Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob


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A call to end Wikipedia? Siegel is advocating for the maintenance of original thought, debate, and consequently the human spirit. While the book offers references that can seem unfamiliar Against The Machine is well reasoned enough to be a short intellectual exercise on a short flight. It sounds like an intriguing and challenging book to read.

Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob

I am always interested in this kind of literature. Pierre, I appreciate the time you took with this review. It sounds like it was some heavy lifting, lots of thinking. I read the reviews at Amazon and they vary widely, maybe even lean negatively.

Your closing point is the one that struck home — develop and hone your craft outside of any voting system. Tweets that mention Against The Machine: Taking A Moment to Review the Future. Your email address will not be published. Email this Article Print This Article. Instead, he says, there has been an assimilation of culture that hampers debate and encourages only a superficial treatment of choice and originality.

The results have been obscured by marketplace values, Siegel writes:. He is the Founder of Zimana , a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Against the Machine by Lee Siegel. Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob 2. Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob. Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Against the Machine , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Mar 01, Tom rated it did not like it Recommends it for: There are a few interesting ideas here, but nothing is well researched if researched at all.

Instead of being thoughtfully critical of what Siegel calls the "Internet Boosters", he is instead malicious and insulting - with the result that he comes off more as a spoiled child than a cultural critic. There is so much in this book ranging from the ill-thought-out to the just-plain-wrong that I could have written volumes in response, but in the end I felt like that woul Boring neo-luddite polemic. There is so much in this book ranging from the ill-thought-out to the just-plain-wrong that I could have written volumes in response, but in the end I felt like that would giving this blowhard way too much of my time and attention.

It's just not worth it. Dec 17, Jeremy Lyon rated it did not like it Shelves: I hated this book. Reading it was intensely frustrating. A bit of context: Until this year I believed that the Internet and the popularization of information was on balance beneficial for humanity. Browsing my bookshelf I found this book from , patiently waiting unread for the right time to catch my attention. I latched onto it as a way of helping me frame and inform my thinking, and it did, to a degree. These are the insights I found useful. The Internet can provide an illusion of self-fulfillment and self-definition that limits personal growth.

The self is defined by an interplay between our internal vision of who we are and the reflections we see in our interactions with others. The Internet provides reflections without substance, because the reflections we get online are reflections of our curated self, an illusion of what we think we ought to be driven by the our need for acceptance, and measured by by the thin and nearly meaningless flow of likes on social media.

Information is not knowledge. Information can be the enemy of knowledge when the flow of information is so voluminous as to strip us of our ability to focus long enough to generate knowledge. Information gets you thinking like everyone else who is absorbing the same information. Popularity does not measure quality, but since popularity is easily measured by machines it becomes the definition of value on the Internet, and since the Internet has become so ubiquitous in our lives popularity has replaced quality in the popular consciousness. For example, the ideas of people as diverse as Pierre Omidyar, Alvin Toffler, James Surowiecki and Douglas Rushkoff among others were flawed and unworthy of consideration because their authors were crass commercialists with a financial stake in the success of the Internet.

Most damning, in my opinion, is the fact that Siegel criticized without offering any constructive proposals.

Against The Machine: Being Human In The Age of The Electronic Mob

The closest he got to proposing how things might be different is an unsaid implication: If you aren't looking for a rant, then here is my quick view If you want the rant, please continue Before you look further at this review, please note that the below comments are not pointed at those of you who run video blogs or book reviews on YouTube I am looking more at the lack of quality in the majority of what is out there I have long believed that part of society's problems stem from the way kids are being "dumbed down".

This is not to insult al If you aren't looking for a rant, then here is my quick view This is not to insult all the teenagers who are out there reading and making a difference. I am talking about the ones who mindlessly mill about on YouTube, watching videos of some idiot jumping off of his house and breaking a leg.

This is today's entertainment. This is what our children are taking part in. It's a mad marketplace for who can outdo the last person and get the most page hits. I know a 13 year old who has a steady income from their mash-up videos I praise the ambition and use of technology, but I really never wanted to see 2-pac and Elvis in a duet.

This is the society we are bringing them in to. What happened to books??? We are on one the great social sites in history as its focus is the written word. Other sites are secondary to me. I love the written word and crave the experience and knowledge it brings. This is why this book appeals to me. I don't agree with every word, but he makes a great point. We have turned Self-Expression into a profitable business based on how many people "like" you It's High School all over again.

We thrive on ridiculous entertainment and skip all of the great knowledge that exists on the World Wide Web. The author attacks the Blogosphere as something that is completely against actual news and is more self indulgent. As a blogger, I like being able to write some thoughts out there.

If someone reads them and cares, cool. If not, also cool. I am sharing my struggle to write a book with world and if the only person that reads that is me, then it is. I see his points though. We really have become socially lazy. We don't go outside or walk around to meet people. We go to dating sites, which we are all happy about when we start talking to someone and then meet them and think, "This isn't who I was talking to. We base our popularity on how many friends we have online, not in real life. I have over friends on Facebook. With very few exceptions, these are people I have known in real life first.

We share thoughts with people online and, in some strange way, experiences, but the veil of who I am online versus who I am in reality is up and firmly stuck in place. I think what I take away from this book more than anything is that we, as a society, suck at being ourselves and meeting people. Would it kill us to go out into the scary world and meet some people? Would it hurt us to abandon our YouTube channels. If that is your primary income then keep Vlogging. Siegel and I see face to face on one main thing: We need to get out and experience life again.

This is an excellent, thought provoking read. Oct 15, Liz Cole rated it it was ok. Despite its promising title, Lee Siegel's Against the Machine is less about the struggle to maintain our humanity in the digital age and more about his problem with how the internet age has completely bereft our society of creativity, impartiality, and pure artistic originality.


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My very negative preview of Against the Machine was for the most part confirmed by my reading it for my Digital Culture class. It is for the most part poorly written, with a few coherent statements and positive suggestio Despite its promising title, Lee Siegel's Against the Machine is less about the struggle to maintain our humanity in the digital age and more about his problem with how the internet age has completely bereft our society of creativity, impartiality, and pure artistic originality.

It is for the most part poorly written, with a few coherent statements and positive suggestions scattered amongst lengthy commentary on how the internet and its promoters have destroyed our culture and anecdotes about how the internet has turned its consumers or "prosumers" into distorted reflections of itself. He is all about how the internet is people with no talent or originality selling their poor interpretations of things they did not create.

Value in this digital society is determined by popularity, not quality or artistry, and value is also based on marketability rather than detached enjoyment. Between the lines of Siegel's ranting is a drawn-out elegy of the death of gatekeeping, regulated print culture, major media outlets and "real" art. The good points Siegel does make, as I have pointed out, are few and far between, but I will point them out just so we don't lose faith in the author's humanity. While it surrounds us with the things we like, however, individualized media insulate us from things we do not like.

The internet encourages the glorification of the self and the self's fantasies rather than bringing us closer to understanding other people. Siegel claims that this contributes to the hate, bigotry, and misunderstanding on political blogs, comments, and other internet posts. People just say what they want rather than trying to understand the other person's point of view.

What Siegel could have argued for better, if he argued at all, is a need for limited immersion in the internet culture. Instead, he just rants about the Internet as a corrupt media, an enhanced societal enslavement and a failed democracy, and a culture that has fallen for corporate capitalism's trap. He could have at least offered a solution to today's internet culture, if there is so much wrong with it--after all, in the prologue he says "Things really don't have to be the way they are.

Against the Machine is divided into three segments with three chapters each. It is fairly short, easy reading. This book is extremely enjoyable, insightful, and thought-provoking, and is not the "whiny" rant many of its critics accuse it of being. As I expected, I did not agree with all of the points made by Siegel. But because his arguments and their accompanying examples were so well written, the book was very engaging and quite the worthwhile read.

It compels me to converse with its authors so much so that I wish I really could. For the most part, Siegel's claims about the direction in which our socie This book is extremely enjoyable, insightful, and thought-provoking, and is not the "whiny" rant many of its critics accuse it of being.

For the most part, Siegel's claims about the direction in which our society is heading are true, and he provides plenty of examples to prove it. He enthusiastically illustrates many analogies, comparing for instance internet technologies to the evolution of the automobile, and does so fairly well.

Siegel is successful in his argument that we are rapidly taking more things for granted because we are less and less concerned with being able to discern the subtleties of communication and human interaction. However, Siegel's claim that the internet is to blame is only partially correct. I agree with him that the internet's faster pace of communication and its better accessibility to anonymity makes it easier to be less concerned with differentiating truth from non-truth, fact from opinion, and news from hype.

However, our tendency to jump on the latest band-wagon has always been an aspect of our materialistic, capitalistic society -- even before the internet. Same goes for wanting to speak our opinion on things, even if our opinion bears no evidence to support itself. The internet and web 2. To use one of Siegel's own point against himself, I think he is confusing the cause and effect relationships of the internet.

The author very nicely summed up all his points in a clever way in his epilogue, which added a coherent sense of closure to his work. All that being said, Against the Machine is an excellent read, and I recommend it to anyone willing to consider the non-popular side of an issue. Even if you completely disagree with his points after reading it, I think you'll find that you still enjoyed the debate.

I listened to an interview with the author on Kera. I feel my mind being exercised already! Apr 21, Nick rated it really liked it. It is a shame that the important, true things that Lee Siegel argues in this book are obscured by his all out attack on the Internet's down side which does not recognize that for every rude, self-serving, ill-informed blog there is a reasoned opinion elsewhere on line; for every source of misinformation there is an authoritative source of solid fact; and so on.

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Siegel can be infuriating, silly or simply wrong, but that should not stop anyone who uses the Internet from reading his book carefully. Dec 01, Molly rated it liked it Recommends it for: Siegel is a little too reactionary for my taste, and I have to wonder if he's had some problematic personal encounters with Malcolm Gladwell He succeeds in his mission, as long as you manage to ignore the occasional bouts of self-indulgent stodginess on Siegel's part.

Jan 28, Charles rated it liked it. I read the New York Times review and was intrigued -- a critic looking at the "dark side" of the Internet and the blogosphere -- I'm in the middle of it, and agreeing mostly, but also wishing he'd make the points stronger. I think the Internet is a wonderful technology, but not ever one can use it well -- like not every one is a good driver. The car is good technology, but it can also kill in the wrong hands. I think I'm a Luddite in some respects. Dec 14, Marie rated it it was ok. Apr 05, Rashaan rated it liked it Shelves: Lee Siegel raises excellent critical theories about our latest and greatest tool, though much of the text seems to veer into personal rant.

Some of his finer points include: Like the car, the Internet has been made out to be a miracle of social and personal transformation when it is really a marvel of convenience--and in this case of the Internet, a marvel of convenience that has caused a social and personal upheaval. As with the car, the highly arbitrary way in which the Internet has evolved h Lee Siegel raises excellent critical theories about our latest and greatest tool, though much of the text seems to veer into personal rant.

As with the car, the highly arbitrary way in which the Internet has evolved has been portrayed as inevitable and inexorable.


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Including scathing critiques against the rampant "self expression" that he insists tyrannize the web: But self-expression is not the same thing as imagination. Siegel steps in as Cassandra warning us of the dangers of an insulated "Youniverse" where personal instant gratification is the rule of the day. His most enlightening observation, how digital technology is currently changing our language and perception of the world: We have undergone a complete 'transvaluation of values,' the phrase that the German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche used to describe the process by which a new way of looking at the world slops into our familiar outlook.

Nietzsche believed that Christianity, for example, had 'transvalued' earlier pagan and aristocratic values of heroism, power, and fame into meekness, humility, and eternal life. The early Christians did this while retaining pagan vocabulary, so that Jesus was still a "prince" and God as "mighty" as any Roman emperor; God's realm was as much a 'kingdom' as that of Nero. But although the former vocabulary remained, the new values had an entirely different meaning. In this digital revolution, at the dawn of the Informization Age, as Mike Davis noted in a recent interview with Bill Moyers, like Obama, we can't see the Grand Canyon.

Davis recalls the first Western explorers were unable to comprehend the magnitude of America's vast earthly chasm, at the time of its Western discovery, we simply did not have the technology to measure it and certainly could not fathom the grandness of it. Today, we use capitalist terms and concepts to conceive this new digital horizon before us. We scramble to gain perspective as the landscape transforms underneath our feet.

My Composition students appreciated turning the technology on its head.

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Most of my freshman were weaned on digital waves, so they appreciated hearing his skepticism, though many complained that Siegel's argument inclined towards repetition and, like most literary arguments, he leads us to a solution-less, and therefore, anti-climactic conclusion. Which makes me wonder why we, as writers, can't do more than pose great critical ideas. Must we always linger in the haze of abstraction? If we're going to pose a problem, shouldn't we bother to conceive a viable solution? Nevertheless, the text generated excellent and engaged discussions--what more can a teacher ask for?

Feb 28, Sophia rated it it was ok Shelves: I was intrigued by this book when the author was interviewed on the Daily Show because, after almost ten years of very extensive involvement in internet communities, I've started to become uneasy not so much with the commercialization of the media but of the anonymity he speaks about.

I find, on the whole, that people are willing to say appalling things when they don't have to attach their own names to it, especially when they don't have to respond in a real-time, face to face confrontation but I was intrigued by this book when the author was interviewed on the Daily Show because, after almost ten years of very extensive involvement in internet communities, I've started to become uneasy not so much with the commercialization of the media but of the anonymity he speaks about.

I find, on the whole, that people are willing to say appalling things when they don't have to attach their own names to it, especially when they don't have to respond in a real-time, face to face confrontation but can instead take their time and avoid open conflict. All of which seemed to be what the author was going to discuss Worse, his "discussion" involved nothing more than a string of critiques, leaving it up to the reader to figure out what his own position might be in a vacuum rather than merely in response to other thinkers' positions.

His introduction confirmed what I suspected; he's approached the internet from a professional writer's point of view a generation ahead of this reader born in , and so he's coming from a powerful outsider's position in which he's accustomed to having a much more lopsided interaction with his readers. When he related having created what we'd refer to as a "sockpuppet" to reply anonymously in his own defense to some admittedly vile detractors commenting on his columns I knew we were in trouble -- he apparently saw nothing shady about this at the time, whereas in the communities I'm used to your identity is your greatest currency, a reputation to be polished and added to, and diluting it with anonymous comments of your own is disingenuous to say the least.

His descriptions of the impact of the internet on modern life did resonate with me to some degree, especially the concept of using the same interface to access many spheres of interaction, from shopping to dating to porn-searching to emailing to I find that I need to establish discrete identities in different areas of the internet, and the bleedover can be disorienting. However this was just one bright spot in a sea of rather uninteresting and uninformed, to some degree arguments, so I ended up putting this one down.

Furthermore I've seen more informed and worthwhile commentary along these lines in the communities I mentioned above, which was enough to render this book as a kind of sidenote from an outsider not versed in real internet interaction. Oct 06, S added it. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was really different from normal books I read, was also a suggested book from a friend of mine that reads more counter-culture books then I do which helps explain a few things.

Not to mention I'm more for the machine then against like the author Lee Siegel, but you should always try to see more then your view of a subject. The book is about the internet age and how it is changing and effecting everything. Being titled 'Against the Machine' should help point out he's not looking for the This book was really different from normal books I read, was also a suggested book from a friend of mine that reads more counter-culture books then I do which helps explain a few things.

Being titled 'Against the Machine' should help point out he's not looking for the positive changes, but more of the negative ones.

Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob

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