If, as Umberto Eco tells it, “the list is the origin of culture,” then the Internet may be culture’s apotheosis. So much of the web comes to us in list form. Google searches render lists of results; we scroll all the livelong day (and night) through lists of updates on Twitter and Facebook; news sites like The New York Times and Vox highlight lists of their most popular stories. Blogs are lists of posts; Instagram is a list of images; Reddit is a hive-minded collection of conversations and digital artifacts presented as lists. Even the Bible, on the Internet, morphs into a list—the popular app YouVersion, which has been downloaded over 170 million times, essentially understands (as a matter of its coding) the Bible not as a book or series of books but as a list of 31,102 verses.Read the rest of A modest defense of the listicle.
Patton Dodd is a writer and editor in Maryland. He holds a PhD in religion and literature from Boston University. His writing on religion and American culture has appeared in a range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, CNN.com, Newsweek, Christianity Today, Books & Culture, Killing the Buddha, and The Shambhala Sun. A former editor at OnFaith and Patheos, he is also the author of the memoir My Faith So Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion and the ebook The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football's Most Polarizing Player.