Reviews

November 13, 1998

The Student's Guide to the Internet 1998/1999 by Ian Winship and Alison McNab, Library Association Publishing, 168pp, Pounds 7.99. ISBN 1 85604 308 8

This British book is intended for students in higher and further education and as such focuses on the internet as an information resource, however much many students in their teens and early twenties might want it to focus on the more entertaining and esoteric stuff.

The idea is not to be comprehensive, nor to provide a guide to any particular subject matter, but to show students how to get started and lay down basic principles for research. Overall it is a perfectly good introduction; the only flaw is its incomplete explanation of older internet services such as Telnet and FTP.

Cyberpolitics: Citizen Activism in the Age of the Internet by Kevin A. Hilland John E. Hughes, Rowman and Littlefield, 216pp, Pounds 13.95. ISBN 0 8476 8743 0

Netheads have long argued over whether the internet will bring greater democracy and citizen activism or an unsavoury combination of a tighter oligopoly and mob rule. These authors take a stab at settling the debate by providing hard data produced from lengthy examinations of politically-oriented Usenet newsgroups, Web sites, and AOL chat rooms (choosing these over Internet Relay Chat is a mistake, as the demographics are likely to be different). Their conclusion: internet activists are more liberal than the population as a whole, but the net's fora are dominated by conservative ideas.

New Rules for the New Economy: Ten Ways the Network Economy is Changing Everything by Kevin Kelly, Fourth Estate, 179pp, Pounds 15.99.

ISBN 1 85702 871 6

Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, says: computers are over, the new economy is about communication. Ten rules will bring success, overturning business principles that have held sway for decades, maybe centuries: decentralise; join networks, because the power of a network increases logarithmically according to the number of people and things connected to it; give things away, because the value of a resource increases as it becomes more abundant; build relationships; abandon old successes before they become obsolete, and innovate, innovate, innovate. It sounds exhausting.

The Skin of Culture: Investigating the New Electronic Reality by Derrick de Kerckhove and edited by Christopher Dewdney. Kogan Page, 248pp, Pounds 12.99.

ISBN 0 7494 2480 X

De Kerckhove argues that television talks to our bodies (not our minds); TV is more like music than film; money is information about money; and virtual reality is the future of news media, medical care, and education. These prognostications have flaws - de Kerckhove talks about virtual reality as if it were only graphics, and few would agree that TV is a physical medium. De Kerckhove begins by asking whether our society is fragmenting or globalising; he concludes we are forming a collective intelligence.

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