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

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 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.
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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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,197,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Pomeroy on August 22, 2003
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: Paperback
I read this book a decade after it was published and was impressed to find it relevant and interesting. The book was recommended by a friend, but I was apprehensive about how dated it might be after so much internet time had passed. Not to worry. Weinberger sorts many impacts and influences the web has had into a sort of taxonomy of a few fundamental categories such as time, space, knowledge and hope. This useful perspective has lasting value.

I've been watching the web since its inception, so many of Weinberg's concepts and connections were familiar. The ideas made me think of Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control", which was a 1994 exploration of decentralized systems. Kelly looked at mathematics, biology, hardware and software, but was too early to consider the powerful influence the web would have. Weinberger brings similar thinking to the web.
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Format: Paperback
This book was published in 2002 (the year I started working for Microsoft). Now, 14 years later, it's certainly not as relevant a book as it was in 2002. And that's the main reason not to buy this book: it's out of date. But how relevant a book was it even in 2002? Not very.

The author describes media coverage of the Web in 1995 as being "at its most hysterical". Seven years later, the author's own writing comes across as way too over-excited about something that's just not that exciting nor significant. That said, I still cringe today whenever someone says or writes "that's what the Internet is like" (or something similar) as if "the Internet" is a meaningful construct apart from the world. It isn't. It's no more apart from the world as the "Spanish-speaking" or "telephone-using" or "car-driving" or "left-handed" aspects of the world are. Usually the reason "the Internet" is singled out as if it's a different planet is because of behavior. People sometimes behave differently when interacting via digital media than they do when they're standing in front of you. But that's also true of people using telephones, or cars, or shouting at you through a locked door. These slight modifications of behavior as a function of circumstance and medium is not unique to the Web, and it's uninteresting and incidental.

This author seems pretty smart. With a bit of training I think he'd make a good writer. I would encourage him to find out what the words "antisocial" and "unsociable" mean so that he can comment about the New York Times' abuse of them instead of just aping that abuse.
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