This Weblog comes from Mindy McAdams and resides at It's a personal blog and probably not of much interest to anyone but me. You are welcome to read and comment as you like.

July 17, 2001

Home at Last

Back home from four weeks of traveling -- I bought a stack of books in London. Comments on the first two I have spent time with:

The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry, by Gordon Graham (London: Routledge, 1999). As of page 38 of this very compact book (only 169 pages of text), I'm pleased with the methodical approach Graham takes to examining the significance of the Net. I'm intrigued by his attempt to "establish a framework of understanding with which to think about" the future developments in online media. Being more from the British logic school (rather than the continental postmodern school), he writes very plainly, if sometimes ploddingly.

Especially nice: The solid grounding in philosophy of technology/philosophy of history that he brings to the work -- this makes the book an excellent source for scholarly papers about the Net, because you could just cite this and eliminate a long defense of your claim that the Net is really, truly an innovation on par with, for example, the invention of printing with movable type (my personal favorite).

Multimedia: A Critical Introduction, by Richard Wise (London: Routledge, 2000). I am so turned-off by the word "multimedia" -- but I suppressed that feeling and bought this book because it is the first I've seen with a history of the Net in pretty much the form I would tell it myself, if I had to: Beginning with World War II and giving fair mention to Vannevar Bush and the Memex. Unfortunately, there are some errors of generalization, such as the claim that Mosaic was "the first Web browser" (page 15) -- the first browser was written more than a year before Mosaic, by Tim Berners-Lee himself, but it ran only on the NeXT OS.

That criticism aside, I've read to page 58 (about one-quarter of the book) and, while I have not learned anything new yet, I'm considering this one as a text for Technology, Change and Communication. The downside (apart from the several errors): It's not really riveting reading (maybe even less so because I know these stories already). The upside: Each "piece" of the historical narrative is short and never belabored or padded out. Chapter 2, "The Computer Counter-Culture," gives a really nice account of the Community Memory Project in San Francisco in the 1970s and also covers Xerox PARC and even Tim Leary!

So -- note to myself -- when I've finished with this, I will need to look at Where Wizards Stay Up Late and decide which one is better for the undergraduates.

Posted by macloo at July 17, 2001 09:32 AM
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