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The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Leaving Cyberspace and Entering the Real Worldby Siva Vaidhyanathan
Synopses & Reviews
From Napster to Total Information Awareness to flash mobs, the debates over who gets to control information and technology has revolved around a single question: How closely do we want the virtual world to resemble the real world? But while we weren't looking, the opposite has happened: The real world has started imitating the virtual world — in some alarming ways. More and more of our social, political, and religious activities are modeling themselves after the World Wide Web, along the lines of either anarchy or oligarchy, total freedom vs. complete control. And battle lines are being drawn.
On one side, trying to maintain control of information, are corporations, judges, the military, and global institutions. On the other side, trying to liberate information, are educators, hackers, civil libertarians, artists, consumers, and political dissidents. The Anarchist in the Library, by the rising young academic star Siva Vaidhyanathan, is a radically original look at how this battle will define one of the major fault lines of twenty-first century civilization.
The recording industry has sued the music downloaders into submission, but as a model of communication, their effects still echo around the world. The proliferation of such peer-to-peer networks may appear to threaten many established institutions, and the backlash against them could be even worse than the problems they create. Their effects — good and bad — resonate far beyond markets for music. They are altering our sense of the possible, extending our cultural and political imaginations.
Unregulated networks of communication have existed as long as gossip has. But with the rise of electronic communication, they are exponentially more important. And they are drawing the outlines of a battle for information that will determine much of the culture and politics of our century, from unauthorized fan edits of Star Wars to terrorist organizations' reliance on "leaderless resistance." The Anarchist in the Library is the first guide to one of the most important cultural and economic battlegrounds of the twenty-first century.
"What a thrilling discovery this book is: erudite, eloquent imaginative and personable all at once, The Anarchist in the Library will become not only the ur-text in an increasingly important field, but also the one that is certainly the most fun to read." Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?
"This beautifully written and widely informed work weaves together a thousand threads into a rich and convincing story about just what's at stake in the digital age. As Vaidhyanathan powerfully shows, what's at stake has ultimately little to do with things digital. We face a fundamental choice about the nature of cultural freedom. The Internet presents this choice. Against the background of the tapestry that this rising star of culture has crafted, the right choice seems clear." Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture and The Future of Ideas
"Siva Vaidhyanathan has done that rare thing — induced me to rethink my position, revise my conclusions, and enjoy doing it. (And he quotes me accurately.)" Randy Cohen, author of the New York Times Magazine column "The Ethicist"
"Vaidhyanathan is a brilliant thinker and an energetic writer. But the sweeping scope of this book, and its vague, theoretical and at times academic slant may leave readers more confused then enlightened. Then again, welcome to the digital world." Publishers Weekly
Book News Annotation:
On one side of the information arms race, says Vaidhyanathan (communication, New York U.), are those who invent a device, method, algorithm, or law that moves the information ecosystem towards increased freedom of distribution. The other side counters with a method to force information back into its toothpaste tube. He characterizes the conflict as the latest battle in a war that has lasted centuries.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From a fast-rising academic star comes a radically new take on how peer-to-peer networks are affecting the coming battle over information.
A radically new take on the coming battle over information, from a fast-rising academic star
A radically new take on the coming battle over information - based on a new social structure that is as old as gossip but, thanks to the Internet, is just coming into its own.
About the Author
Siva Vaidhyanathan is the author of Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity. Vaidhyanathan runs the popular Weblog, Sivacracy.net, and has written for many periodicals, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Magazine, MSNBC.COM, Salon.com, openDemocracy.net, and The Nation. He has taught at Wesleyan University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and is currently director of the undergraduate program in Communication Studies in the department of Culture and Communication at New York University. He lives in New York City.
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