Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Internet of Elsewhere

I've just finished reading a review copy of Cyrus Farivar's impressive new book The Internet of Elsewhere. Like many books, it traces the development and mass takeup of the internet - unlike most, however, it is not US-centric and instead gives equal space to case studies from four countries: South Korea, Senegal, Estonia and Iran. In doing so, it provides a wealth of detail for many developments (the 2003 Iranian crackdown on bloggers, the Seoul "Dog Poop Girl", the Estonian takeup of wifi) which are often cited but seldom put into their wider social context. The author makes a particular point of describing the factors such as demographics, literacy and cost which have driven the use of the internet in each country - or, in the case of Senegal, have kept much of the population offline. A particular highlight for anyone interested in civil liberties online is the description of Iranian control of the internet, which goes back to early measures in 2000 and describes the various state tactics since then which have resulted in many prominent bloggers being forced to leave the country. The book also succeeds in being an easy read - while it is well researched and sourced it is also journalistic in its tone and describes each country through the stories of individuals. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in the takeup of the internet and the social changes it prompts.

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