Here's my reply to the panning it received on SlashDot :
I've been reading Weinberger's book while it was evolving online. I don't buy everything he says, but I think this is a pretty unfair review. It paints Weinberger as naive, stupid, or a breathles newbie, when he certainly isn't.
It strikes me either
- a) Katz is undergoing a radical 180 degree shift from techno-optimism to techno-pessimism for some reason (disillusion, boredom, bandwagon jumping, personal tragedy) and is using the review to lay his own ghosts,
- b) he's jealous.
Of course the internet is only an information distribution medium, so you can argue that it doesn't change anything in the physical world. But that's a bit like saying, ideas are only neurons firing. Ideas and physics interact.
And the quantitative change in information flow can have qualitative effects in the physical world, and even more so in the world of ideas. The whole point of Weinberger's book is to argue that, and to try to show that our ideas have been changed by the net, including the great fundamentals like time, space and self.
These ideas are changing constantly throughout history. It's the job of philosophers, and historians like Weinberger to track these changes, in response to new economic systems, scientific theories and cultural events.
Is the web big enough to be one of these transforming factors? I'd say it sure is. (If we forgive the trivial conflation of web and internet.)
For example, there are several ways my life is different from a pre-web world.
I'm British but I'm fortunate enough to live with my girlfriend in Brazil, while holding onto my job in the UK. I work remotely via the internet.
Without the net, when my girlfirend returned home, I would have been forced to choose between my relationship and staying with the company I helped found. As it is, I have both. And a weird kind of international existance, which does change my sense of space, and self in relation to it.
Sometimes I pretend to be in places where I'm not. When I use the phrase "you can send it to me" to my bank, I mean "you can send it somewhere far away from me, where someone will read it to me over the phone". The phrase "to me", which is about nothing but space and self, has changed its meaning.
Another previously impossible thing. Although I don't know Weinberger, I've added comments while the book was in progress. So maybe I even had an influence on it!
That's an experience which is pretty novel. Before, books had always come to me from publishers finished. I could have an opinion but not one that counted for anything. Increasingly I'm reading and buying books that I've discovered in draft form on the web, from writers who are accessable by email.
P2P networking has changed the way I discover, acquire and listen to music. Weblogs have changed my opinion about the media, its future, and its role in society. The open source model (whose success is an effect of the net) has changed the way I think about software development, and given me new faith in the efficacy of amateur projects run by communities of volunteers.
So the net challanges and changes my ideas all the time. It enables me to live in a way which would be impossible without it, among people who I would never have met. From my perspective it's a big deal. And I think the trend is more people are finding that too.
If you've only found adverts for big media and pr0n, you clearly aren't using it right.