Top positive review
11 people found this helpful
Important and very inspiring book...
on 9 March 2014
This is an important and very inspiring book. Morozov is miles away from shallow technophobia and does not demonize the "Internet" or ubiquitous computing as something necessarily harmful or evil. His point is based on far deeper thinking and more substantial. Morozov discovers flaws in our shared thinking and narratives around the "Internet" (scare quotes intended) and digital cultures with their frequent hypes around social networks, social media, big data, open source, maker culture, crowd sourcing, crowd funding, quantified self, behavior change or whatever the latest and greatest TED talk was about.
As a researcher in Human-Computer Interaction, I am partially to blame for contributing to the internet-centrism and solutionism that Morozov criticizes in a sometimes polemic but always in an incisive and very entertaining manner. At times I could not help laughing out loud when he again brilliantly takes apart the shared thinking and rhetoric of IT researchers, consultants, and "visionaries" - and this although his dry humor in writing has not spared the things that I truly belief in, work on, and have preached myself. Therefore, even if I do not agree with Morozov in every point, his sharp analysis of so many (actually a bit too many...) examples and cases have left a deep impression on me.
Morozov highlights how we happily and almost religiously apply concepts that we believe are inherent values of the "Internet" (e.g. openness, direct participation, crowd sourcing, wisdom of the crowd, efficient architectures) on society, economy, and politics. Often this happens based on a non-existing or only shallow knowledge of the wealth of pre-internet experiences and practices. This ignorance is legitimized by postulating that the "Internet" is an unprecedented historic singularity, that it will stay with us and remain (largely) unchanged, and that the digital revolution follows own rules anyway. These rules are explained and repeated to us by Silicon Valley visionaries and tech or business consultants but are actually not put to scrutiny by empirical investigation or the rigor and knowledge from long-established scientific disciplines.
In this way, the "Internet" colonizes all fields of our life ranging from politics and health care to education and imposes its (current) "values" on them. In a quasi-religious quest for "solving" problems with information technologies, and without looking at their far-reaching implications, everything MUST get leaner, more efficient, open, bottom-up, etc. ignoring centuries of already successful management, scientific expertise, and craftsmanship. And if we do not find the problems to which we can apply our new technologies, we are really good in creating them.
Again, you will most likely not agree with Morozov in every point, but his book inspires an extremely interesting discourse and makes you view the narratives and thinking of IT entrepreneurs, consultants, and researchers through a different and clearer lens. Overall the way Morozov puts actual human needs and the complexity of human nature (instead of the "Internet") into the center of a reflection about digital technologies is very compelling. For me, as a researcher in Human-Computer Interaction, this is nothing new and already at the heart of our work, but it is reassuring to read this and it also reveals the heartfelt humanism of the author that he cannot hide behind the sharpness and sometimes almost cynical feel of his arguments.
Although the book is long and sometimes feels a bit repetitive, I prefer this length over a more densely written and hard-to-read article. The many examples make Morozov's points concrete and graspable and overall the book is a long, but easy and inspiring read. Highly recommended.