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  • You are not a gadget

    Thu, 21 Jan 2010 11:33

    Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto gets the Wall Street Journal treatment:

    Ever since the Internet began to make its way into everyday life -- beginning roughly in the early 1990s -- commentators have worried over its cultural effects, fearing isolation, regimentation, a loss of privacy or a loss of sustained thought. Back then, Jaron Lanier was one of the pioneers of immersive virtual worlds and helped to popularize the term "virtual reality." Those were the days when the Web's promise seemed bright and limitless. Mr. Lanier was one of its champions. Now, as experience has set in, his outlook is decidedly gloomier. In You Are Not a Gadget, he sounds an alarm about the social-media technologies of the so-called Web 2.0, arguing that they reduce individuals to mere cogs in a mob-based, crowd-sourced apparatus. "Technology criticism," he says in defense of his own role in this debate, "shouldn't be left to the Luddites."

    Mr. Lanier calls his book a manifesto, but it reads more like a collection of columns and notebook entries loosely organized around a central theme. More than anything else, he worries that those whom he calls "the lords of the cloud" -- huge entities such as Google and Facebook -- constrict their users, creating online environments in which true individuality is curtailed in favor of the extraction of marketing data and other intelligence. The practice is not only unfair and confining, he says, but perhaps even dangerous. "Emphasizing the crowd," Mr. Lanier writes, "means de-emphasizing individual humans... and when you ask people not to be people, they revert to bad moblike behaviors." At the very least current Web arrangements encourage a shallow, lemming-like conformity of judgment (more...)

    Posted by Mark Mark

    Categories: bookreview, You are not a gadget

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