Have you desperately conducted a last minute multi-million pound transfer deals on 'Fantasy Football Manager' or looked up the latest video of a kamikaze pet on 'you tube' at work, when your boss wasn't looking? If the answer to these questions is an empathic 'yes' then 'Cyburbia' by James Harkin is essential reading; 'Cyburbia' delves into the way global communication networks such as 'you tube' and 'facebook' have influenced the way we relate too each other at work and at play.
Harkin portrays the hippies, geeks and geniuses and who made the Internet happen. 'Cyburbia' is peppered with colourful examples that go from wacky to downright weird - did you know design of the humble computer mouse was influenced by military strategy and that it could in fact claim to be a distant relative of an anti-aircraft gun?
'Cyburbia' is brimming with many similar fascinating titbits, but much more than that and indeed this is the ultimate reason for reading this book is that 'Cyburbia' outlines a startling and prescient analysis of how digital information and communications have altered the way in which we shape our lives and everyday experiences. Although James Harkin does not have all the answers, and throws in the occasional red herring, his witty and punchy anecdotes writing style is extremely entertaining to read.
James Harkin's take on the trends and development of the digital society in 'Cyburbia' is a worthwhile read and comes highly recommended reading for any one like myself who finds the 'log off' computer command is almost akin to hearing the play ground bell at school signalling that 'play time' is over.
"Cyburbia" is a must read if you are a technology novice like myself because it describes eloquently what direction the world we now live in is now headed. The author has a knack for addressing (simply), breaking down and conveying to the reader very complex socio-technological ideas and how they affect our every day lives without us even realising it. When you sign on to Facebook do you even consider why you prefer to contact your friends in this way rather than just phone them or write them a letter? Do you know the origin of ideas that spawned Facebook, MySpace & Twitter? Thisook provides some of the answers. This should be recommended reading on any sociology higher education course.
I guess it is an inescapable fact that our lives have changed and are changing at a time of breath-takingly fast technological change. All sorts of questions arise, are we changing because of the technology, or is the technology now able to deliver to our constantly shifting aspirations? How well was this forseen, as in, those who now seem to be at the top of the heap, was it their planning, luck, zeitgeist ... even then, technological brilliance, business acumen simply understanding how we humans want to interact? these are all questions which probably flash through most of our minds, along with many others, and it would be nice to think there are answers that we could understand, and even emulate or capitalise on.
Nice to think, but probably it will never unravel in such a simple way! Still, the debate is interesting and will continue ad infinitum. Sadly this book doesn't belong in that debate, it has nothing much to offer, besides a load of very familiar sounding waffle that goes on at the side lines of any fast-paced development in society.
Finding a few people who, decades back, predicted machines would be much more part of our lives and easier to use could ... at a stretch ... be called prophetic, it does not mean those people had anything causal to do with what is going on now, and so all the other stuff they blithered on about doesn't apply, unless you can find proper evidence of links. All we get anecdotes and a meandering biographical journey across "cybernetics", the ever shifting sands of radical anarcho/left movements, ayn rand and god knows what else. The "internet" did not start because some group of activitists got a bit bored with party politics, couldn't make a magazine work, and so learned to write web pages, and so their life history is just one narrow and very tangentially relevant part. It was not conceived by a bloke who back in WW2 had some daft idea about intelligence-guided weapons (a nut we still haven't cracked, if you chop through the hype). There's certainly a lot more to it than DARPAnet, the academic adoption and then google and facebook and so forth (the more conventional histories of the internet you will read), but to tell us about the rest, you'd need to do a lot more than tell a story about how you came to first logon and your world view around then.
This all reads more like some political blog morphing into a cult bible. I got the book after someone referred to it on TheRegister, I now think they were being ironic. I'll be honest, I got about halfway through and just gave up hoping anything of use was hidden in all the dreck. One day I might finish it off and then come back and withdraw this review because the last page was good. Who knows?
Oh, and the author's use of long words and overly twisted grammatical constructs are even worse than mine. You have been warned.