"High Noon on the Electronic Frontier", Peter Ludlow, 1996,
%E Peter Ludlow ludlow@...
%C 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1399
%I MIT Press
%O U$32.50 800-356-0343 manak@...
%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
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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