Elizabeth Losh (Author) Christopher Schaberg (Editor)
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Best Books of 2019--Scholarly Kitchen

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Hashtags can silence as well as shout. They originate in the quiet of the archive and the breathless suspense of the control room, and find voice in the roar of rallies in the streets. The #hashtag is a composite creation, with two separate but related design histories: one involving the crosshatch symbol and one about the choice of letters after it.

Celebration and criticism of hashtag activism rarely address the hashtag as an object or try to locate its place in the history of writing for machines. Although hashtags tend to be associated with Silicon Valley invention myths or celebrity power users, the story of the hashtag is much longer and more surprising, speaking to how we think about naming, identity, and being human in a non-human world.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

Product Details

$14.95  $13.75
Bloomsbury Academic
Publish Date
September 19, 2019
4.7 X 0.6 X 6.4 inches | 0.4 pounds

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About the Author

Elizabeth Losh is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at William and Mary, USA. She is the author of the multi-award-winning The War on Learning: Gaining Ground in the Digital University (2014). Her other publications include Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (2009), Understanding Rhetoric, co-authored with Jonathan Alexander (2013; second edition 2017), and, as editor, MOOC and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education, editor (2017).


"The hashtag is everywhere--but why and what does it do? In this small book, Liz Losh insightfully answers this question through historical research, case studies, and rhetorical analyses that explore the possibilities, dangers, and limitations of #CommunicateThis; #HijackThis; #DoesThisReallyMakeADifference. Brilliant and compellingly written, it takes on #controversies and helps us understand how gender, race, and labor matter." --Wendy Chun, Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media, Simon Fraser University, Canada, and author of Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (2017)

"This is the story you didn't know existed--the story of how one little symbol enabled efficient and powerful communication among human beings and between computers. The hashtag is one of the most interesting communicative inventions of this century. Dr. Losh explains how it got this way in clear language and with an eye for detail." --Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia, USA, and author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (2018)