The Critical Net Critic - New Left Review n° 77 (Rob Lucas)
Four decades on from the origin of the Internet, and more than twenty years from the birth of the Web, discussions of these technologies retain a strong mystical odour. Prophecies about a coming ‘information society’, or of new technological ruptures comparable to the Industrial Revolution, have long served to conceal any realistic sense of what they most immediately are; the computer can still be portrayed as a thing of magic, a portal onto some other plane of Being; the Net even more so. Mainstream technology pundits have typically played a propaganda role for American hi-tech industries: ‘we have a moral obligation to increase the amount of technology in the world’, Wired magazine ‘Chief Maverick’ Kevin Kelly once declared, while Stewart Brand—founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue and a pioneer of the libertarian Californian tech culture with which the Net has been associated since the start—has come out as an advocate for biotech and nuclear energy. At the same time such figures have been central in making a literary genre of the Web’s mystification.