Media Backends

Digital Infrastructures and Sociotechnical Relations
Author: Edited by Lisa Parks, Julia Velkova, and Sander de Ridder
Exploring how we make, distribute, and consume today’s media systems
Cloth – $125
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 12/05/2023
Cloth: 12/05/2023
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format Preview

About the Book

Media backends--the electronics, labor, and operations behind our screens--significantly influence our understanding of the sociotechnical relations, economies, and operations of media. Lisa Parks, Julia Velkova, and Sander De Ridder assemble essays that delve into the evolving politics of the media infrastructural landscape. Throughout, the contributors draw on feminist, queer, and intersectional criticisms to engage with infrastructural and industrial issues. This focus reflects a concern about the systemic inequalities that emerge when tech companies and designers fail to address workplace discrimination and algorithmic violence and exclusions. Moving from smart phones to smart dust, the essayists examine topics like artificial intelligence, human-machine communication, and links between digital infrastructures and public service media alongside investigations into the algorithmic backends at Netflix and Spotify, Google’s hyperscale data centers, and video-on-demand services in India. 

A fascinating foray into an expanding landscape of media studies, Media Backends illuminates the behind-the-screen processes influencing our digital lives. 

Contributors: Mark Andrejevic, Philippe Bouquillion, Jonathan Cohn, Faithe J. Day, Sander De Ridder, Fatima Gaw, Christine Ithurbide, Anne Kaun, Amanda Lagerkvist, Alexis Logsdon, Stine Lomborg, Tim Markham, Vicki Mayer, Rahul Mukherjee, Kaarina Nikunen, Lisa Parks, Vibodh Parthasarathi, Philipp Seuferling, Ranjit Singh, Jacek Smolicki, Fredrik Stiernstedt, Matilda Tudor, Julia Velkova, and Zala Volcic

About the Author

Lisa Parks is distinguished professor of film and media studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and directs the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab. Julia Velkova is an associate professor of media and communications in the Department for Thematic Studies—Technology and Social change at Linköping University. Sander De Ridder is an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Antwerp.

Also by this author

Signal Traffic cover



“What happens in the backend, behind our screens, in the sociotechnical systems that constitute our media space? Parks, Velkova, and De Ridder have collected an impressive bouquet of enlightening articles, offering a wide scope of critical perspectives on what happens in the invisible parts of the internet, including its infrastructure. Reading through this collection, you start seeing the bigger picture of a media landscape in transformation and how this connects to global societal transformations. A true mind opener.”--José van Dijck, author of The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media