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[techbooks] REVIEW: "High Noon on the Electronic Frontier", Peter Ludlow

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKHGHNON.RVW 990320 High Noon on the Electronic Frontier , Peter Ludlow, 1996, 0-262-62103-7, U$32.50 %E Peter Ludlow ludlow@well.com %C 55 Hayward
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 1999
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      BKHGHNON.RVW 990320

      "High Noon on the Electronic Frontier", Peter Ludlow, 1996,
      0-262-62103-7, U$32.50
      %E Peter Ludlow ludlow@...
      %C 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1399
      %D 1996
      %G 0-262-62103-7
      %I MIT Press
      %O U$32.50 800-356-0343 manak@... www-mitpress.mit.edu
      %P 536 p.
      %T "High Noon on the Electronic Frontier"

      I found Ludlow's account of the creation of this volume very
      interesting. Wanting material for a course on philosophical issues in
      cyberspace, he turned first to the more academic readings in computer
      ethics. Having read most of these myself, I am not surprised that the
      project was not a raging success. Undaunted, he turned to a very
      interesting source for content: the net itself. Actually, the
      versions appearing in the book primarily appeared in print journals of
      one sort or another, but usually developed drafts on the net first.
      In any case, the authors all have direct experience of online life,
      and opinions that are generally more passionate than academic.

      The material covers many points of view, and, where possible,
      contrasting positions are presented. For example, a well researched
      and articulate couple of papers, one an official institutional brief,
      is just slightly less impressive when someone comes along and points
      out that the quotations cited are taken very much out of context.
      Because of the personal nature of many of the documents, they are much
      more readable and interesting than "surveys" or "position papers" with
      all the juice drained out. Given the informal nature of the texts,
      Ludlow has done a very superior job of collecting the most articulate
      of the available content, although, in an attempt to represent all
      points of view, a few less convincing voices are included. Not all
      the articles are that good, but the number of pedestrian items of
      standard magazine fodder are few.

      The essays are grouped under the topics of intellectual property and
      rights, system intrusion, encryption and privacy, censorship, and the
      self online. Intellectual property and system intrusion are covered
      very well, with good presentations for opposing positions. Encryption
      is rather one sided, and the additional topic of privacy is not
      addressed terribly well. Censorship is likewise viewed from a single
      perspective.

      The section on self is the weakest in the book. Most of the pieces
      are personal, as might be expected, but also tend to deal only with a
      single system, and do not get into larger, more conceptual, issues.
      Two do stand out: Julian Dibbell's rather classic "A Rape in
      Cyberspace" and James DiGiovanna's excellent "Losing Your Voice on the
      Internet" that deserves to be more widely known.

      While there are some gaps that could be filled, overall this serves
      the purpose very well: it is a good series of discussion starters,
      written by people who know the online world well.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKHGHNON.RVW 990320

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