A filmmaker turns her high-powered intellect not just on the Internet and its effect on our lives, but also on the sociological and economic forces that bend and shape it.
Writer, director, documentary filmmaker, sometime philosopher, political activist and self-described troublemaker—not bad for Taylor, who was unschooled until she was 13 years old and has since become one of the more incisive voices among the multitudes delivering their visions of what the Internet is and might become. In her loquacious but well-defined examination of media culture, the author describes her conversations with a wide range of enthusiasts and doubters, ranging from jazz musicians to economists. She finds that, as opposed to the Kickstarter-fueled utopia that some hugely popular creators predict, when examined en masse, the Web tends to exhibit what Taylor deems a surprising tendency toward monopoly, bent by many of the same problems that have nearly destroyed traditional broadcast media and decimated newspapers. To be fair, she also sees this as an era of adaptation rather than extinction, and she asks the hard questions that often go unanswered—e.g., “Do social media nurture community or intensify our isolation, expand our intellectual faculties or wither our capacity for reflection, make us better citizens or more efficient consumers? Have we become a nation of skimmers, staying in the shallows of incessant stimulation, or are we evolving into expert synthesizers and multitaskers, smarter than ever before? Are those who lose their jobs due to technological change deserving of our sympathy or scorn (‘adapt or die,’ as the saying goes)? Is that utopia on the horizon or dystopia around the bend?” It’s a difficult book to encapsulate simply, one that delves deep into the philosophical nature of people, the complexities of desire, the economics of advertising, the productive chaos of open systems and the value of content in a limitless universe.
Not to be skimmed. A cogent and genuine argument for the true democratization of online culture.