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The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M. I. T. Paperback – September 3, 1988
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 3, 1988)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0140097015
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140097016
- Item Weight : 1.08 pounds
- Dimensions : 7 x 1 x 5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #782,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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After reading it, I lost it somewhere along the way. I came here to see if I could find a copy to re-read it and check my memory. It really should be an interesting read after all these years for anyone interested in the process and history of science.
There is one characteristic of this text that doesn't appear to be mentioned by other reviewers, however, and that is its "time capsule" aspect. That is, Brand does a pretty good job of transporting the reader "back" to the mid-late 80s, when the book was written. Not only are the technologies indicators of the time, but the socio-political landscape as well (at least as far as I remember it). I think that, for today's reader, Brand's excellent explorations of the impact of Reaganomics, Japan's usurping of American manufacturing, the globalizing impact of technology, etc. provide tremendous value.
I think that it is a somewhat rare thing for an author to so wholly encapsulate a time such that the later reader can access the notions and movements of an age so effectively. Brand provides such a rare glimpse in this work - a time portal back to the mid-80s, if you will. As a chapter in the history of computing, I think that most will agree that this work is a worthwhile addition. I suspect that most readers will also find this an interesting trip back to an earlier time.
Brand's material is almost twenty years old now. The sections in which he discussed the historical development of the Media Lab or its projects remain relevant for today's readers. But unfortunately, a great deal of the book was an attempt to look into the future; hence it became outdated as prediction almost as soon as it was written. What's quite interesting today, however, is to see that almost every project that Brand predicts will have some chance of success has actually become commonplace today. For prediction, that's an incredible track record. Did Brand achieve this by sticking only to cutting edge technologies, those that were just on the very edge of leaving the lab for the real world? Were there other projects at the time that Brand didn't choose to write about here because they were obviously going nowhere? It would be a an interesting project to look back to see the actual status of these projects at the time.
I picked up this book because I was interested in learning more about the culture of the Media Lab. In my own years at MIT, the Lab certainly had a reputation for the uniqueness of its faculty and for attracting students who were highly original as well as capable. It was hard to learn more about the Lab, however, unless you were a part of it. This book, with its emphasis on predicting future technologies, didn't real satisfy my curiosity about the Media Lab. The book contains a few interviews with leading figures in the lab such as Andy Lippman and Danny Hills. But the interviews don't quite succeed at conveying the personalities of these people along with their viewpoints. Instead, they seem to add to the feeling that this book is a personal record of the variety of experiences Brand encountered during his visit.
We're told that Negroponte views all communication technologies as a single subject and the process itself as a craft. He divides advertising into two categories, "advertising as noise" and "advertising as news."
This book goes to show that while the delivery systems are always changing, content is significant. Some of the technologies which were relatively new at the time this book came out are commonplace now. The philosophical insights Brand makes are worth consideration at any time. As a result this book is still pertinent.
However, a large portion of the book is spent describing specific projects, many of which are obviously a little out of date. Don't get the wrong idea, though. These projects were obviously very exciting when new. Further, some of the projects still seem so far out that I would not be surprised to see them announced as new research in 2000!
All in all, recommended. But perhaps you're better off skimming a copy from your local library than buying this one. That's why 3 stars instead of 4.
Top reviews from other countries
In spite of the vast (in techonological reckoning) period of time since its publication, this is still a fascinating read, since much of the work that the Lab was doing at the time in computing and communications has come to fruition in our everyday life. To pick one example, a section on the benefits of CD-ROM suggests that it's ideally suited for "those specialized multivolume reference works and subscription services that are so expensive, so bulky and often so complexly indexed that wrestling it into the headquarters library is worthy of mention in the annual report" [p23].
A second section attempts to tease out the implications of technology developments for our society - for example, something which is introduced here as the information economy. There are fascinating early attempts to draw distinctions between - for example - selling a physical object (after which you have it and I don't) and selling information (after which we both have it).
Despite its age, this is still worth reading, if only as a reminder of how far we've come, and what the future looked like it could turn out to be back then.
Der Autor Stewart Brand hat sich um 1980 zu der Geburtsstätte vieler digitaler Kommunikationsmittel begeben.
Das MIT oder Massachusetts Institute of Technology (kann man eigentlich "Massachusetts" aussprechen ohne komisch zu klingen?)
hat zu dieser Zeit ein Labor gegründet, welches durch private Finanziers wie Apple, IBM und CBS mit Forschungsgeldern ausgestattet wurde,
um die digitale Kommunikation zu erforschen und auch teilweise neu zu erfinden.
Der Autor stellt sich oft dümmer als er ist, doch beschert er seinen Berichten damit eine gewisse Lockerheit.
Diese Lockerheit ergibt sich während der Lektüre im Jahr 2016 (oder meinetwegen auch früher) ohnehin, weil man sich dabei oft dämlich schmunzelt erwischt, weil in Kapitel 7 von der zukünftigen Videotelefonie (riesiger Telefonapparat mit eingesteckter Kreditkarte) geschwärmt wird, die es aber so nie gegeben hat, weil zum Glück irgendwann Skype da war.
Diese immer wiederkehrende Zeitreise, die Prognosen des Autors, wie sich gewisse Erfindungen auf die Gesellschaft auswirken werden und die die Einblicke in Wirtschaft und Forschung von damals, lassen einen auf 328 Seiten immer wieder fasziniert umblättern und 4 Sterne in der Bewertung vergeben. Ich kann dieses Buch allen technisch (halbwegs) begeisterten Menschen empfehlen, vor allem dann, wenn man wie ich, diese Lektüre für nur 80 Cent und 3€ Versand (Wucher!) erwerben kann.