Digital Mythologies: The Hidden Complexities of the Internet

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Surf the web. Ride the information highway. Log on to the future. Corporate ad campaigns like these became pervasive in the 1990s, and will doubtless continue into the new millennium. You're either online, or you're falling behind the times-at least, that's what the media tells us.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, when the Internet gained widespread popularity, it has been heralded as one of the most revolutionary technologies ever. Commentators expected it to redefine how we communicate, do business, and educate our children. Conversely, other pundits vehemently attacked this technology. Naysayers of "cyberlife" emerged with their warnings of how the Net provides an uncensored, around-the-clock venue for pornography and inaccurate, simplified information; it is rife with opportunities to violate our right to privacy. In Digital Mythologies, Thomas Valovic hopes to raise the level of discussion by giving a full and balanced picture of how the Net affect our lives.

Digital Mythologies asks hard questions about where information technology is taking us. Through anecdotes drawn from his experiences as former editor-in-chief of Telecommunications magazine, the author gives readers a peek behind the scenes of the Internet industry. He explores the underlying social and political implications of the Net and its associated technologies, based on his contention that the cyberspace experience is far more complex that is commonly assumed. Valovic explores these hidden complexities, and points to fascinating connections between the Internet and our contemporary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Digital Mythologies
In general, the media seemed to have gotten caught up in the Internet craze, almost in a pop culture sense, and became prone to endlessly repeating a single idea: that the new technologies were going to profoundly change our lives in the realms of business, education, health care, and just about any other realm of human activity that could be thought of. While this was true enough on the surface of things, it also became apparent after a little analysis that these breathlessly delivered renditions were usually devoid of any real specifics...

I wanted to find the answers to some very basic questions: Where were the specifics of these transformations? How do we get past all the marketing hype and the constantly invoked mythologies of digital process and into something more tangible, more grounded in day-to-day reality?... After all, if we don't know what these changes will really amount to, how can we possibly say that we think they are important or exciting or wonderful?— Digital Mythologies: The Hidden Complexities of the Internet.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813527543
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Virtual Dreams 3
Virtual Folklore: Breaking the News about the Internet 4
Point of No Return: Crossing the Virtual Threshold 11
When Cultures Collide: The Internet versus the "Great Conversation" 22
Internet Economics: The Complex Synergies of Wealth Creation 26
The Evolutionary Implications of the Internet 33
Notes from Santa Fe: The Internet as a Complex Adaptive System 37
Virtual Nightmares 41
Work, Leisure, and the Overthrow of Matter 42
Tube Time: Power Cocooning for Fun and Profit 47
Quality of Information: The Human Bandwidth Problem 50
Information Overload: A Challenge for Human Productivity? 54
The Electronic Agora and the Death of History 60
Interiority: Our Most Precious Natural Resource 64
Electronic Mediation and Technological Dependency 71
The Psychopathology of Online Life 74
Yellow Alert: Massive System Vulnerability 81
The Electronic Polity 87
The Complexities of Role and Identity in Cyberspace 88
Spin Doctors Invade Net - Film at Eleven 96
The Strange Obscurantism of the Virtual World 107
Virtual Schmoozing: The Ever Popular Cocktail Party Effect 114
A Postmodern Dilemma: Are All Ideas Created Equal? 118
The Myth of Electronic Democracy: A Reality Check 121
Digital Culture 133
Why Wired Is Tired: The Transformation of Technology into Culture 134
Random Thoughts on the Defining Works of Cyberculture 147
The New Media: Tossing Out the Rules 156
The Internet and Spirituality: A Strange Brew Indeed 161
The EFF and Net Politics: Technocracy in the Making? 166
Telecom Unchained: Privatizing the Public Network 171
Science, Culture, and the Internet 177
Is Science Our National Religion? 178
Back to the Future: Science Fiction as Mythology 182
Mediated Society: The Cybersomething That Lies beyond Gesellschaft 187
Orwell Reconsidered: The Paradox of Decentralization 197
Is Cyberspace a Trojan Horse for Technocracy? 202
Science, Spirituality, and the Crisis of Epistemology 205
Notes 213
Bibliography 215
Index 217
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2000

    Downsides to Cyberspace

    Media theorist Thomas Valovic presents thirty-three brief essays on digital culture, its disregarded side effects, and the mega-hype of popular media regarding the Internet's potential to favorably transform our society without any victims. Valovic, a recognized expert on telecommunications and former editor in chief of Telecommunications magazine, shares his perspective on some of the hidden problems stemming from a powerful and quickly penetrating, but often misunderstood, new mainstream communication medium. The essays that remain on target for this collection provide plenty of food for thought. A drawback of the book, however, is the inclusion of several essays better suited for another publication. Though these particular chapters, regarding what Valovic sees as an unbalanced, or even misguided, coverage of Internet dreams by the popular literature, intrigued me, I was somewhat frustrated to be largely off topic for this title. I should note that Valovic's attempt to splash water in our faces regarding the so-called 'thought leaders' is refreshing and very welcome, and should be a call for further and more serious coverage of the negative impacts of digital culture. As Valovic points out, it is irresponsible to ignore the casualties of progress. In 1991, Valovic found himself ready to publish a story about the Internet's move to the private sector and the impending and dramatic changes for business as usual. The commercial impacts were to be incredible and Valovic had one of the biggest newsbreaks of our time. The progress since then has been rapid and scholars have scrambled just to keep pace. 'Cyberspace is an experiential phenomenon,' says Valovic. 'The ground rules are still being hammered out and the experience itself is still being shaped and invented.' Some of the growing pains identified by Valovic include issues of privacy, identity, access, or lack thereof, as well as misinterpretations, and loss of freedom. Though the Internet is often packaged as a freedom favor, Valovic argues that the convenience of being connected is unfortunately binding us to our work during the times when we should be completely free of distractions. Overall, Digital Mythologies is a valuable addition and much-needed counterbalance. However, it is only a start. A number of questions are raised and I look forward to more thorough analyses. The issues raised may be less hidden following a read of this title, but the complexity is not much reduced. Additionally, the criticism of Wired magazine, perhaps warranted for another publication, detracts from this title. For example, the longest essay in this collection is devoted to editorial strategies of Wired and its enthusiastic writers more than five years ago. Their motivations, whatever they might have been, did not help reveal or relieve the complexities of today's digital culture. With those reservations, I recommend these brief essays as an eye opener.

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