Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents

Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents

by Joseph M. Reagle Jr.
Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents

Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents

by Joseph M. Reagle Jr.


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In an effort to keep up with a world of too much, life hackers sometimes risk going too far.

Life hackers track and analyze the food they eat, the hours they sleep, the money they spend, and how they're feeling on any given day. They share tips on the most efficient ways to tie shoelaces and load the dishwasher; they employ a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as a time-management tool. They see everything as a system composed of parts that can be decomposed and recomposed, with algorithmic rules that can be understood, optimized, and subverted. In Hacking Life , Joseph Reagle examines these attempts to systematize living and finds that they are the latest in a long series of self-improvement methods. Life hacking, he writes, is self-help for the digital age's creative class.

Reagle chronicles the history of life hacking, from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack through Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Timothy Ferriss's The 4-Hour Workweek . He describes personal outsourcing, polyphasic sleep, the quantified self movement, and hacks for pickup artists. Life hacks can be useful, useless, and sometimes harmful (for example, if you treat others as cogs in your machine). Life hacks have strengths and weaknesses, which are sometimes like two sides of a coin: being efficient is not the same thing as being effective; being precious about minimalism does not mean you are living life unfettered; and compulsively checking your vital signs is its own sort of illness. With Hacking Life , Reagle sheds light on a question even non-hackers ponder: what does it mean to live a good life in the new millennium?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262538992
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/18/2020
Series: Strong Ideas
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Joseph M. Reagle, Jr., is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. He is the author of Good Faith Collaboration, Reading the Comments, and Hacking Life, all published by the MIT Press.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Introduction 1

2 The Life Hackers 13

3 Hacking Time 27

4 Hacking Motivation 45

5 Hacking Stuff 63

6 Hacking Health 83

7 Hacking Relationships 107

8 Hacking Meaning 127

9 Blinkered 147

Notes 157

Index 189

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Hacking Life is a pitch-perfect history of the early days of 'life-hacking,' a meticulous exploration of how those ideas grew into a movement, and a dispassionate analysis of what that success -- if it can be called a success -- says about all of us.

Danny O'Brien, writer and coiner of "life hacks"

Joseph Reagle is a brilliant demystifier of tech culture. In Hacking Life, he chronicles the all-too-human urge to think of our bodies as machines to be tinkered with by changing our diets, social interactions or sleep patterns. Writing with great sympathy for those hoping to fix 'bugs' in being human, whether Seneca, Henry David Thoreau or the current wave of tech leaders, Reagle also questions the mindset that sees life as something to be solved.

Noam Cohen, author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball

At turns inspiring and disturbing, this masterful account of life hackers' experiments in systematized living tells a larger story about the paradoxical pressures—to keep up and to surpass, to achieve minimalism and to maximize—that selves face in a world of technological optimization.

Natasha D. Schüll, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

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