Synopses & Reviews
How to repair the disconnect between designers and users, producers and consumers, and tech elites and the rest of us: toward a more democratic internet.
In this provocative book, Ramesh Srinivasan describes the internet as both an enabler of frictionless efficiency and a dirty tangle of politics, economics, and other inefficient, inharmonious human activities. We may love the immediacy of Google search results, the convenience of buying from Amazon, and the elegance and power of our Apple devices, but it's a one-way, top-down process. We're not asked for our input, or our opinions — only for our data. The internet is brought to us by wealthy technologists in Silicon Valley and China. It's time, Srinivasan argues, that we think in terms beyond the Valley.
Srinivasan focuses on the disconnection he sees between designers and users, producers and consumers, and tech elites and the rest of us. The recent Cambridge Analytica and Russian misinformation scandals exemplify the imbalance of a digital world that puts profits before inclusivity and democracy. In search of a more democratic internet, Srinivasan takes us to the mountains of Oaxaca, East and West Africa, China, Scandinavia, North America, and elsewhere, visiting the "design labs" of rural, low-income, and indigenous people around the world. He talks to a range of high-profile public figures — including Elizabeth Warren, David Axelrod, Eric Holder, Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Lessig, and the founders of Reddit, as well as community organizers, labor leaders, and human rights activists. To make a better internet, Srinivasan says, we need a new ethic of diversity, openness, and inclusivity, empowering those now excluded from decisions about how technologies are designed, who profits from them, and who are surveilled and exploited by them.
"In my work with Black Lives Matter, I have seen the power of people, and communities, and technology working together to support the aims of justice, equity, and diversity. So why do we assume we must accept surveillance-driven systems, low-paying crowd work, and racist algorithms? Beyond the Valley shows that there is nothing inevitable about the technology we have." Patrisse Cullors, Cofounder of Black Lives Matter Global Network
"Beyond the Valley shows how we got to a place where a few big tech companies pull the strings and the rest of us work on command, without a secure future...[I]t also shows us a way out, toward a digital new deal where we can reclaim the power and shape a world that includes us all." Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance; Host of The Redemption Project and The Van Jones Show on CNN
"Great reporting from around the developing world reminds us how blinkered our view of digital technology really is — this book will expand your thinking about how we might make these networks work for us (and about the realms of human life we need to shield from them)." Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?; founder, 350.org
About the Author
Ramesh Srinivasan is Professor of Information Studies and Design Media Arts at UCLA. He makes regular appearances on NPR, The Young Turks, MSNBC, and Public Radio International, and his writings have been published in the Washington Post, Quartz, Huffington Post, CNN, and elsewhere.