WAR OF THE WORLDS: Cyberspace and the High-Tech Assault on Reality by Mark Slouka
Kirkus Star

WAR OF THE WORLDS: Cyberspace and the High-Tech Assault on Reality

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A persuasive and much-needed humanistic response to the fevered rhetoric surrounding the information superhighway, virtual reality, and other digital technologies. Expertly using the very words of the leaders and promoters of the digital revolution--people such as MIT professor Michael Heim, Wired executive editor Kevin Kelly, ""Grateful Dead lyricist-turned-computer-cowboy"" John Perry Barlow, and researcher Nicole Stenger, members of the self-styled ""digerati""--Slouka (English and Popular Culture/Univ. of California, San Diego) portrays them as a new breed of apocalyptic utopians whose interest in digital technologies stems from a desire to reject the quotidian messiness of real life in favor of computer-generated simulations. He highlights the almost gnostic loathing of the material world that lies behind much of the digerati's enthusiasm and argues that elitism and a strain of totalitarian arrogance make the wired movement dangerous. Slouka counters these utopian visions with examples of the banality that actually predominates on the Net and argues that real-world problems in places like Bosnia and Somalia will hardly be addressed by the digital revolution. At times the author's rhetoric seems as extreme as that of his opponents, and he tends to include only evidence that supports his arguments (largely ignoring, for example, the majority of online enthusiasts who don't buy into the hype). But just when it appears that Slouka is overstating his case he'll pull out a quote in which the digerati express their hopes for utopia using such phrases as ""the ballast of materiality"" that indicate he may not be exaggerating much at all. It's certainly difficult to disagree with his contention that some focus on human needs and more engagement with the natural world should balance the digital rhetoric. Slouka's impassioned, intelligent essay makes an important contribution to the cultural assessment of cyberspace.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1995
ISBN: 0465004873
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Basic