September 1998

Editor's Page

By Kevin Hunt, Book Review Editor

The end of summer means that many of us -- as academics, students, or parents -- once again begin thinking about the start of a new academic year. For me, the beginning of the new school year is always a time of reflection on previous beginnings, on times gone by. It was about this time five years ago that I used the Web for the very first time -- remember peering at those gray, mostly text- filled screens in the early Mosaic browser?

Now that the Web has been around and has changed dramatically in the past five years, it has a history that many authors have deemed worthy of chronicling. You've probably noted this trend played out on the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble: Josh Quittner and Michelle Slatella's Speeding the Net: The Inside Story of Netscape and How It Challenged Microsoft, Kara Swisher's How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web; Michael Wolf's Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet, etc. While these titles focus on the commercialization of the Net, Wendy Grossman places this commercialization in a much larger context -- that of the much longer history and broad scope of Internet cultures. The result is net.wars, Grossman's history of culture clashes on the Net, []reviewed this month by Christine Lapham.

Just as the body works chronicling Internet history is growing, so is the body of academic works theorizing about the social, cultural, and political dimensions of cyberspace. Three new anthologies posit new ways of looking for and out the various layers of meaning -- primarily community, identity -- that comprise the virtual onion of cyberspace: Mapping Cyberspace, edited by Joseph Behar; Virtual Culture,edited by Steven Jones; and Composing Cyberspace, edited by Richard Holeton. Reviewer Terri L. Kelly takes a []look at the three collections and analyzes their usefulness in the classroom.

In contrast to the theory-based perspectives presented in the academy, author Mike Godwin takes a very pragmatic -- and important -- look at cyberspace -- specifically, the legal battles over freedom of speech online. Most readers have probably already read pieces of Godwin's arguments in various forums both online and off. As the counsel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Godwin frequently likes to provide the final word on issues of freedom and privacy in the information age. Perhaps it's fitting,then, that Godwin's Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age is the final book []reviewed in this summer series.

As the fall season progresses, and as the holidays again bring on a time to reflect on the passing of another year, we'll again review the notable releases of the past few months. If you'd like to contribute to the year-end book review issue, please feel free to contact me.

Copyright © 1998 by Kevin Hunt. All Rights Reserved.

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