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Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech

Author: Paulina Borsook
Publisher: New York: Public Affairs, 2001
Review Published: September 2001

 REVIEW 1: Aimée Morrison
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Paulina Borsook

First, I want to thank Aimee for her thoughtful and diligent reading of "Cyberselfish" aka That Damned Book aka TDB. Much appreciated.

A few random responses to her review:

- Something that became even clearer to me after the MSS of TDB went into galleys is that TDB is about the -religion- of high-tech, if religion is defined as a mostly unconscious, commonly held, set of collective beliefs. Language to that effect was in the publisher's catalog copy for TDB -- and I even expanded further on this idea in the introduction to the paperback edition of TDB, which came out in late spring 2001.

And speaking of the paperback, I was much relieved when working on the updates to it in January 2001 that little needed to changed since TDB had been published.

Similarly, since I sorta have been the dotcom backlash girl since I wrote a rather infamous essay for salon.com back in the fall of 1999 ("How the Internet killed San Francisco"), I get asked a lot on NPR and by reporters if the ideas in TDB don't matter anymore because of the tech-wreck. As I hasten to explain, the whole dotcom irrational exuberance may have brought awareness of Silicon Valley and its values into mainstream awareness, but just because the mainstream doesn't want to be reminded of the hysteria it was so recently caught up in -- doesn't mean the values and folkways I document in TDB have gone away. They have been there for more than 30 years and will carry on long after fuckedcompany.com will have become a museum piece.

- I am amused that folks think my style has to do with being a digital/cyber/wired/whatever. I have -always- had that style; it was more a matter of reining it in -- and "Wired" magazine letting me be free to use it. It would have been -painful- for me to sustain the writing of a full-length book without relying on the style that reflects the way I really think. And many of the insights + ideas I wanted to convey in TDB could only be done in that Martian elliptical way: form/function, medium/message, and all that.

Also, I am not an academic, at best I have imitated being a journalist: what I am most fundamentally is a belle-lettrist. So I didn't set out to write a definitive, academic, serious book: not my style, not my interest. But yes, 15+ yrs of observing and casual reading, on top of three years' full time research + writing, went into TDB.

- One of the problems I wrestled with was that TDB had to be of interest both to people -within- high-tech, and to people totally -outside- high-tech who one might characterize as the Ideal Intelligent Reader. This was of course a tricky thing to attempt. OTOH, my editor (whom I love, but who is a quintessential Manhattan editor sort of person) said that when she got the MSS to TDB in, she had this "aha" experience: that is,

    1) she now understood all kinds of to-her previously incomprehensible posturings and snortings from those weird West Coast high-tech people;

    2) she saw technolibertarian values and rhetoric permeating -all- of culture, clearly leaching out from its ah fountainhead.

Paulina Borsook

Paulina Borsook

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