Masthead CMC Magazine November 1, 1995 / Page 7


The Net: of the Devil or of God?

From The Emperor's Virtual Clothes, pages xvi-xvii:

"The writer Henry David Thoreau once tried to make sense of a rapidly changing world by venturing into the Massachusetts woods near Walden Pond and living there for awhile. 'I wanted life into a corner,' he wrote, 'and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it.' He did this, he said, because he saw that most men were 'in a strange uncertainty,': that they were unsure whether life itself was 'of the devil or of God.'

"Instead of retreating from a changing world, I retreated into it, venturing onto the new digital footpath, immersing myself for a full year in the electronic woods. My reasons were much the same as Thoreau's--I wanted to reduce this new world to something understandable, to learn if the new electronic culture was mean or sublime, of the devil or of God.

"Thoreau prized simplicity, and I tried to keep my questions simple as well. Who was using it? What were they using it for? Were they using it for anything useful?"

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