Editor's Pageby Kevin Hunt, Book Review Editor
In the past year bookstores have had to devote more and more shelf space to titles praising, exploring, or critiquing "cyberculture," the social, economic, political, and cultural fallout from the Internet, the Web, and other network communications technologies. Over the course of the past twelve months we've reviewed a number of these new titles. Yet just as there never seems to be enough time to keep up with the incessant march of technology, there also never seems to be enough time to keep up with discussions of the march. With the year rapidly drawing to a close, we deemed it high time to devote full attention to some of the discussions that have taken place in the form of books, and the result is this special year-end book review issue.
With the numerous titles that have been released in the past year, the problem of how to select which books are worthy of review rears its head. Rather than trying to base the selection on what would of course be an arbitrary determination of which books have broached the most significant issues of the day, I've instead opted for a selection that I believe represents a great breadth of issues, ideas, and commentary on the Internet and cyberspace. The result is the four reviews you find in this issue, as well as a series brief reviews. Here's a brief look at the works I've selected:
As reviewer Steve Doheny-Farina points out in his look at Laura Gurak's Persuasion and Privacy in Cyberspace, much of the discussion on the potential for the Internet to democratize communication and political participation has been idle speculation. In her work, Gurak provides empirical case studies that examine the possibilities and pitfalls of these claims.
Similarly, academics have been speculating on what effects hypertext, virtual reality, and multimedia environments will have on the future of literature and the book itself. But as reviewer Chris Lapham points out, author Janet Murray is one of the few who can bring to the discussion an extensive and varied background in both computer science and English literature. The result, Hamlet on the Holodeck, makes for a thoughtful and enjoyable read.
Along with the explosion of books about "cyberculture," there has also been a profusion of books that examine the consequences of computer technology in general. Since the direction we're heading in with our network computer technologies is directly related to--and sometimes indistinguishable from--the way we've chosen to design our machines, works that examine computer technologies are worth examining in the context of CMC. One such work is Gregory Rawlins' Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer Technology. Reviewer Don Langham examines Rawlins' vision.
Some of the more popular books to appear in the last few years have focused on the utopian possibilities--and dire warnings--of the digital revolution. In Rewired, David Hudson looks beyond the extremism of both positions by placing the debate in its historical context. As I point out in my review of Hudson's book, the result is a much-needed look at what our options are now for directing the Net in a way that will benefit us all.
And finally, the possibilities of using the Internet as a tool of creative expression are just now being explored on a large scale. One such exploration is Carl Malamud's Internet 1996 World Exposition, an event he details in his A World's Fair for the Global Village. As reviewer, Avis Winifred Rupert points out, while it's tough to keep up with the march of technology, the creative projects such as Malamud's make our technological future a little less daunting.
Perhaps the reviews here will provide you with a few ideas for completing your holiday gift list.
Copyright © 1997 by Kevin Hunt. All Rights Reserved.