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Distrust That Particular Flavor af William…

Distrust That Particular Flavor (udgave 2012)

af William Gibson

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
6213629,122 (3.66)11
Known primarily as a novelist, Gibson has, over thirty years, been approached by different publication to share his insights into contemporary culture. The resulting essays are collected here for the first time.
Titel:Distrust That Particular Flavor
Forfattere:William Gibson
Info:Berkley Trade (2012), Edition: 1St Edition, Paperback, 272 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

Detaljer om værket

Distrust That Particular Flavor af William Gibson

  1. 00
    Children of Chaos: Surviving the End of the World as We Know It af Douglas Rushkoff (Jannes)
    Jannes: Rushkoff and Gibson are both commenters on the impact of technology on society and human culture, and both have a vaguely prophetic air to them. Rushkoff might, strangely enough, be a bit more farfetched than Gibson, but if you can stomach that he's really enjoyable to read, and as most people probably has approached Gibson through his fiction this won't be a big problem for them.… (mere)

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Viser 1-5 af 36 (næste | vis alle)
I waffled for a long time on this one (between 2 and 3 stars). I had read Disneyland With The Death Penalty (Gibson's travel piece about Singapore) a while back, so when I heard there was a collection of his nonfiction out, I picked it up.

Unfortunately, a lot of it feels really same-y: there are two pieces about Japan/Tokyo that feel really similar, and two about film/radio/the Internet that feel really similar as well. There are a few album reviews that he did (cool!), and a few introductions to books that he did (not so cool).

Ultimately, I gave this three stars, because despite all that there's still some sublime Gibson stuff in here: Rocket Radio is a great opener, Disneyland With The Death Penalty is still great (although I remember it being longer). Mr. Buk's Window is a beautiful, sad little piece about New York before and after 9/11, and Shiny Balls of Mud... is one of those great pieces where Gibson goes digging around somewhere and comes back with something you've never seen before. Look for this one when it pops up in the discount bins, methinks. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
In Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson says that "reliance on broadcasting is the very definition of a technologically backward society."

Insightfully, he says this in The Road to Oceania, a 2003 article he wrote for the New York Times, reprinted in this book of articles and essays collected from various (nominally) nonfiction publications for which he has written over the years. It was insightful at the time in a very conventional sense in that, while reliance on broadcasting does not encompass the whole definition of a technologically backward society either when he wrote the article in 2003 or ten years later -- this year -- when I read it, it was inescapably true that any society whose formal maintenance required broadcast propaganda as the primary form of information dissemination was also a society that had not caught up to the postmodern information age in which we lived. In that age of the Internet, information moved in myriad directions, the power of publishing having become accessible to anyone with six hundred dollars to spend on a computer and another fifteen or more per month to an ISP. In 2003, it was not so long since ad-funded "free" Internet access had been popularly available in the United States, in fact, and that had only really gone away because Internet access had become such a ubiquituous requirement of contemporary life that everyone was willing to spend money on it. Now, free Internet access is back with a vengeance; it can even be had wirelessly at crummy fast food joints, and a failure to provide wireless Internet access is the very definition of a technologically backward fast food chain.

More than all that, however, it was insightful because we as a society were on the cusp of beginning to realize, on some not-strictly-conscious level where we take the fundamental facts of our lives for granted, that broadcasting itself was the mark of technological backwardness in this millennium, even in those very early single digit years. It is now a mere decade later, one fortieth the time that passed between the invention of the foundational tool of mass publication (movable type) in China in the eleventh century to the refinement of the technology (the Gutenberg press) to the point where it provided the ability to perform the task of mass publication in less than a week's time in the fifteenth century. In that decade, Gibson's perhaps accidental insight that we were about to enter an age where broadcasting itself was a mark of backwardness has gone from being insightful to banal, as much a fact of life as breathing and eating, as if the knowledge that broadcast technology is "over" is etched in the rhombencephalon -- the "primitive hindbrain" that controls the things we don't have to think about and on which the conscious thinking parts of our brains implicitly rely.

Ironically, he writes these words in 2003, roughly ten years after it became inevitably true due to a number of socially relevant factors including the appearance of the truly world wide web (then still called the World Wide Web), the appearance of open source software that would actually have a significant impact on the whole world instead of a tiny cabal of obsessed technologists (general purpose operating system software that could run acceptably on commodity hardware, including the post-Berkeley BSD Unix and Linux families of operating systems), and the introduction of arguably the world's first smartphone (the IBM Simon, a handheld touchscreen combination wireless mobile telephone and personal digital assistant -- yes, really, before Java). This puts him a decade behind when the future backwardness of broadcasting he identifies had already arrived, even if it was not yet well distributed.

More than all that, however, it was ironic because he has built his career as a writer of fixed-form books and short pieces for publication in fixed-form magazines. That is, he writes for publication, the carefully polished, cautiously curated, comprehensively broadcast dissemination of derivation-resistant works of authorship, in a form essentially unchanged since the fifteenth century even when distributed in (DRM-encumbered, copyright-protected) digital formats. Knowing what I imagine I know of Gibson, perhaps a hubristic conceit for someone who has never met the man except through his writings and photographs, I rather suspect he lives with a disquieting sense of the technological backwardness of his craft's current form pressing through the membrane between the subconscious and conscious parts of his mind, if it has not already crept into the light of day, blinking blearily at the dazzling strangeness of the world in which it has emerged. His most recent trilogy of novels (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History) reads, in some ways, like attempts to describe the underlying truths of the phenomenon of broadcasting's obsolescence to the recipients of his broadcast word without actually setting it down on paper for them to recognize and, perhaps, learn to transcend his published works before they even buy them. This would of course not be the attempt to run a moneymaking scam on his readers, in the tradition of fundamentally broadcast oriented media publishers like Random House and Universal Music, but rather as a means of buying time to adjust to the emerging reality.

"Publication", to make something public in a known and static form, has become hopelessly antiquated in principle in the world of distributed version control systems and BitTorrent. From the perspective of 2003, when Gibson wrote The Road to Oceania, the world will have fully woken up to this when we all have easy access to our textual culture in an intrinsically version controlled, arbitrarily editable form that makes it take an effort of conscious intent to avoid sharing with the world, via nothing more sophisticated than the devices we carry in our pockets, and we have stopped regarding it as a fringe curiosity or one-off niche tool the way we regard Wikipedia. In the meantime, when the insights of distant others are shared with us, they are largely delivered to us via the works of published authors such as William Gibson -- all of whose books (both collection and novel form) have delivered wisdom to this reader that would have otherwise been harder and longer in the finding -- and by random commentators shouting out their observations in the open-air agoras of the Internet. These are our standard options, and not quite up to the distributed, version controlled, automatically reshared standards of Wikipedia.

Spanning almost two decades of writings (or fully two decades, judging by publication dates, if you include the preface), Distrust That Particular Flavor is overflowing with trademark Gibsonian insight into the way our changing world interacts with our psyches, and vice versa, described in largely literal presentations of life arranged so that the picture that emerges is at once both hyperreal in its edgy clarity and flavored with the surreal. It serves the role of intellectually distributing some of the future that has already in fact permeated every fiber of our lives, as members of societies where something like this website has any meaning. As Gibson himself has reminded his readers more than once, he is no technologist, and he has even said he is no futurist, writing about today in the thinly applied makeup of tomorrow even when his settings are "the future". His genius as an author has been in recognizing many implications for our cultures and lives of the technologies already developing, when those implications have not yet fully revealed themselves to most of us, and gently conveying them to us in fictionalized form in a manner that somehow helps us weather the imminent futureshock with more savoir faire. This volume of collected nonfiction proves he can do the same without the fictionalizing soft-light filter over the lens through which he directs our attention, and as well as he ever did in his fiction. The Road to Oceania is also, after all, the essay in which he warned the politicians of the day of the yet-to-be implemented Wikileaks, starting with the words "It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret."

If there is a flaw in this book, it is the final piece of writing, Googling the Cyborg. For all its insistence that much of science fiction and futurism is too literal about the metaphors that are developing, and shaping our lives, so that they often miss the fact the futures they describe have often already taken root and spread through the world, its value is in taking the important step of making the core of Gibson's overarching narrative purpose explicitly literal. Its weakness is in the way it comes across as more distracted and fumbling than any other piece of writing of his that I have encountered. It is not bad, nor even merely mediocre; it still inspires and offers insights. What it lacks is Gibson's typical atmospheric depth for me, at least, and what creeps into it unwelcomed is an inexpert sort of repetition, a clumsy sort of foreshadowing, and actual errors (i.e. the terms "electron" and "neuron" are both misused, and in the same paragraph). It is an essay he needed to write, but I can only conclude that when he wrote it for a lecture he would give at the University of British Columbia circa 2008 he was not ready. In his own terms, referring to the words of other science fiction writers, I think it was not yet "Steam Engine Time". Imperfect it may be, but this lecture in essay form is still worth reading, and measured by its subject matter it in some sense serves as the perfect coping stone for the book.

While I do, in fact, deeply distrust the particular "collected nonfiction articles individually available elsewhere" flavor of book in general, Distrust That Particular Flavor has turned out to be an informative, revealing look at the world in which I live through the eyes of William Gibson, broadening my perspective and whetting my apetite for whatever solutions its author may find to the problem of escaping the obsolescence of broadcast technologies. Read it, then build upon it. It isn't just broadcast any longer, y'know.
( )
  apotheon | Dec 14, 2020 |
I like to say that I will read anything that William Gibson writes, but that's not exactly true as I've long overlooked [b:The Difference Engine|337116|The Difference Engine |William Gibson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51BCMNHSuBL._SL75_.jpg|1806578], co-written with Bruce Sterling (marking it down for this year). That said, this collection of Gibson's talks, essays, articles, and reviews is a fast but fun read for William Gibson fans. The best pieces in here are the long ones, specifically the two wired articles.

The first is "Disneyland with the Death Penalty," a 1993 piece about Singapore in which Gibson notes, "If IBM had ever bothered to possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore." (p.72)

The second, "My Obsession," recounts Gibson's minor eBay addiction during the early days of the Internet during which he spent a fair deal of time tracking and bidding on auctions for vintage analog watches, a fantastic bit of Gibsonian history written around the same time as [b:All Tomorrow's Parties|22321|All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge Trilogy, #3)|William Gibson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1309201115s/22321.jpg|513838], in which (if I remember correctly), Gibson makes use of his vintage mechanical watch knowledge. ( )
  markflanagan | Jul 13, 2020 |
It is a series of non-fiction pieces he had written for different forums over the course of twenty-one years from 1989 to 2010. Essays and critical observations and speeches. Every observation is fascinating and insightful and showcases his incredible grasp of the English language in a way his fiction only hints at. The way he describes things strikes some deep chord in my soul. If you have any interest in Gibson, I highly recommend this book. ( )
  Kardaen | Apr 24, 2020 |
Excellent collection of articles by Gibson ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
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Known primarily as a novelist, Gibson has, over thirty years, been approached by different publication to share his insights into contemporary culture. The resulting essays are collected here for the first time.

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