Cultures of the Internet
Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies
- Bob Shields - University of Alberta, Canada
Cultural Studies (General) | Social Theory
Cultures of Internet examines the arrival of e-mail and online discussion groups, and considers the prospect of an `online world' - a playground for virtual bodies in which identities are flexible, swappable and disconnected from real-world bodies. The book traces the rise of virtual conviviality and how it supplements the physical encounters between actors in public spaces that are abandoned to the homeless.
The book is distinguished by a critical and social tone. It presents systematic descriptions of the development of the Internet, its history in the military-industrial complex, the role of state policies leading, for example, to the creation of Minitel, and the building of information `superhighways'. It also explores the development of this technology as a commercialized leisure form and a forum for underground political organization and critique.
'The Internet, as the editor notes, has been "over-hyped and over-sensationalised", and has also generated an enormous amount of vacuous and pretentious commentary, much taken with the visionary possibilities of elaborating on Internet life. This collection is not immune to such excesses, but does have a lot of thoughtful and informed commentary.... The collection as a whole is lively and often provocative, and...will be useful to researchers still uncertain about what kind of a beast the Internet is evolving into' - European Journal of Communication
`Eight of his [Shields] contributors are graduate students, which gives the book a much more grounded sense of participation in as well as observation of the cultures with which it engages.... [a] preoccupation with the politics of identity runs through the assembled pieces. Interrogated in well-researched case studies of network censorship in Canada, the institutional struggles over the French Minitel system and the practical contradictions of connectivity in Jamaica, the question of identity is placed solidly in the material world.... among the better contributions to the publishing boom of the last two years... very useful in undergraduate teaching' - Sociology