Thursday, February 10, 2011

Five books on the World Wide Web

Lev Grossman is Time magazine's book critic as well as one of its lead technology writers. The New York Times says he's “among this country's smartest and most reliable critics.”

He spoke with Roland Chambers of FiveBooks about notable books on the World Wide Web.

Part of their dialogue:
[Chambers:] This brings us to Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky. A book which appears to be about decentralisation and the empowering of hitherto marginal groups – which seems to be quite positive about the Net’s ability to afford a kind of benign anarchy perhaps?

[Grossman:] Yes, a benign anarchy. But a benign anarchy which oddly also resolves itself on other levels as very orderly and purposeful. A lot of ink has been spilled, much of it by me, about the Web 2.0 revolution, and how it changes the way business and art and socialising and political organisation get done. Shirky is simply the best person at articulating what’s very weird and new about what’s going on.

Shirky talks about revolutionaries in Belarus, blogging their way to mass public demonstrations. Is that something you could talk about?

The Net’s power to facilitate popular political organisation?

Because everybody has access to an equally powerful means of communication.

Well, I think that’s very real. Certainly there are authoritarian governments working very hard to restrict that aspect of the Internet, with limited success. We haven’t seen an authentic Internet revolution. The effect, I think, isn’t that dramatic. But, even in this country, the way Obama used the Internet to raise funds was quite extraordinary. There’s a level on which the Internet is also a mass tool for pacification. I think it allows people to play out their lives in a fantasy context, which is very politically unthreatening. So the effect goes both ways, certainly.
Visit The Browser to read about the other books on Grossman's list.

Here Comes Everybody also appeared on a critic's chart of books with big ideas; it is one of George Brock's favorite books about the media.

See: the Page 69 Test: The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

--Marshal Zeringue