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The Erotic Engine: How Pornography has Powered Mass Communication, from Gutenberg to Google Paperback – June 21, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"From the first cave drawings to how 'jiggle physics' advanced computer graphics to the 'twitterdildonics' of the future, a thorough, accessible, smart and insightful look at how pornography has driven communication technology throughout history."
-- Josey Vogels, sex and relationships columnist and author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy

"With an argument rich in fascinating stories and compelling characters, Patchen Barss proves this page-turner's startling thesis: pornography inspires advanced forms of communication. The Erotic Engine is enlightening, entertaining, and intellectually titillating."
--Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks

About the Author

PATCHEN BARSS is Director, Communications and Media Relations, with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. As a journalist he has written about science and the humanities in higher education for more than a decade. His
articles have appeared in the National Post, the Montreal Gazette, Reader's Digest, Saturday Night, This Magazine, and many other publications. He has been a technology and culture columnist for CBC Online and a producer for CBC Television.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada (June 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038566737X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385667371
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David Mills on July 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
This still recent-enough (for the subject matter: hi-tech) book on how adult material profited from and even furthered technolgy from cave-dwelling to computer eras and beyond is worth a read. Barrs explores origins to explain, for instance, how Gutenberg's printing press was the information highway of its day, democratizing knowledge and society. That accessibility facilitated a centuries-old demand for adult material. The advent of cinema with its underground stag films brought this further forward, even (starting in the 60s) to the point of a theatre near you. When dealing with the VCR and its rapid adoption by the adult industry (film and television studios once considered it a threat) Barrs clarifies an urban myth: Beta failed in the format wars partially because it didn't adapt to porn. This is not true: Beta did offer xxx-material, but failed because VHS beat it on other terms. Barrs also details how Toronto media entrepreneur Moses Znaimer revolutioned the use of UHF through a soft core (and now [sadly] defunct)late-night cable show, "The Baby Blue Movie." Barrs explains the influence of the early, pre-web, text-based Internet, and the importance of the "alt" option with the still-extant Usenet. The advent and primacy of the world wide web was facilitated by such early adult sites such as Jennicam. Indeed, the demand for porn led to the actual widening of bandwidths, along with mainstream companies tacitly working with adult ones to offer smartphones, one of whose features is adult material. Though the traditional adult industry is now in difficult straits, such technology as tactile porn is being innovated to accord with an age-old demand that is being and will be met by inventors and entrepreneurs.
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Format: Paperback
Patchen Barss has crafted a convincing argument that porn has more or less been the spearhead of technological developments from the Gutenberg bible through to Google (the subtitle of his book makes that claim.

It is hard to argue with his research - he seems to have spoken to everyone who needs to be spoken to, read everything that needs to be read and contemplated all that needs contemplating. However there are some questions that I feel he doesn't address adequately.

There is no doubt that porn makers are early adapters when it comes to new communication technologies, but so to are the military and fast food companies as Peter Nowak argues in Sex, Bombs and Burgers. And there is a difference between being an early adapter and being the sustaining force behind technological revolution. Doubtlessly porn has assisted in the uptake of mass communication technology, but is it the powerhouse behind reform or merely one of many reinforcing factors?

I think the case for porn's critical role is a bit overstated, but that doesn't take away from the quality of this well written and well researched book. My only advice is that if you read it on a bus on the way to work try and avoid having an elderly woman sitting next to you tut-tutting about the books title!
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This book is a solid example of how porn launched the internet's success.
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Format: Paperback
I haven't read the book and probably won't, but I've got to say I always loved his name, as well as that of his brother Ingram Barss. So cool.
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