David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined does not merely celebrate the World Wide Web; it attempts to make a case that the institution has completely remodeled many of the world's self-perceptions. The book does so entertainingly, if not convincingly, and is a lively collection of epigrammatic phrases (the Web is "'place-ial' but not spatial"; "on the Web everyone will be famous to 15 people"), as well as illustrations of these changes. There are intriguing assertions: that the Web is "broken on purpose" and that its many pockets of erroneous information and its available forums for disputing, say, manufacturers' hyperbole, let people feel more comfortable with their own inherent imperfections. At other times the book seems stale: it declares that the Web has disrupted long-held axioms about time, space, and knowledge retrieval and that it has dramatically rearranged notions of community and individuality. Weinberger's analysis, though occasionally facile and too relentlessly optimistic and overstated, is surely destined to be the subject of furious debate in chat rooms the cyber-world over. --H. O'Billovich
From Publishers Weekly
Weinberger (coauthor, The Cluetrain Manifesto) mixes popular philosophy and middle-aged-white-male experience to explore his simple Internet thesis: the Web permits people to connect based on soul, not body, and the importance of the Web is not economic, but spiritual. A philosophy professor turned marketing guy turned writer, Weinberger boasts an extremely likable mainstream intellectual persona, flashes of insight and genuine literary talent. But the aspect of his personality that drives this book his first solo effort is his tendency to question. "Yes, I am undeniably a 45-55 white suburban male, but it's demeaning to see it put down on paper as if that made me like every other 45-55 white guy trapped in the suburbs," he says, in a passage about demographics gathered by scheming marketers. "And while it may be statistically true that we 45-55 white suburban males will boost our spending on erasable pens if we see a sexy babe touch one to her lips in an ad, we resent the notion that we're programmable." With touchy-feely chapter titles like "Perfection," "Togetherness," "Matter" and "Hope," Weinberger leads readers through an exploration of the Web's implications beyond Amazon.com. And if his concepts at times smack of New Age sensitivity, they are, in a way, accurate. Weinberger, a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, celebrates the Internet's gift to its users: permission to be an individual in a virtual world we can tailor to our passionate, idea-driven taste. In writing about the Web, Weinberger has written about himself his own soul and his own unwieldy and evolving comprehension of the world.
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