Wasting Time on the Internet

Kenneth Goldsmith. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-241647-6
After describing one of his typical browsing sessions on the Web involving news articles, video clips from a Keith Richards interview, and a 1917 photo posted on Facebook of a full-size battleship being built in New York’s Union Square, Goldsmith (Uncreative Writing), a poet and conceptual artist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, asks: “Am I really wasting time on the Internet? This is important stuff that I’ve stumbled on to.” His question launches this entertaining, vividly written investigation of the ways people interact with the web. Focusing in particular on the “smoldering wreckage of modernism,” Goldsmith works to “extract clues on how to proceed in the digital age” from such disparate subjects as Marcel Duchamp, zombies, the Peanuts character Pig-Pen, Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Library of Babel,” and surrealist poets’ fascination with public sleeping, along with an array of current theorists and artists. “Our devices might be changing us, but to say that they’re dehumanizing us is simply wrong,” he writes. Acute observations of how people actually use technology ground Goldsmith’s far-flung explorations of data archiving, Photoshop, reappropriation, memes, and many other subjects. Though he dwells too long on a few areas and sometimes stretches to bring coherence to his sprawling discussions, Goldsmith maintains a sharp focus as he weaves together wildly diverse ideas, explaining new information clearly for a general audience. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2016
Release date: 08/01/2016
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-241648-3
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