Reddit Is Belatedly Homeschooling Itself on Basic Media Theory

People are really into the cyberpunk classic 'Neuromancer.'


Over the weekend, an out-of-work programmer launched Reddit Books, a site that scours various subreddits for books mentioned and ranks them by comments received on their associated post. The creator/redditor shared it on r/Books and received mainly positive feedback from peers excited about a digital recommendation engine. But what were those recommendations? Almost entirely non-fiction treatises on media theory. The site sorts by week and, after the presidential election last week, it seems that redditors are looking to understand what happened and why they didn’t see it coming.

It makes sense that a digital-anchored community like Reddit would want to learn about the organizations and technologies that help them interact with one another. Whether it’s social media, online news, or video games, these various mediums have entwined with people’s everyday lives. Learning more about media theory, the “complex of social-political-philosophical principles which organize ideas about the relationship between media and society,” can be helpful for people who simply just want to be more aware the role and effects of these virtual vehicles.

Once somebody’s a redditor, it could be argued that they are possibly already the kind of person that’s completely immersed in new media. Even the general millennial who’s not on Reddit but embraces other social networks fits this mold. It probably would have been better for internet natives to learn some basic media theory before the election, but late is certainly better than never.

Reddit Books

The three most popular reads are from a thread on r/Games, where one redditor asked, “Did Hideo Kojima foresee current problems with social media and The Internet way back in 2001?” User HarpDarpDerpDarp outlined a slew of relevant works to evaluate the query, including the McLuhan pieces.

Reddit Books uncovered some other titles from more random subreddits, including Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques that was suggested to a 16-year-old cook looking for some guidance to French food on r/AskCulinary and ethical polyamory guide More Than Two on the polyamory subreddit.

The tool is perfect for a community-based website like Reddit. So much about the network is hearing about other peoples’ experiences or perspectives, like AMAs or AskReddit threads. People genuinely reach out to other redditors for help and many candidly respond with guidance. So it’s understandable that users would trust one another with reading suggestions and be excited about picking up the books. Only adding to this aptness is the fact that so many of the tips revolve around media theory, which can be embodied in the very way that they share those recommendations.