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The Revolution will be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War Paperback – 6 Sep 2012
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"Brooke hasn't set out to write just another inside account of the Wikileaks saga: this is a mélange of anecdote, imagination and experience designed to open our eyes to the possibility of digital change ... feisty and vivid and honest." (Guardian)
"Brooke has a serious agenda and she poses serious questions ... We have been warned." (Financial Times)
"A demanding, illuminating read." (Independent on Sunday)
"A robust examination of the race for control of information in our digital age." (Sunday Times Culture)
"She's a total ninja." (Ben Goldacre)
About the Author
Heather Brooke is a journalist and Freedom of Information campaigner based in London who is famous for uncovering the MPs' expenses scandal. She writes for the main national papers and has worked as a consultant and presenter for Channel 4’s Dispatches. She is a visiting professor at City University's Department of Journalism and is also the author of Your Right to Know and The Silent State. In 2009 she was named Reformer of the Year and has won numerous awards, including the Setting the Political Agenda Award from the Political Studies Association and, in 2010, Judges' Prize at the British Press Awards.
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The flitting between these these viewpoints is not entirely successful, but Brooke's semi-insider's perspective is interesting.
I'm less convinced by her conclusions about what happens next, and her positioning the question as largely one of bad, centralising, authoritarian government versus good, idealistic citizenry. That's an over-simplification of her position, but equally it felt to me as if she over-simplified the issue.
Still, very definitely worth a read - and even more relevant in a post-Snowden world.
Incidentally, at time of writing there are two one-star reviews here, and it seems to me that both have a bit of an axe to grind - Julian Assange is a polarising figure and it appears that both the one-star reviewers have more sympathy for him than Brooke has. It is of course true that Heather Brooke can only write subjectively - she was a character in the story she's telling. But I think the book, and its judgement on Assange, are more nuanced than those reviews imply.
What a fantastic read. Love the fact that it informs though storytelling rather than *just* informing (if that makes sense).
Let's call it 'inspirational'.
Since then, she has written an excellent book on freedom of information, The Silent State (2010), detailing how data which has been collected using public money is regularly withheld from the public. For anyone who has tried to use the Freedom of Information act, that book rang horribly true.
Her latest, The Revolution Will be Digitised, is an account of the Wikileaks saga, interspersed with reflections on the consequences of electronic communication networks for law, journalism, surveillance, national security, privacy and anonymity.
For me, it was less convincing than The Silent State. Part of the problem is one of technique. Some of the chapters are written in 'creative nonfiction' style, 'reconstructing' scenes using the procedures of fiction. This is always a rather dubious approach.
Another part of the problem is her weakness for windy philosophising about free speech. The questions she raises about the political and social consequences of an online world are hugely important, but the benefits and costs of the rise of the internet are examined in a very cursory way.
As to Wikileaks, she mentions that one of the tactics the US government deployed was to attempt to shift the focus from the content of the leaked material to the personality of Julian Assange. In this context, it seems odd that Brooke should also focus so strongly on his personality. We hear about his clothes and appearance, and all manner of personal material about his relationship with Brooke and Guardian journalists (gossip you could say) and relatively little about the political consequences of the leak. It is strange that she should tell us so much about the messenger and so little about the message.