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The Net Effect
By Beth Porter
Published in 2001 by intellect
190pp ISBN 1 84150 039 9 19.95 (cloth)

The Net Effect

With a forward by Lord Puttnam, a blurb by Stephen Fry and a dedication to Douglas Adams this book oozes with promise. Promise that in the main is delivered.

I found the typeface a bit small and some of the illustrations of poor quality but as soon as you commence reading the text you get hooked into the excitement that Ms Porter generates. She acknowledges that after a lifetime working in the TV and Film industry she has become "a nethead. An ageing cybersurfer" (p5). Ms Porter is excited by the possibility of the web and this shows through in the writing.

The book starts in the times before personal computing and looks at how information flowed through the then existing civilisations. The focus then moves to code-breaking and the birth of computer technology in World-War II, drawing in detail from recently released government documents and considering the work on both sides of the Atlantic. Having reached the emergent Internet, Ms Porter then looks at the driving forces for its development and at the constraints (e.g. people's fear of computer viruses).

The book concludes by looking at the community of the net and how individuals may become permanently attached to the web via their clothing.

"The net is a process not a thing. Whatever else guides developers, I believe people will continue to demand engagement. In an online world of proliferating data, they'll want available mechanisms to manage the quality of their choices" (p177)

For anyone looking at the impact of the Internet on society then this is an important text. The meticulous web references (as footnotes) will also be very helpful.

Neil Stanley
Reviews Editor