The committee for the Association of Internet Researchers 2023 Nancy Baym Annual Book Award is delighted to announce this year’s winner. Many excellent books were submitted for consideration by the committee and the task of narrowing down the list to one clear winner was by no means an easy one. Indeed, as the committee felt that the two books that made it to the final stage of consideration were both eminently worthy of the award on their own terms, we decided it would also be appropriate to give an honorable mention. Accordingly, without any further ado, the winner of the 2023 Nancy Baym Annual Book Award is The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media by Kevin Driscoll (Yale University Press) and the distinction of an honorable mention goes to Redeem All: How Digital Life is Changing Evangelical Culture by Corrina Laughlin (University of California Press).
Driscoll’s The Modem World offers a compelling history of the sprawling BBS culture from which much internet culture emerged. Driscoll’s meticulous yet fast paced narrative of the rise and fall of the “modem world” of dial-up BBSs is as engaging in a readerly way as it is rigorous in terms of research and argument. Moreover, Driscoll’s analytical objective here is not just to recover a forgotten historical moment in the development of the internet and social media, but to present his account of the BBSs as a genealogy of the present that has important implications for imagining and enacting a future of the internet outside of the hegemonic rule of Big Tech. Accordingly, The Modem World captures the unwritten, yet crucial history of “alternative” social media as well as the historical dimension of the technology, both of which are badly needed for existing research on the internet and communication technologies more broadly. We note that this is the first time the award has been given to a monograph focused primarily on media history.
Laughlin’s Redeem All: How Digital Life is Changing Evangelical Culture is a tour de force of research fieldwork on one of the most consequential developments in organized religion of the past decades, namely, the relationship between digital communication technologies and the quotidian practices of evangelical Christianity in the United States. Laughlin grounds her analysis in the ambivalent 20th century history of how American evangelicals have alternatively embraced and resisted the integration of new communication technologies into the missionary work of Christian religious practice. This historical grounding sets the stage of Laughlin’s ethnography of several different sites and spaces of contemporary evangelical culture that embody and perform what she terms the “digital habitus”, such as the suburban mega-churches and Silicon Valley start-ups that specialize in “faith-tech.” The book’s careful attention to the cultural politics of digital technologies within evangelical communities speaks to members of the AoIR community who do interpretive and qualitative work from sociological, anthropological, and cultural studies perspectives.
For this year’s award, the committee was comprised by:
Andrew Herman, Chair, Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
Nick Bowman, Syracuse University (USA)
Marco Bastos, University College, Dublin (Ireland)
Niki Cheong, King’s College London (UK)
Jun Liu, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
AoIR congratulates Kevin Driscoll on winning the 2023 Nancy Baym Annual Book Award, and likewise congratulates Corrina Laughlin on receiving an honorable mention. AoIR would also like to thank the members of the award committee for their work adjudicating between the many quality books received this year.