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He is one of the co-founders of the Retort collective, an association of radical writers, teachers, artists, and activists, which has existed in the Bay Area for the past two decades. He co-edited Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information (1995). He co-authored Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (2001), along with T.J. Clark, Joseph Matthews and Michael Watts. In 2012, he published The Green Machine - a world history of the bicycle (Notting Hill Editions, out of print). Currently, he is working as editor on Archives of Dissent, which is under contract to be published by PM Press. He is also working on a book about The Long Theft: Episodes in the History of Enclosure.
The historians Robert Proctor and Londa Schiebinger have credited Boal with coining the term "Agnotology" in 1992  to describe the intentional production of ignorance or doubt, often for commercial gain. Originally conceived to explain the behavior of tobacco companies, it has gained more recent currency in the context of commercially motivated climate change denial.
He is married to the archivist Gillian Boal.
- Boal, Iain and James Brook, Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information City, (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995)
- As member of Retort, Blood for Oil? (2005)
- As member of Retort, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War
- In a postscript to their 2012 book, Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance, Stanford University Press, p. 27, Proctor writes that "My hope for devising a new term was to suggest...the historicity and artifactuality of non-knowing and the non-known - and the potential fruitfulness of studying such things. In 1992 I posed this challenge to linguist Iain Boal, and it was he who came up with the term in the spring of that year"
- "London Book Review". LBR.
- "Retort Afflicted Powers". Verso. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009.