December 25, 1998

WHITE NOISE: an A-Z of the Contradictions in Cyberculture. By Andrew Calcutt. Macmillan, 192pp, Pounds 40.00 - ISBN 0 333 69955 6.

Calcutt, commissioning editor for Channel Cyberia, figures that it is pointless to talk about the impact of the internet as an effect of technology. Instead, arguing that the internet takes its shape from our social context, he goes through a list of dichotomies in the way the internet is currently viewed. Is the net male or female, a national surveillance tool or an anarchy that will defeat nation-states? Is Bill Gates a visionary or a control freak (this one is obvious, isn't it)? Calcutt figures we can still seize control of the net and use it to solve the problems we keep shoving off onto new technology. He hopes.


Library Association Publishing, 248pp, Pounds 29.95. - ISBN 1 85604 302 9.

The big problem on the internet is finding what you are looking for, as anyone who ever typed the word "turkey" into a search engine and got back 10,000 hits knows. This book aims to help us all become our own information experts. Most of the material on individual search engines is available on the engines' own sites in the form of Help and FAQ files. What is more valuable are the sections on how to assess the quality of the information you find online, and how to decide which paper-based resources you can safely throw away.

CYBERSOCIETY 2.0: Revisiting Computer-mediated Communication and Community. Edited by Steven G. Jones. Sage, 256pp, Pounds 31.00 and Pounds 15.99. - ISBN 0 7619 1461 7 and 0 7619 1462 5.

The question of whether the collections of human beings that form in cyberspace can rightly be called communities has occupied many theorists since the advent of computer-mediated communication. This collection of essays does not answer the question, but it provides some interesting context in which to consider idealistic hopes that the online world will bring back the connections for which we are nostalgic. Observations of women online and experiments in net governance all seem to show that a change of technology will not necessarily result in a change in cultural constructs.

Wendy Grossman

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