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the Complete Review
the complete review - information age



Digital Cultures

by
Milad Doueihi


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Digital Cultures



Title: Digital Cultures
Author: Milad Doueihi
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2008) (Eng. 2011)
Length: 159 pages
Availability: Digital Cultures - US
Digital Cultures - UK
Digital Cultures - Canada
La grande conversion numérique - Canada
Digital Cultures - India
La grande conversion numérique - France
  • Although originally written in English, Digital Cultures was first published (2008) in a French translation (by Paul Chemla), as La grande conversion numérique

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting discussion of digital culture

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       In Digital Cultures Milad Doueihi explores some of the consequences of the rapid transition towards a digital culture, both on- and off-line. A 'Note to the American Edition' notes that Doueihi originally wrote this in late 2006 (and it was first published in a French translation in 2008) but that he has chosen not to modify the original for the 2011 first US edition ("except for some minor corrections"). Nevertheless, the issues addressed, and the examples (which include Twitter and Google's Book Search) remain timely; the most significant omission is any discussion of the popular social networking site Facebook (which would serve as a useful example in discussions of many of the issues Doueihi touches upon).
       From the fundamentally different way of reading online -- what he calls an 'anthological' approach, "predominantly decontextualized and comparative" -- to "a weakening of the distinction between author and reader", Doueihi explores the development of a digital literacy. His discussion of the limitations of applying traditional constraints -- copyright, or now the attempts at 'digital rights management' -- is particularly interesting, as these are clearly inadequate in actually protecting the 'rights' they mean to protect, while still hampering the development (and hence also usefulness) of the new medium.
       The open-ended aspect of digital activity, be it in wikis (and specifically Wikipedia, in which there is never a final, definitive version of an article) or in blogs and the interaction between blogger and reader these foster, is of particular interest to Doueihi. Meanwhile, he also points to the archival issues a move towards the digital brings with it, including the impermanence of our storage (as one technology after another -- floppy disks ! -- quickly becomes outdated) as well as the formats in which data is preserved (which also become outdated with disturbing speed). Two examples of Internet archiving he contrasts are the accessible but somewhat limited Wayback machine and the enormous archive that Google must have (that, via Web History tracking, includes very personalized tracks), with Doueihi expressing considerable concern about so much information being under the control of a single (closed) organization.
       Doueihi stresses the importance of openness, noting that proprietary standards, whether in software or in the form of other user-limitations on access, undermine the possibilities of what is clearly desirable, an open digital culture. As to the community standards of such a culture, that too is in the process of evolving, with the development of new means of both official regulation and self-regulation.
       Offering a useful discussion of many of the issues that arise as we make the inevitable) transition to an increasingly digital culture, Digital Cultures is a good introductory volume for those interested in these issues (and, given how widespread the consequences, they should be of interest to most readers). With well-chosen examples and in a fairly clear and straightforward style (i.e., among other things: with limited jargon, despite his theoretical ambitions) Doueihi offers a concise and very readable overview.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 March 2011

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Links:

Digital Cultures: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Milad Doueihi has taught at a variety of universities.

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© 2011 the complete review

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