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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Roadkill on the Information Highway", J. William Pfeiff

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKRKOTIH.RVW 990327 Roadkill on the Information Highway , J. William Pfeiffer, 1999, 1-894334-99-X, C$39.95 %A J. William Pfeiffer %C Suite 903, 2 St.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 19 9:31 AM
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      BKRKOTIH.RVW 990327

      "Roadkill on the Information Highway", J. William Pfeiffer, 1999,
      1-894334-99-X, C$39.95
      %A J. William Pfeiffer
      %C Suite 903, 2 St. Clair Ave., East, Toronto, ON M4T 2R1
      %D 1999
      %G 1-894334-99-X
      %I Pfeiffer & Company, Inc.
      %O C$39.95 416-924-2628 fax: 416-924-7398 drp@...
      %P 256 p.
      %T "Roadkill on the Information Highway"

      (Vancouver - March 27, 1999) A Toronto author has written a
      provocative press release about the future of his career in Canada.
      Dr. J. William Pfeiffer has produced and heavily distributed some very
      pretty pamphlets about his seemingly self-published book, and all the
      hot button issues he could cram into it. In this book, according to
      the press release his 53rd, he has cobbled together hundreds of
      magazine level articles, plus a bunch of cartoons.

      (This seems to be my week to dump on compatriots. But then, I can't
      have all that much fellow feeling with a guy who seems to be rather a
      johnny come lately to the country.) (On the third hand, that *is* the
      definition of a Canadian: a DP with seniority.) (But you can always
      tell an American: he doesn't know that there is more than one
      definition of a billion.) (Another way to recognize an American is by
      the barbarities perpetrated on the English language. For example,
      almost every instance of "one" is written as "1" and "first" is
      spelled "1st." Then he lambastes the education system.)

      The title definitely gives the impression that the book is about
      modern communications or the information infrastructure. However,
      Pfeiffer immediately covers his textual butt. The endpaper inside the
      front cover has a glossary of business acronyms that starts out by
      redefining "informatics" so that it can cover any form of

      So what does Pfeiffer have to say about communications? Computers?
      Information and communications technologies? Nothing. Nada. Zero.
      Zip. Zilch. Rien. Not a sausage.

      Well, no, not quite true. Chapter ten is supposed to be about new
      technologies. It even mentions the Internet. Once. Other than that
      we have a rehash of some of the more simplistic myths like the
      legendary brain drain of intelligent people out of Canada and down to
      the States. (One wonders, at this point very sincerely, why Pfeiffer
      came *here*.)

      So what is the book about? That's very hard to say, since we are
      presented with an amalgam of trivia, bombast, and misinformation. It
      is all very well to say that you are writing for the masses rather
      than an academic audience, but it's rather insulting to the masses to
      assume that they do not deserve accuracy or reason in what is
      presented. Sometimes the content is in error, sometimes it is just
      plain silly. "[N]ations ... are like supertankers; once they make a
      turn, they set the course for everyone else." Excuse me? Ships as
      schools of fish? Or did you grow up so far from water that you think
      a ship, of whatever size, carves a groove in the ocean as it goes?
      The Jews wandered in the desert for forty years because of a
      generational conflict. This is somehow not congruent with
      Deuteronomy 1:34. He uses the mythical "Petronius Arbiter" quote
      about reorganization (and then lets himself off the hook by noting,
      buried in the back of the book, that the "accuracy cannot be
      verified.") These examples aren't central to the theme of the book,
      but then, it's hard to find the theme, let alone material that is
      central to it.

      He promises us one hundred and one "specific recommendations that
      serve as a guide to enhancing the quality of life for all Canadians."
      (In five different fonts, yet.) Concentrating on education, this
      boils down to changing the curriculum (somehow), setting up
      educational standards (somehow), increasing educational resources (at
      the same time as reducing the debt: neat trick), cutting support of
      higher education, and eliminating religious schools. Why not just say
      "do better" and cut the verbiage? It would be about as helpful.

      Stripped of its trivial pursuit sugar coating, this is a rather
      pedestrian restatement of conservative economic views: reduce the
      debt, get lean and mean, compete in the global marketplace, we can't
      afford welfare, et cetera, ad nauseam. Oh, and he doesn't like

      (In response to the draft of this review, Pfeiffer has stated that I
      missed the point that the work, "like the main title of the book, is
      pure irony.")

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKRKOTIH.RVW 990327

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      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade


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