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Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracyby Robert W. McChesney
Synopses & Reviews
Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet's effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the Internet.
McChesney's award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect, McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems and massive indirect subsidies and other policies have made the Internet a place of numbing commercialism. A handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners a 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world's computers.
Capitalism's colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made the internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance and a disturbingly antidemocratic force. In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.
"Filtering the internet through a lens of political economy and free-market capitalism, acclaimed author and University of Illinois professor McChesney (Rich Media, Poor Democracy) presents a thorough and alarming critique of the corruption of one of the most influential inventions in human history. 'People thought the Internet would be... a non-commercial zone, a genuine public sphere, leading to far greater public awareness, stronger communities, and greater political participation,' McChesney observes. 'To the contrary... the internet has been commercialized, copyrighted, patented, privatized, data-inspected, and monopolized.' He deconstructs capitalism through its historical trends before painting a grim portrait of corporate concentration and monopolization; it reads like dystopian science-fiction where giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon further entrench their market dominance, attempting to own consumers' 'every waking moment,' aided and abetted by lax government enforcement and deregulation. Such concentrated power brings with it a host of concerns; however, as McChesney cites, very little public opposition to such power can be expected as, 'people care more about what unjustly harms them than what unjustly benefits them.' Instead, we face the very real possibility of discovering the 'digital revolution... to have been a revolution in name only'; the consequences of which are already revealing themselves. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Once again, McChesney stands at the crossroads of media dysfunction and the denial of democracy, illuminating the complex issues involved and identifying a path forward to try to repair the damage. Here's hoping the rest of us have the good sense to listen this time." Eric Alterman, professor of English and journalism, Brooklyn College, CUNY
A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States...a valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.” Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of several books on the media, including the award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy and Communication Revolution, and a co-editor (with Victor Pickard) of Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights. He lives in Champaign, Illinois.
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