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The traditional art of weaving -- in code.
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The Official Guide to Bedlam
The teeming, chaotic, utterly bizarre world of popular music on the Web -- brought to you by MTV and Yahoo!.
For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
October 16, 1997
"I'm over the initial flush of enthusiasm about the digital world; I want to think about designing it over again in light of what we learned the first time around." When words like that come from Esther Dyson -- venture capitalist, chair of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and publisher of the widely influential online newsletter Release 1.0 -- they indicate that the debate over the Internet's future is entering a new, more mature phase. With the launch this week of her Web site, Release 2.0 (timed to coincide with the publication of her first book, Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age), Dyson is using her status as an "Internet visionary" to try to provoke and lead a discussion about what the Internet is today, what opportunities and dangers it presents, and how we as global citizens can take responsibility for the kind of environment it becomes.
Appropriately, Dyson's site demonstrates how to mingle the commercial, intellectual, and community interests that so often compete and conflict in cyberspace. While the Release 2.0 site is unapologetically an advertisement for Dyson's book (which can be purchased, it seems, from almost every page), it also provides generous excerpts and is set up to facilitate interactive discussion of the issues the book explores. Each week for the next several weeks a new selection from Release 2.0 will appear, and Dyson will play host to "guest opinion makers" joining the forum.
In addition, the section of the site called "Online Explorations" ventures well beyond book promotion. Here a feature called "Filters" makes ingenious use of the Shockwave application to illustrate visually and interactively one of the book's central ideas -- that of the increasing need for adequate information filters as the Net develops. The section also features the debut of Trellix, a new Web-based interface for reading and navigating online texts that reminds us that such tools are likely to become essential as people do more and more of their reading on a screen.
The title of Dyson's book is an allusion to the way that software companies number the versions of their products, starting with release 1.0. Release 2.0 of a product, she says, "is a total rewrite, hammered out by older, wiser programmers with feedback from thousands of tough-minded, skeptical users." She applies this analogy to her own "first vision of cyberspace," which, as she puts it, "was optimistic and perhaps a bit naive." Release 2.0 is the product of experience and attentiveness to feedback, and we can only hope that other "opinion makers" engaged in the debates over Internet growth, access, and regulation have the humility and good sense to adopt a similar perspective. If they do, then perhaps the rhetoric about the "digital revolution" -- whether of the utopian or the dystopian variety -- will give way to a level-headed discussion of how best to ensure that the Internet lives up to its potential.
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.