Books

The Circle of the Snake: Nostalgia and Utopia in the Age of Big Tech – Zer0 Books (December 11, 2020)

Shocked by 9/11, the Great Recession, digital anxiety, and ecological collapse, the West suffers from nostalgia. People everywhere yearn for a utopian version of the past that never existed. Desperate for relief, many long to escape from the present. Some will stop at nothing to achieve it.

In his essential new book, Grafton Tanner, author of Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts, argues that our nostalgia today is partly a consequence of the attention economy. At a time when historical literacy is crucial, and old prejudices are percolating into the present, Big Tech’s predictive algorithms are locking us into nostalgic feedback loops. The result is a precarious society with its gaze fixed on the good old days.

Spanning from the ancient Sophists to Black MirrorThe Circle of the Snake is at once a reckoning with the myth of digital utopia and an incisive analysis of nostalgia as a weapon to spread fascism.

“[A] much-needed vision of democratic alternatives to surveillance capitalism.” Vincent Mosco, author of The Smart City in a Digital World

“Tanner lays bare our ideologies and confronts not only the historical development of capitalism but the particular condition of today’s digital corporate world.” Alfie Bown, author of The PlayStation Dreamworld

“In a world where it is suddenly impossible to disconnect, to log off, Tanner’s work deserves redoubled consideration.” Ryan Alexander Diduck, author of The Limits of Control

“[A] blueprint and a map for understanding where we are in the cultural landscape.” What Sleeps Beneath

Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts – Zer0 Books (June 24, 2016)

In the age of global capitalism, vaporwave celebrates and undermines the electronic ghosts haunting the nostalgia industry. Ours is a time of ghosts in machines, killing meaning and exposing the gaps inherent in the electronic media that pervade our lives. Vaporwave is an infant musical micro-genre that foregrounds the horror of electronic media’s ability to appear – as media theorist Jeffrey Sconce terms it – “haunted.” Experimental musicians such as INTERNET CLUB and MACINTOSH PLUS manipulate Muzak and commercial music to undermine the commodification of nostalgia in the age of global capitalism while accentuating the uncanny properties of electronic music production. Babbling Corpse reveals vaporwave’s many intersections with politics, media theory, and our present fascination with uncanny, co(s)mic horror. The book is aimed at those interested in global capitalism’s effect on art, musical raids on mainstream “indie” and popular music, and anyone intrigued by the changing relationship between art and commerce.

Babbling Corpse is quick and academic, but it still stands sturdy as a deconstruction of an enigmatic and confounding artistic movement. It is thoroughly researched and rich in source material, yet also engaging, especially for readers familiar but perplexed by the haunted wells of pop culture.” Under the Radar