on our digitally saturated present, emerging with a compelling argument that a better world is there for the taking. ”
“A potent, timely, and unrepentantly radical reminder of history’s creative potential. Lizzie O’Shea’s Future Histories should be required reading for anyone planning on surviving—and even repairing—our grim technological moment.”
“A thought-provoking text for readers looking to approach the subject [of digital technologies] from a well-informed ... perspective.”