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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'free culture' internet, or a culture free one?, 12 Jan. 2011
This review is from: You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto (Hardcover)
This is an excellent counter-argument to those who think a free-culture Internet a great thing (see Lessig, 2004 or Mason, 2008). Lanier thinks all this gives us is a culture-free Internet, filled with vacuous mash-ups of pre-Internet content and devoid of viable business models for creative practice. It is refreshingly well informed about technology(in a way that, for example, Seigel, 2009 is not), and makes creative proposals about how things might develop rather than just complaining about how they are. This is because Lanier knows how we got here in the first place, and can see the roads not taken as alternative routes to a better set of arrangements for computers to help people achieve the things they want. This is counterposed to the ridiculous 'noosphere' proposed by those that Lanier refers to as 'cybernetic totalists', who think the best thing we could do is transfer our consciousness as a species to the online space by uploading ourselves into it. As Lanier points out, this sort of thinking hasn't actually given us much in the recent past, and been a classic salesman's overhyping the potential of the technology as a means replacing an argument with rhetoric. Given the enthusiasm with which business sees the opportunities of mass collaboration, isn't Lanier likely to be right for all those truly creative types who think innovation is about leading, or being contrary or simply making personal statements? For Lanier, the humanity of the individual is more important to preserve than forcing us all into becoming slaves to the machine.

There are as yet few solutions to the problems discussed here, but Lanier does well to identify alternatives to simply giving everything away in an orgy of online Marxism. In this, we are more likely to develop some answers to the pressing concerns of culture by reading this book than simply accepting the arrangements presented to us on today's Internet.
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