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Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory Of The Web 1st Edition

4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0738205434
ISBN-10: 0738205435
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738205435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738205434
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,768,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In reading David Weinberger's "Small Pieces Loosely Joined", his thesis of how the Web works and impacts our lives, I couldn't help but recall Louis Armstrong's legendary response to the question "What is jazz". "Man, if ya gotta ask," he supposedly replied, "you'll never know."
"Small Pieces" tries to ask just that question: What is the Web? Not to say that Weinberger doesn't know (he does), but in trying to formulate an answer with "Small Pieces", he offers few new insights. There's nothing in this book that will hit the reader like a ton of bricks, especially if he or she has any degree of Web experience.
Indeed, while well-written and informative, the bulk of the content is a rehash of earlier Internet thinkers like Clifford Stoll, Nicholas Negroponte, Eric Raymond, Howard Rhiengold and even Jeremy Rifkin. Old-school netizens will be particularly disappointed, especially since the tone of the book comes disturbingly close to the technlogy-will-change-everything breathelessness of the dotcom days.
"Small Pieces", however, has its merits -- particularly in Weinberger's writing style. In that vein, "Small Pieces" makes a good beach book... and it's also good for those new to the Web (or at least those who are critically thinking about it for the first time). But if you really want to learn what the Web's all about, get surfing and build your own website. Like learning how to ride a bike, the only way to learn the Web is by hopping on the seat and risking a few skinned knees.
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Format: Hardcover
If John Perry Barlow is the Internet's prophet and Sherry Turkle is its anthropologist, by writing "Small Pieces, Loosely Joined," David Weinberger has become its first cosmologist, its Stephen Hawking.
In this slender, very readable and sometimes laugh-out-loud book, Weinberger examines the meaning, impact and use of the Internet with great insight and wisdom. He left me understanding how profoundly important the Internet is and how deeply it is affecting our society. It's not just another technological advance...it changes everything.
I realize that some people just don't get it, won't get it and can't get it, despite the crystal clarity of Weinberger's prose. But some people never get it.
Even Alexander Graham Bell was initially convinced the phone would be best used for transmitting music over long distances and I believe there was a fellow by the name of Watson who predicted the US would never need more than five computers. If Weinberger had been around then and writing books about telephoine and computers, they might have better understood the potential of their creations.
If you want to understand what the Internet means for us today and what it might mean tomorrow, I can think of no better basis than "Small Pieces Loosely Joined." His ideas will resonate in your mind long after you've finished the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined is a modern classic. And while it had inspired my own writing about the Internet, I had somehow failed to share that fact with others. His 'unified theory of the web' touched upon some of the most positive aspects of the web's essence and that truly moved me. It made me more optimistic about the Internet, about its future and about its positive implications for us all. In his words, "The web has hit our culture with a force unlike that of any modern technology" but he also noted that "at no point is the web merely technology." He describes the web as extending our senses of hearing and sight. But it's also creating a new, persistent public space where our extended bodies can go. His message of the web as a medium is this: Ultimately, matter doesn't matter. If we can be together so successfully in a world that has no atoms, no space, no uniform time, no management, and no control, then maybe we've been wrong about what matters in the real world in the first place." Each chapter offers some extremely interesting thoughts that deserve a great deal of consideration.

You might ask about Facebook, MySpace or any of the social networks today? Weinberger was first to describe the web as a social place that's been constructed voluntarily out of our passion to show others how the world looks to us; he sees those billions of pages as the social expression of this passion. These websites were built because their authors cared enough about something to take the time to write it down. The bits on the web are only bits because they are both physical and mental at the same time.
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Format: Paperback
This really is an odd book. The best way that I can describe it is like Tom Wolfe revising a manuscript of which portions were written by Marshall McLuhan and others by Ray Kurzweil. The author, David Weinberger, brings his broad knowledge and reading into play: Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, John Searle, history, philosophy, etc. Likewise, he includes and interweaves technical information and figures such as Bob Metcalfe, one of the inventors of ethernet. Weinberger does an excellent job of showing connections between various small pieces of information, thus forming an analogy to the web within his explanation of it.

Yet, much of the book seems frivolous and pedestrian, so that it seems that a volume half the size would have conveyed the same information in a more satisfying, meatier meal. Overall, I think that the book is interesting, and contains several good ideas, but find the writing, while clear, a bit too slow moving. Moreover, there is a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to the way that Weinberger blends technical information with personal experience, leaving a feeling of disjuncture in the work.

If you are looking for new ways to approach the web, then this book will fall short. However, if you enjoy humanist responses to technology, found Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines interesting, and perhaps are a fan of Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, then Small Pieces should provide interesting, additional insight as well as a pleasant afternoon read.
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