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Mediated by Thomas De Zengotita can only be described as one of the more interesting and bizarre books I’ve read in quite awhile. The only way to describe it is to say that in places it was like reading a Lewis Black rant — although he doesn’t quite have Black’s comedic presentation skills when he does take the stage.

The book and his work are hyped as picking up where Marshall McLuhan left off, and he does bow in the direction of McLuhan as well as others. (Although he avoids citations or other scholarly trappings, he does note how much he owes to McLuhan “Ong, Lasch, Boorstin, Postman, Harvey, Sennett, Lapham, Gitlin, Rifkin, Rushkof, Gabler…” et al.). He clearly comes to the project with many misgivings about the postmodern “mediation” process that we are all subject to — and he hints at times that in earlier forms the book was pure Luddite “rage against the [mediating] machine”. But as it stands, the book emerges as observational, insightful and filled with resignation — this is the way it is, he implies, and in some respects it is bad but in some respects it is okay….

September 26th, 2007 Posted by | Marshall McLuhan, media, media studies, postmodernism, Thomas De Zengotita | 2 comments

Unshelving Steven Johnson….

The Wikipedia entry for Steven Berlin Johnson labels him an “American popular science author,” but anyone who has read or heard him thinks of his domain as the emerging “interface culture” — a term he applied to the title of his 1999 book which was my first introduction to his writing.

At the time I read that book I was contemplating taking my civic education theme on “educating nomads” to the next level (see here); as a result I was diving into any book on cyber-culture I could get my hands on. Interface Culture was among the best of that group, and I waited for the next work to follow through. It was at that point that the prolific Johnson took the turn to “popular science” writing with the publication of Emergence and then Mind Wide Open. I found these interesting enough to “dip” into, but at the time they did not hold my attention — I suspect because I was looking for an explicit sequal to the earlier work. I was too dense to realize that they were indeed what I was looking for.

The more explicit follow up did come with Everything Bad Is Good For You, but it remained unopened on my shelf for the past couple of years.

Recently I came across the Ghost Map, his latest work (see here), and although the topic was interesting (a work in the tradition of James Burke’s “Connections” that traces a good deal of social change to the cholera epidemics that struck London in the 19th century) I decided it was not of immediate interest….

But I am now taking those unread items off the shelf and diving in as a result of watching a May, 2007 lecture Johnson gave to the Long Now society. The lecture is worth viewing and reinforces my initial belief that Johnson is among the most interesting popular writers who seems to “get it” when it comes to the real impacts and implications of the emerging culture. His talk — on the Long Zoom — will no doubt result in a very interesting book, but for now I am taking Johnson off the shelf and digging deeper into both Mind Wide Open and Everything Bad for You….

July 28th, 2007 Posted by | books, civic education, culture theory, cyber-culture, games, interface culture, learning, Marshall McLuhan, media | no comments

Nomads, et al

I just left a post on that reflects some of my thoughts on the “e-” projects that seem to be all the rage (e-Democracy, e-Government). My scepticism about such efforts finally spilled over into comments when William Heath of idealgovernment asked for my reactions to the latest fad/buzzword among “e-“ers: co-creation. I have been a non-contributing member of that blog for more than two years (Heath is obviously a persistent man — he never gave up on me), and this seemed the time to toss my ideas into the mix.

Having done that, I was listening to a podcast (from Weekend America) this morning that included a segment I think provides a clear example of the emerging generation of “nomads” I write about in that post. Listening to the folks interviewed in that segment, I realized that these were of the generation I was writing about. And it really wasn’t about what they did in front of some computer, but rather the immersive lifestyles they sought. These are the folks that form the target populations of the future for e-Democracy and e-Government.

And as if the put a point on it, another recent podcast came to mind — this time a segment from yesterday’s On The Media that explored the world and development of Second Life.

Interesting stuff….

September 24th, 2006 Posted by | co-creation, e-Democracy, e-Government,, Marshall McLuhan, nomads, On The Media, Second Life, Weekend America | no comments