|01-17-2010, 12:22 AM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2009
A Rebel in Cyberspace, Fighting Collectivism
Michiko Kakutani reviews Jaron Lanier's new book in the New York Times book review today here:
QUOTES: Now, in his impassioned new book “You Are Not a Gadget,” Mr. Lanier expands this thesis further, looking at the implications that digital Maoism or “cybernetic totalism” have for our society at large. Although some of his suggestions for addressing these problems wander into technical thickets the lay reader will find difficult to follow, the bulk of the book is lucid, powerful and persuasive. It is necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace.
Like Andrew Keen in “The Cult of the Amateur,” Mr. Lanier is most eloquent on how intellectual property is threatened by the economics of free Internet content, crowd dynamics and the popularity of aggregator sites. “An impenetrable tone deafness rules Silicon Valley when it comes to the idea of authorship,” he writes, recalling the Wired editor Kevin Kelly’s 2006 prediction that the mass scanning of books would one day create a universal library in which no book would be an island — in effect, one humongous text, made searchable and remixable on the Web.
Mr. Lanier, a pioneer in the development of virtual reality and a Silicon Valley veteran, is hardly a Luddite, as some of his critics have suggested. Rather he is a digital-world insider who wants to make the case for “a new digital humanism” before software engineers’ design decisions, which he says fundamentally shape users’ behavior, become “frozen into place by a process known as lock-in.” Just as decisions about the dimensions of railroad tracks determined the size and velocity of trains for decades to come, he argues, so choices made about software design now may yield “defining, unchangeable rules” for generations to come.
In .....passages in this provocative and sure-to-be-controversial book he goes even further, suggesting that “pop culture has entered into a nostalgic malaise,” that “online culture is dominated by trivial mashups of the culture that existed before the onset of mashups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media.”
Last edited by taglines; 01-17-2010 at 12:44 AM.
|01-17-2010, 06:12 AM||#2|
"Assume a can opener..."
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Local Cluster
Device: iLiad v2, DR1000
Thanks for the link, but it sounds like a very whiny book.
1. There is no "silicon valley" of "the internet", where decisions are made that pertain to every website on/it it. "Crowd dynamics" along with them choosing to go to sites that allow different kinds of behaviour (which then adapt further depending on the audience that's drawn to it) might explain some of this push towards harmonization, but again, suggesting there are general trends to be seen seems rather silly and naieve.
If I wanted to kid everyone, I could just as easily suggest that the internet, rather than "attacking the notion of authorship" is proposing we have more sex with rather larger sexual appendages.
2. "impenetrable tone deafness" sounds silly. First off, "silicon valley" is quite in favour of IP rights. Secondly, the internet is far more differentiated than that. Thirdly, the idea of "authorship" isn't quite as monolithic and unchanging as Lanier suggests it is.
3. The http protocol can carry just about anything, so I don't really understand why he thinks that design decisions will be "forced upon" the internet. As I see it, things like Wordpress, Slashdot, facebook are all quite different, and while they might borrow ideas from oneanother (forgive my choice of examples here), there is little reason to think that slashdot will one day become "incompatible" with the rest of the internet. This, again, assumes central control.
Anyway. He might not be a Luddite, but there is definitely a reason why he doesn't work in SV any more.
Last edited by zerospinboson; 01-17-2010 at 11:42 AM.
|01-17-2010, 08:35 AM||#3|
Which side are you on?
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Variable, currently Czestochowa, Poland.
Device: Kindle 2 Int'l
|01-17-2010, 10:50 AM||#4|
Join Date: Jan 2006
I got out of the review that the book defends the idea of the individual and their rights, including the right to be recognized for and profit from their own work, and to have a say against having their work appropriated by others. It also points out valid points the author makes about the essential nature of the web, and the fact that collective groups are influenced by the tools they have at their disposal... that is something most individuals (and collectives) rarely recognize as it happens, but is true nonetheless.
I suppose you could say that disagreeing with these points make you a "communist," but based on the "free for all" attitude of the bulk of the web's users, it's hard to say he's wrong. In fact, it only bolsters his suggestion that, on the web, anyone's simply disagreeing with any point is enough to disprove or vilify it...
|01-17-2010, 11:39 AM||#5|
New Musicians of Bremen
Join Date: Sep 2009
Looks like Lanier is making a sad attempt to regain the (very minor) fame and relevance that he had in the late 80s/early 90s. It reminds me of Cliff Stoll's followup to his excellent tech detective book The Cuckoo's Egg, in which he turns into a nattering nabob of ludditism, Silicon Snake Oil. I can't find a digital copy of Silicon Snake Oil, but this review will show you how utterly wrong Stoll had the future envisioned:
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