Editor's PageBy Kevin Hunt, Book Review Editor
Even though the speed of computer networks seems to have forced the tempo of information creation and dissemination up a notch, some of the ways we do things still follow the more leisurely rhythms of print culture. For instance, while questions about the social and economic dimensions of the "information revolution" have been asked ever since the Internet captured the fancy of the public four or so years ago, and even though Internet usage surveys are now commonly administered to provide a few answers -- especially for business and marketing folks - it has taken a little longer to really think about what the data mean and what the wider implications are. Fortunately, it seems that during the past year we've begun to see some of the fruits of slower, more deliberative academic studies on these issues. The result has been several new scholarly works on issues of access to information and technology, such as those that Leslie Regan Shade reviews in this issue.
And speaking of the pace of work these days, while software upgrades are released every six months or so, the upgrade cycle for Cybersociety 2.0 has been considerably longer. The collection is a sequel of sorts to the original edition edited by Steven Jones and published in 1995. Yet while software upgrades focus on what's "new and improved," Jones' new collection, as Joseph Feller points out in his review, helps us to reflect on what has been, as well as where we are now.
Unfortunately, while the pace of academic work is still somewhat bound by the pace of a print culture, many programmers these days are bound to another pace, a pace dictated by a clock drawing closer and closer to the year 2000. Under pressure to crank out fixes to this problem, as well as to keep pace with incessant upgrades to microprocessor technology, few programmers probably get a chance to reflect on the ethical dimensions of what they do. This is what Daniel Kohanski, in his book The Philosophical Programmer: Reflections on the Moth in the Machine, would like programmers and developers to do, particularly in light of the Y2K problem Van Kloempken reviews how Kohanski goes about this ethics review.
And in a final note, given the constraints on our limited time and energy, and given all the new books released over the past year, how does one go about deciding what to read. If you buy books from Amazon.com, you might follow their computer-generated "recommended reading" list, tailored especially for you based on your previous buying habits. But in reflecting on Amazon's suggestions for me, I think that the process of talking about books with each other, making suggestions, and giving each other our own off-the-cuff reviews is a process that we might not want to relegate to computers. It's a process, I believe, that is part of what it means to be human, a process we should take the time to do and relish the time we take in doing it.
Copyright 1998 by Kevin Hunt. All rights reserved.