Dusty Volumes

maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach(to play one day)

Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us - Andrew Keen I can't tell if the writing style is a clever attempt to actually induce vertigo, or if this book is simply ridiculously badly written, but I fear it's the latter. It's as if Keen has accumulated a massive clippings file over the last few years, and writing this book was simply a giant jigsaw puzzle of arranging the headlines into something that seemed to have vague coherence, whether it actually made sense or not. It's a scattergun rollcall of Silicon Valley press-releases (many from companies that are already dead, or failed to ever gain any traction), with some 19th century philosophy badly mixed in to seem much more serious and intellectual, amongst constant references to how the author either is, or wants to be (depending on just how self-aggrandising he feels at the moment), a "super-node"[1], and a viscerally annoying habit of referring to people not by their names, but their twitter handles[2]. I have no idea who the audience for this book is meant to be, but it too often seems like it must be people sufficiently insecure about philosophy or technology to be awed by all the references, without ever noticing that there's simply no depth behind any of them. A better version of the book might use the arguments between Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill (for example) as a starting point to reboot or recontextualise some of the modern privacy debates, but anyone who's already familiar with the philosophical history will find this book far too light-weight, and anyone who isn't won't really have a clue what Keen is talking about, as he does such a poor job of actually explaining it.

The part that makes it so frustrating is that I agree with lots of his points. But this is much too important a topic to be dealt with quite so badly as this.


[1] There's a constant tension between the author not really wanting to be part of this new world, whilst craving recognition as an important figure within it. If that had actually been much more explicitly the point of the book, and treated as a serious issue, it could have been much more interesting, but as it stands it's much more like someone who constantly brags that they're the most humble man alive.

[2] Yes, yes, their online persona is a distinct and distinctive being, yada yada yada. But please, please, please, don't let this become a trend.

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