How the World Changed Social Media

Daniel Miller, Dr Elisabetta Costa, Nell Haynes, Tom McDonald, Dr Razvan Nicolescu, Jolynna Sinanan, Juliano Spyer, Shriram Venkatraman, and Xinyuan Wang

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ISBN: 9781910634486

Publication: February 29, 2016

Series: Why We Post 1

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How the World Changed Social Media is the first book in Why We Post, a book series that investigates the findings of anthropologists who each spent 15 months living in communities across the world. This book offers a comparative analysis summarising the results of the research and explores the impact of social media on politics and gender, education and commerce. What is the result of the increased emphasis on visual communication? Are we becoming more individual or more social? Why is public social media so conservative? Why does equality online fail to shift inequality offline? How did memes become the moral police of the internet?

Supported by an introduction to the project’s academic framework and theoretical terms that help to account for the findings, the book argues that the only way to appreciate and understand something as intimate and ubiquitous as social media is to be immersed in the lives of the people who post. Only then can we discover how people all around the world have already transformed social media in such unexpected ways and assess the consequences.

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL, author/editor of 39 books including How the World Changed Social Media, Social Media in an English Village, Tales from Facebook, Digital Anthropology, (Ed. with H. Horst), The Internet: an Ethnographic Approach (with D. Slater), Webcam (with J. Sinanan), The Comfort of Things, A Theory of Shopping, and Stuff.

Elisabetta Costa is Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA). She is an anthropologist specialising in the study of digital media, social media, journalism, politics, and gender in Turkey and the Middle East.

Nell Haynes is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the American University in 2013. Her research addresses themes of performance, authenticity, globalisation, and gendered and ethnic identification in Bolivia and Chile.

Tom McDonald is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong. He received his PhD in Anthropology from UCL in 2013 and has published numerous academic articles on internet use and consumption practices in China.

Razvan Nicolescu is a Research Associate at University College London, from where he obtained his PhD in 2013. Trained both in telecommunications and anthropology, he has conducted ethnographic research in Romania and Italy. His research interests focus on visibility and digital anthropology; political economy, governance, and informality; feelings, subjectivity, and normativity.

Jolynna Sinanan is Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne. From 2011-2014, she was Research Fellow in Anthropology at UCL. She is co-author How the World Changed Social Media (with eight others) and Webcam. Her areas of research are digital ethnography, new media, migration and gender in Trinidad, Australia, and Singapore.

Juliano Spyer is Honorary Research Associate at UCL's Department of Anthropology, where he also obtained his PhD. His research interests include digital anthropology, online research methods, learning and apprenticeship, DIY/participatory media and Christianity.. Previously, he created and managed social media projects in the United States and Latin America, and published the first book about social media in Brazil (Conectado, 2007).

Shriram Venkatraman has a PhD in Anthropology from UCL and is currently an Assistant Professor at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIITD). He is a trained professional statistician and, prior to his doctoral studies, held leadership positions at Walmart in the USA. His research interests include workplace technologies, organisational culture and entrepreneurship.

Xinyuan Wang is a PhD candidate at the Dept. of Anthropology at UCL. She obtained her MSc from the UCL’s Digital Anthropology Programme. She is an artist in Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. She translated (Horst and Miller Eds.) Digital Anthropology into Chinese and contributed a piece on Digital Anthropology in China.

Introductory chapters 

What is social media

Academic studies of social media

Our method and approach

Our survey results

The ten key topics 

Education and young people

Work and commerce

Online and offline relationships

Gender Inequality 


Visual images


Does social media make us happier?  

The future

A topic ripe for anthropological study, then. And such a study, the “Why We Post” project, has just been published by nine anthropologists, led by Daniel Miller of University College, London.
  The Economist
This week, the project has culminated in the start of an online courseand the launch of three of the books, which are open-access and translated into multiple languages. 
  LSE Book Review

Chileans love 'footies', Chinese people dare to use ever increasing optical illusions in selfies and in India they aren’t keen on seeing a selfie stick. Anthropologists from the University College London investigated how selfies look globally by living with the locals for 15 months.

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

286 Pages

45 colour illustrations

ISBN: 9781910634486

Publication: February 29, 2016

Series: Why We Post 1

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