Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web

Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web

by David Weinberger

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The Web doesn't exist in space, yet we talk about going to sites, entering them, and leaving. Diaries move online and suddenly they're more about creating selves than writing about them. Web sites don't have fences, yet a site for auction hunters was found to have trespassed on eBay, a metaphorical offense for which it paid a very real price. Companies invest heavily


The Web doesn't exist in space, yet we talk about going to sites, entering them, and leaving. Diaries move online and suddenly they're more about creating selves than writing about them. Web sites don't have fences, yet a site for auction hunters was found to have trespassed on eBay, a metaphorical offense for which it paid a very real price. Companies invest heavily in professional, polished Web sites, but the Web rewards sites that revel in imperfection. Bits are the "atoms" of the Web, but they have no weight, no size and no real existence.

These anomalies are just a few that show how uncomfortable the fit between the Web and the real world is -- and how deeply weird the ordinary life of the Web is. In this one-of-a-kind book of social commentary, David Weinberger takes us beyond the hype, revealing what is truly revolutionary about this new medium. Just as Marshall McLuhan forever altered our view of broadcast media, Weinberger shows that the Web is transforming not only social institutions but also bedrock concepts of our world such as space, time, self, knowledge -- even reality itself. The Web would be important enough if it hooked up our species on a global scale. But, Weinberger argues, it is doing much more than that. Unlike previous technologies such as the phone or fax, the Web is a permanent public space that gathers value every time someone posts a Web page, responds on a discussion board, or replies to a mail list. More and more of our lives together are being lived in this new, second world that intersects the real world in ways we have only begun to understand.

Weinberger introduces us to the denizens of this second world, people like Zannah, whose online diary turns self-revelation into play; Tim Bray, whose map of the Web reveals what's at the heart of the new Web space; and Danny Yee and Claudiu Popa, part of the new breed of Web experts we trust despite their lack of obvious qualifications. Through these stories of life on the Web, an insightful take on some familiar -- and some unfamiliar -- Web sites, and a pervasive sense of humor, Weinberger is the first to put the Web into the social and intellectual context we need to begin assessing its true impact on our lives. The irony, according to Weinberger, is that this seemingly weird new technology is more in tune with our authentic selves than is the modern world. Because the Web foils our conventional assumptions about concepts like space and time and self, we are led back to a more authentic view of what it means to be a person sharing a world with others -- whether it's the world of the Web or the real world of atoms. Our experience on the Web enables us to recapture the truth of our experience of the real world. Funny, provocative, and ultimately hopeful, Small Pieces Loosely Joined makes us look at the Web as never before.

Editorial Reviews
"The Web has not been hyped enough." That startling contention is at the heart of this paradigm-setting book. According to Cluetrain Manifesto coauthor David Weinberger, the Web is a new world that we're just beginning to inhabit. Noting that new worlds create new people, he explains how the Web is hitting us and how this distance-negating medium is extending our perceptions. Quick, potent, and virtually indescribable.
Weinberger's analysis is optimistic, full of enthusiasm for both the Web and human nature in general.
Netsurfer Digest
Good reading for fans of post-modern culture.
Weinberger offers a thoughtful commentary on how the Web is so different from conventional information sources.
Los Angeles Times
For the brief and shining hours that I held this book in my hands, I believed that all was possible.
Publishers Weekly
Weinberger (coauthor, The Cluetrain Manifesto) mixes popular philosophy and middle-aged-white-male experience to explore his simple Internet thesis: the Web permits people to connect based on soul, not body, and the importance of the Web is not economic, but spiritual. A philosophy professor turned marketing guy turned writer, Weinberger boasts an extremely likable mainstream intellectual persona, flashes of insight and genuine literary talent. But the aspect of his personality that drives this book his first solo effort is his tendency to question. "Yes, I am undeniably a 45-55 white suburban male, but it's demeaning to see it put down on paper as if that made me like every other 45-55 white guy trapped in the suburbs," he says, in a passage about demographics gathered by scheming marketers. "And while it may be statistically true that we 45-55 white suburban males will boost our spending on erasable pens if we see a sexy babe touch one to her lips in an ad, we resent the notion that we're programmable." With touchy-feely chapter titles like "Perfection," "Togetherness," "Matter" and "Hope," Weinberger leads readers through an exploration of the Web's implications beyond And if his concepts at times smack of New Age sensitivity, they are, in a way, accurate. Weinberger, a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, celebrates the Internet's gift to its users: permission to be an individual in a virtual world we can tailor to our passionate, idea-driven taste. In writing about the Web, Weinberger has written about himself his own soul and his own unwieldy and evolving comprehension of the world. Agents, David Miller and Lisa Adams. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Web visionary's largely successful attempt to place the new medium within a social and cultural context. As the publisher of the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, a contributor to Wired , and a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, Weinberger is in the thick of the ever-changing brave new geography-less world of the World Wide Web. Though his subtitle is a tad premature, his presentation remains straightforward, avoiding the McLuhanesque convolutions that embellished, and often obscured, attempts to understand the previous new medium of television. Tracing Web history back to the 1993 development of Mosaic, a progenitor of Netscape, Weinberger looks at the effects the Internet has had on every institution it touches, from business, to education, to government. Terming the Web both a "wanker's paradise" and a "collective, global work of literature," the author concludes that, the dot-com implosion aside, Web hype was not "unwarranted, only misdirected." He drops tantalizing statistics regarding the Web, such as its being responsible for a 28 percent drop in TV viewing, or that at any given moment there are ten billion "bytes in flight," the equivalent of 30,000 books, in the wires of Internet infrastructure. The overall focus, however, is on the social and cultural ramifications of a medium "constantly in the throes of self-invention." Conceding that the Web is "profoundly unmanaged" by design, he goes on to describe a realm where nearness is based, not on contiguity, but on similarity of interests, where, in a paraphrase of Andy Warhol's bon mot, "everyone will be famous to fifteen people." At the opposite end of the spectrum from the pointy-headed digerati elite who decrythe usurpation of the Internet by hoi polloi, Weinberger is a democrat who sees the Web not as a medium of mass stupefaction like TV but as a new and intense form of social interaction. He concludes on the hopeful note that the Web can be a "place free of what's been holding back our better selves." The premises here are ultimately neither radical nor obtuse, and readers with a general familiarity with the Web will be prepared to understand these coherent and cogent arguments.

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

David Weinberger is the publisher of JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization). Co-author of the best-selling The Cluetrain Manifesto, he is a commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and has written for a wide variety of publications, including Wired, the New York Times, and Smithsonian.

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