Document (#28884)

Author
Shaviro, S.
Title
Connected, or what it means to live in the network society
Imprint
Minneapolis, MN : University of Minnesota Press
Year
2003
Pages
289 S
Isbn
0-8166-4363-6
Footnote
Rez. in: JASIST 56(2005) no.10, S.1127-1128 (C. Tomer): "This book mixes assessments of how information technology influences the quality of everyday life with analyses of how technological life is portrayed in contemporary films and science fiction novels. What is more important, Connected is based an the idea that contemporary science fiction is the only medium radical enough in its perspectives to provide us with genuinely useful insights into the social upheaval that has been induced by the advances of the Internet and the World Wide Web into everyday life. It is an interesting, but ultimately preposterous concept, because it asks us to believe that we can actually come to understand the world around us by assimilating the largely hallucinogenic views of the novelists about whom Shaviro writes. How other readers react to this notion will probably depend an how seriously they take science fiction, their tolerance for post-modern literary and social deconstruction, the legacies of the Beats and Timothy Leary, and how plastic their attitudes toward the constitution of credible theory are. Discriminating readers, as well as those of lesser forbearance, will most likely turn elsewhere for insights into the meaning of life in "the network society," opting instead for merely mediocre books such as Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs. So, what is wrong with Connected? The first problem is that Connected is a disioint, often confusing collection of short essays and observations that eschews a more straightforward approach to narrative and thematic development in pursuit of hypertextual effects. The affectation does not serve the book well. The "jumpiness" of the narrative and the attendant discontinuities tend to weaken Shaviro's main thesis. But it is important to note, too, that the style and tone that Shaviro uses in his essays will be familiar to many readers, because it resembles the style and tone of many of the blogs that have become such an important part of the landscape of the World Wide Web.
Connected not only poses the "problem of connection," but also seeks, through Shaviro's scattered mode of critical analysis, to pose new ways of intervening in and viewing connections of all sorts. It does not work. Most of the time, Shaviro's efforts to il illuminate the "connections" never rise above a random, technophilic pastiche, lacking any powerful synthesis but often overflowing with the academic version of New Age babble. (It is ironic that Shaviro is concerned with the "problem of connection," because Connected is largely inaccessible to readers who have not read the novels of Samuel Delany, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and several other science fiction novelists, or seen the films in The Matrix series.) For example, Shaviro thinks that everything "flows." He writes: In postmodern society, everything flows. There are flows of commodities, flows of expressions, flows of embodiment, and flows of affect. The organizing material of each flow is a universal equivalent: money, information, DNA, or LSD. But how are these flows related among themselves? Strictly speaking, they should interchangeable. All the equivalents should themselves be mutually equivalent. (p. 193) This is, of course, patent nonsense. More to the point, it is one of many passages in Conneeted that has the ring of authority, but little else. In the midst of rising concerns over computer security, personal privacy, and freedom of expression, how much significance should we assign to Shaviro's assertion that the user's relationship to the network is like the junkie's need for heroin, as described by William Burroughs in The Naked Lunch? Or the claim that Microsoft's design for the "Horne of the Future" is part of a middle-class plot to repress itself sexually? Or the recommendation that a novel of the future in which copyright violators are put to death is a harbinger of things to come? In the end, a generous reading might conclude that Connected is an experimental meditation an the relevance of science fiction, whereas a less generous view would be that the author's misguided preoccupation with literary effect resulted in a book that never makes an effective case for the writers we are supposed to take so seriously."
Theme
Internet

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