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The Tangled Web We Weave: Inside The Shadow…

The Tangled Web We Weave: Inside The Shadow System That Shapes the… (udgave 2020)

af James Ball (Forfatter)

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Titel:The Tangled Web We Weave: Inside The Shadow System That Shapes the Internet
Forfattere:James Ball (Forfatter)
Info:Melville House (2020), 272 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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The Tangled Web We Weave: Inside The Shadow System That Shapes the Internet af James Ball


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First, I must confess my biases. I develop software (browser- and mobile-based) for a living. I have committed my career to bettering the US healthcare system, both research and medical. I understand how the Internet works, in highly technical (and boring) detail. I work in a non-profit research university lab but willingly work with for-profit products.

I mention this because Ball’s main audience in this work seems to be the general public and not me. A journalist by trade, he seeks to educate us on how the “network of networks” works and how businesses reap profits from it. Since I received a quality technical education, this exposé is not news to me. I wish more people would pay attention to how technology works. There is a need for the public (especially people of societal influence) to take heed of mobile, desktop, and Internet technologies. In our age, every educated citizen should be at least literate in how these impactful devices work. Therefore, I appreciate Bell’s contribution to the discussion and sincerely hope that a few social leaders would increase their literacy by reading this work.

At times, Bell seems to fall into an anti-capitalist bias by contending that business veers to the bad. I personally trust Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to correct unhealthy situations more than Ball does. Nonetheless, I know enough to know that the threats the author alerts us to are real. The question is not whether governmental regulation is needed but is, what sort of regulation is needed. I am grateful for the economic investment the big Internet companies have made (a topic Ball remains relatively silent on) and do not begrudge them as they seek to reap a profit from this investment. That said, monopolies and oligopolies help no one in the long run. As you can see, this complex issue deserves an entire book, if not more, to address.

I write this two days before the US elections in 2020. I believe that at present, the American government lacks the seriousness and workableness to tackle this issue. (I hope to be proven wrong.) Nonetheless, Ball’s work, out one month before this election, will leave such a discussion in a better place. It is balanced in the main and identifies the key issues. One does not have to buy into all of his advised remedies fully in order to appreciate his analysis.

All our lives these days are touched by technology; thus, any decision-maker could benefit from this work. Many groups stand to benefit from this work: academics, policymakers, lawyers, business-folk, or software developers (like me). Further, this book has global reach – extending from the West to the East, from the US and Europe to China and Japan. The African continent, whose Internet capabilities I know to be rapidly expanding, is even addressed. Ball’s work stands to advance the conversation about technology and our lives; the presumed next question becomes, Are we willing to engage in the dialogue? ( )
  scottjpearson | Nov 1, 2020 |
This is an extremely readable, compelling, and valuable book that looks beyond the usual focus on social media companies, the bad behavior of trolls, and the costs of the attention economy to explore what the internet is actually made of, how it came to be what it is today, and who controls a piece of the infrastructure. This would be a valuable assigned reading for any course that focuses on the internet and society - or for anyone who simply wants to get a better grasp of what we're talking about when we talk about the internet. I think this may be one of the most useful, informative, and entertaining books on the subject.
  bfister | Oct 7, 2020 |
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