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Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age by [Johnson, Steven]
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Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Length: 284 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Details

  • File Size: 4223 KB
  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Publication Date: September 18, 2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0085DP4OG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,930 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Andreas Jungherr on October 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The first third of the book contains an interesting and highly readable popularisation of recent scientific texts on the role of networks in social organisation. Unfortunately the last two thirds of the book are filled with highly enthusiastic and uncritical examples of how these network structures might change various fields of society. Mainly these case studies fall short of valid analyses since they create false dichotomies between network structures, market structures and hierarchies. Instead of telling the more differentiated tale that network structures increasingly supplement traditional forms of social organisation the cases push the more sensationalist tale that network structures will replace traditional structures. For more balanced accounts of the phenomenon see for example: Bruce Bimber, Andrew Flanagin, Cynthia Stohl (Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change (Communication, Society and Politics)), Andrew Chadwick ([...]) or Dave Karpf (The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics)).
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Format: Hardcover
Future Perfect is an optimistic book about technology, society, and the future. That's remarkable in itself, since pessimistic (or at least cautionary) books tend to outnumber optimistic ones, but what's even more remarkable is the care and precision with which Johnson makes his case. The new communications technologies, he argues, are significant less for what they do than for what their capabilities enable us to do, if we choose to do it.

The first of the book's two sections lays out its central premise: that distributed "peer networks" allowing the free flow of information between diverse individuals are a powerful force for social progress. decentralized networks are a powerful tool for facilitating interaction between individuals, and thus for social progress. It concludes: "We have a theory of peer networks. We have the practice of building them. And we have results. We know that peer networks can work in the real world. The task now is to discover how far they can take us." The second, longer section - a series of thematic chapters on subjects like journalism, technology, and government - makes good on that promise. It presents case studies that show what peer networks have already accomplished, and contemplates what they might accomplish in the future.

Johnson's goal, in Future Perfect is not to write a primer on the theory of networks, an analysis of how distributed networks function, or a history of distributed networks (though he touches, expertly but wearing his expertise lightly, on all those subjects). Nor is his goal to predict the future: The potential applications he describes for peer networks are presented as possibilities, not certainties.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an extreme technophile, I am certainly a tad biased in writing this review. However, Johnson's observations really gave a philosophical underpinning to the movement that the Internet has created. His argument is that the Internet makes information cheaper, which in turn allows "peers" to share data and information, rather than information coming down from a hierarchy. When innovation comes from the edges of the network, rather than the center, then the full power of the network is unleashed. Though detailed analysis and countless examples, he shows how the Internet is making this possible. However, I think he also comes across very balanced. He pulls examples not just from the last 20 years, but also sometimes from centuries ago to illustrate his point. The "peer progressive" mentality was not created by the Internet, but the Internet has enabled it to spread in a way never before possible. The writing and stories were thoroughly captivating as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed reading Johnson's musings on the promise of peer networks and emergent forms of connection. I especially liked the perspective that this growing peer philosophy is neither Big Government nor Big Corporation, nor does it fit neatly into either of our dominate political platforms. It is indeed something altogether different. This aspect of the book was inspiring and refreshing.

However, despite his appeals that this "peer" revolution is not simply net-utopianism, the majority of Johnson's examples of peer-networked success were drawn from web related projects. If, however, we are learning from the Internet as a model as he says, maybe the dearth of non-web examples in Future Perfect suggests they are still emerging and evolving.

Additionally I really wished he had included a chapter on energy. There was almost no mention of climate change in this brief book. While tackling some "pressing" problems such as election finance reform, democracy, business, and education, Johnson overlooks one of the most centralized (non-distributed) platforms in our country: our energy grid. Energy seems like hanging fruit for this book, and its a disappointment to read 20 pages about KickStarter instead...
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