The Social Life of Information

John Seely Brown, Author, Paul Duguid, Joint Author
John Seely Brown, Author, Paul Duguid, Joint Author Harvard Business School Press $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-87584-762-7
Acrobat Ebook Reader - 336 pages - 978-1-57851-670-4
Paperback - 330 pages - 978-1-57851-708-4
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From the chief scientist of Xerox Corporation and a research specialist in cultural studies at UC-Berkeley comes a treatise that casts a critical eye at all the hype surrounding the boom of the information age. The authors' central complaint is that narrowly focusing on new ways to provide information will not create the cyber-revolution so many technology designers have visualized. The problem (or joy) is that information acquires meaning only through social context. Brown and Duguid add a humanist spin to this idea by arguing, for example, that ""trust"" is a deep social relation among people and cannot be reduced to logic, and that a satisfying ""conversation"" cannot be held in an Internet chat room because too much social context is stripped away and cannot be replaced by just adding more information, such as pictures and biographies of the participants. From this standpoint, Brown and Duguid contemplate the future of digital agents, the home office, the paperless society, the virtual firm and the online university. Though they offer many insightful opinions, they have not produced an easy read. As they point out, theirs is ""more a book of questions than answers"" and they often reject ""linear thinking."" Like most futurists, they are fond of long neologisms, but they are given to particularly unpronounceable ones like ""infoprefixification"" (the tendency to put ""info"" in front of words). The result is an intellectual gem in which the authors have polished some facets and, annoyingly, left others uncut. (Mar.)
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