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the Complete Review
the complete review - information age

Digital Cultures

Milad Doueihi

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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.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Nature . 4/5/2011 George Rousseau

  From the Reviews:
  • "Doueihi has sensitive antennae for the legal ramifications of the new digital culture, as his debates on intellectual property rights, security and related issues show; and he may be right that at the root of these controversies is the annihilation of the old conception of what it is to be an author. (...) Written in the 'old' discursive format, Digital Cultures includes much to think about. The pace of change is fast, but Doueihi's insight is fresh." - George Rousseau, Nature

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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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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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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