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Originally published Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 6:05 AM

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A go-to reference for social media and politics

The “Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics” is a comprehensive reference to the world of social media and its intersection with politics.


The Washington Post

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‘Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics’

edited by Kerric Harvey

Sage Reference, 3 volumes, $415

If, like me, you were caught off guard by the sudden currency of “cloud computing” in this newspaper and elsewhere, the three-volume “Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics” is the reference work for you. Look up “cloud computing,” and here is what you will find: “a term that describes the use of a network of remote servers that were traditionally run from localized computers. Rather than using one’s own computing hardware and software to run programs, store information, or develop content, these files and services are held elsewhere and accessed via the Internet from massive off-site data servers.”

The first volume provides a handy chronology of how social media evolved. It begins, surprisingly enough, with a 1945 essay by Vannevar Bush, the engineer who headed the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. Writing for the Atlantic Monthly, Bush urged the creation of “a collective memory, which he called the memex, to facilitate and augment the powers of human thought by storing and organizing information; this essay is often cited as the first to suggest the properties later realized through hypertext.”

As promised in the title, there is plenty of politics between these six covers. The entry on “Saturday Night Live” will revive interest in the 2008 skit in which Tina Fey aped Sarah Palin so hilariously that “over 14 million people watched the sketch on NBC.com and Hulu.com, making it the most-viewed clip ever on the network’s website, as well as the most-watched viral video overall to that point.”

In her introduction, principal editor Kerric Harvey of George Washington University argues that social-media content deserves more respect than it receives: It is taking “its place in the American archive of record,” a storehouse that began with the library of Thomas Jefferson, which became the core of the Library of Congress.

The cost rules this out for most home libraries, but this is one of the reasons we have public libraries.



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