Review: The Language of New Media (Leonardo Books) (Paperback)

4 Star, Information Operations

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Original and worth considering, Nailed Google 3 Years Early,

December 31, 2005
Lev Manovich
EDIT of 11 Dec 07: the release by Stephen E. Arnold of “Google 2.0: The Calculating Predator,” has sent shock waves among analysts who are slowly begining to understand thatGoogle's programmable search patents are the first step toward Google determining what you see depending on who pays them what. Google is now evil. Look for my book review on the above, the book itself costs $675 or so.

All of the other reviewers are correct in the varied points, from praise for the substance to criticism for the tedious nature of some of the writing.

My take-away from this book is two-fold:

1) The author spends most of his time focused on a variation of “the medium is the message” and how important it is to understand not only the medium, but the totalitarian uses to which the medium can be put. The book is strongest over-all in bringing to bear real-world experience that contrasts sharply with the US view of the Internet as all flowers and love and freedom. He clearly articulates the totalitarian opportunities.

2) What he does not focus on, although this is alluded to in the preface by Mark Tribe, is the human cost of going online to the detriment of face-to-face. I have a 13-year-old who would, given a choice, spend 24/7 online, with his cell phone glued to his ear, watching a TV with one eye. As Mark Tribe notes, museums and other gathering places are essential for creating a focused kind of face to face interactivity that is not yet possible online.

An underlying sub-theme throughout the book is that reality and virtual reality are merging. We are moving toward a time when we will have a choice between opting for “authenticated” reality, or reveling in “constructed reality.” One shudders to think of The Matrix, where all humans have become the ultimate couch potatoes, spending their lives immobile in a petri dish being fed “virtual reality” while their brainpower is sucked off for energy and other nefarious purposes.

This is not an easy book to absorb, especially if you are not obsessed with the merger of cinematography and computers, but on balance, I am quite happy to have taken this in for its unique perspective.

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