Top positive review
204 people found this helpful
A critical take on Web 2.0: People first
on January 13, 2010
"Technology criticism," the author writes, "should not be left to the Luddites." Jaron Lanier is certainly no Luddite, but in this "manifesto" he blasts the Web 2.0 mentality, highlights long-standing technology lock-ins, and ranges far and wide in his criticisms of the Internet, computing, and the cultures surrounding the two today.
The core of his argument is that the achievements of the Web 2.0 collaborations are neither exciting, nor new. "Let's suppose that, back in the 1980s, I had said, `In a quarter century, when the digital revolution has made great progress and computer chips are millions of times faster than they are now, humanity will finally win the prize of being able to write a new encyclopedia and a new version of UNIX!' It would," he writes, "have sounded utterly pathetic." He's referring to Wikipedia and Linux, two clear successes of collaborative construction. And furthermore, the intellectual work of those thousands of people have been undervalued, in fact, they're unpaid volunteers. The middle classes have spent their hours working without paid to build wonderful constructs for the profits of major companies. Hmmm...as I write this book review, unpaid, with Amazon looking to earn money from selling more copies of this book...
Ranging further across the Web 2.0 field, Jaron notes the Facebook and Myspace pages in their prescribed formats with individuals reduced to favorite books, movies, five options for politics, and six options for relationship status. Other parts look at technology lock-in, with the example of MIDI. It was developed in the early 1980s for keyboard synthesizer control and output, and reproduces the nuances of a keyboard but not, for example, a violin. It would be hard to get support for a new, broader tool. "A thousand years from now, when a descendant of ours is traveling at relativistic speeds to explore new star systems, she will probably be annoyed by some awful beepy MIDI-driven music to alert her that the antimatter filter needs to be recalibrated."
Well, I certainly don't agree with everything Jaron has to say, even if I do fondly recall the handmade (with blink tags) web pages from before the AOL deluge (the September without end) when the masses discovered the Internet. There's a lot of crap online, but then again, there's a lot of crap everywhere. I can happily share my family photos over Facebook with people who barely are computer literate, and still be critical of the silly lock-ins of the Facebook pages. Lanier is not a Luddite though, he doesn't want us to smash the digital world, but wants to criticize it to make it better. Nothing wrong with that, whether we agree with his criticism or not.