Another Great Tilting…

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 0307269647
Average Customer Reveiw: 5 of 5 stars

Gary Stager pointed this one out, via Twitter, @’ing it to Will Richardson, Chris Lehmann, and myself — including me in very fine company, I might add.

It’s about a new book by Jaron Lanier, You are Not a Gadget.  Perhaps most known for popularizing the term, Virtual Reality our paths intersected several years ago through Advanced Network and Services, where he was exploring potential VR applications of Interent 2 and I was working with ThinkQuest, which was created by Advanced Network.  He’s a fellow that some readers of my blog might find a bit odd, but mostly he is oddly talented, described as a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author.

Jaron Lanier, computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author

I’ve not read the book, though it’s on order and should be in by Educon.  But it appears, from it’s Amazon page, that Jaron is rejecting Web 2.0. “(the) emerging Golden Age of information sharing and collaborative achievement, the strength of democratized wisdom.”  His position, according to the Amazon.com review, is that,

(the) unfettered–and anonymous–ability to comment results in cynical mob behavior, the shouting-down of reasoned argument, and the devaluation of individual accomplishment. ((“You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto.” Amazon.com. Jan 2010. Amazon.com, Web. 21 Jan 2010. .))

Not having read the book, I can’t comment on its content.  But the Amazon page includes an interview with Lanier, which reveals many of his objections, carrying on themes that seem to be pretty consistent with his ongoing philosophies of technology and humanity.  Acknowledging that the Internet and Web have enabled individual expression and empowered “vast classes of people” in the developing world, he claims that,

The problem is not inherent in the Internet or the Web. Deterioration only began around the turn of the century with the rise of so-called “Web 2.0” designs. These designs valued the information content of the web over individuals. It became fashionable to aggregate the expressions of people into dehumanized data.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307269647?ie=UTF8&tag=resourcesforprog&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0307269647

Lanier readily asserts that a group, collaborative, and frictionless (my words) exchange of information are useful in solving some problems, such as setting a price in the marketplace and elections.  But, he continues…

The phrase “Design by Committee” is treated as derogatory for good reason. That is why a collective of programmers can copy UNIX but cannot invent the iPhone.

There is nothing in the interview that I disagree with, and some things, about which I have expressed deep concern in 2¢ Worth.  He rightly claims that, “..if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced.”  “Partisan Mobs,” he calls them.

But all in all, I think that Jaron is attacking, what is attackable about Web 2.0, specifically questioning the arguments of its champions, and not so much the evolving applications that regular people are using in the participatory Web.  I look forward to reading this book on the train, on my way to Philadelphia.

Added 10 Hours Later:
I just watched an interesting video archive of a Q2Cfestival session (October 2009, @ Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Ontario).  The panelists were Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT; Raymond Laflamme, Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the Perimeter Institute; Jaron Lanier, Computer Scientist, author, composer, musician, & artists; Neal Stephenson, Author; and Tara Hunt, Author and Marketing Consultant.  The title was Wired 24/7?

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.