The Wired Neighborhood

Stephen Doheny-Farina, Author
Stephen Doheny-Farina, Author Yale University Press $50 (240p) ISBN 978-0-300-06765-1
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-300-07434-5
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In his book about how computer technology affects our relationship to our geophysical communities, Doheny-Farina, an associate professor of technical communications at Clarkson University in upstate New York, offers excellent discussions on telecommuting, virtual education and also on community nets (locally based networks that serve as town hall, bulletin board, etc.) as the most recent version of early public-access cable TV. The problem is that much of his often wistful discussion is about a community that has already been thoroughly, perhaps fatally, compromised by the telephone and the car. Admitting that requires one of two responses--either expanding the argument to include these other earlier technologies, or else admitting that we have accommodated to that technology and (aside from the few lost netsouls) will accommodate to this. His discussion of possible alternatives are generally logged-in suggestions about community-based CMC, like Ottawa's National Capital FreeNet. But one of the most important parts of community building is the unplanned encounter--not the convergence of common interests but the chance meetings that make for a more generalized neighborliness. Doheny-Farina hints at the importance of this kind of interaction at several places but doesn't address it in his solution. Then again maybe this is just an acknowledgment of the computer's basic function. Computers were designed to make it easier to get what we know we want, not to find what we never knew we needed. (Oct.)
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