Books by Nicholas Negroponte

BEING DIGITAL by Nicholas Negroponte
Released: Feb. 3, 1995

Negroponte—founder of MIT's groundbreaking Media Lab—offers a brief, rambling survey of the digitization of culture that's not nearly as original as one might expect. His commentary ranges over an impressive array of subjects, from education and entertainment to art, business, and personal planning. Along the way he offers informed observations on such questions as how virtual reality will transform video games, how E- mail will affect your phone bill, how the information superhighway will put video-rental shops out of business, and how semi- intelligent ``butlers'' will help you navigate the ocean of data that will soon be pouring into your home. But this very range of subjects contributes to the book's major flaw: It's scattered and disorganized, more a collection of off-the-cuff ruminations than a useful analysis of any one of these areas (let alone all of them). Some of Negroponte's musings are striking and valuable (how the fax machine has actually hampered the development of digital communication, and how backward thinking has hamstrung high- definition television), but much of the text has a peculiarly stale smell. Do we need another assertion of the Internet's democratizing power or another thumbnail critique of our antiquated and ineffective educational system? The book's uneven tone makes it hard to tell for sure what audience Negroponte's aiming for, veering between oversimplification and clunky jargon. He drops names and introduces various relevant projects, such as the Media Lab's LEGO-Logo education program, but he provides very little description of any of them. Even the Media Lab itself gets only a sketchy paragraph-long portrait toward the very end. Negroponte brings decades of experience to his subject, but it's all for naught; his book is a muddle of retread cyber-hype and familiar predictions, relieved only by occasional flashes of original insight. (First printing of 100,000; Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour) Read full book review >