Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob

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Random House Publishing Group, Jan 22, 2008 - Social Science - 192 pages
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From the author hailed by the New York Times Book Review for his “drive-by brilliance” and dubbed by the New York Times Magazine as “one of the country’s most eloquent and acid-tongued critics” comes a ruthless challenge to the conventional wisdom about the most consequential cultural development of our time: the Internet.

Of course the Internet is not one thing or another; if anything, its boosters claim, the Web is everything at once. It’s become not only our primary medium for communication and information but also the place we go to shop, to play, to debate, to find love. Lee Siegel argues that our ever-deepening immersion in life online doesn’t just reshape the ordinary rhythms of our days; it also reshapes our minds and culture, in ways with which we haven’t yet reckoned. The web and its cultural correlatives and by-products—such as the dominance of reality television and the rise of the “bourgeois bohemian”—have turned privacy into performance, play into commerce, and confused “self-expression” with art. And even as technology gurus ply their trade using the language of freedom and democracy, we cede more and more control of our freedom and individuality to the needs of the machine—that confluence of business and technology whose boundaries now stretch to encompass almost all human activity.

Siegel’s argument isn’t a Luddite intervention against the Internet itself but rather a bracing appeal for us to contend with how it is transforming us all. Dazzlingly erudite, full of startlingly original insights, and buoyed by sharp wit, Against the Machine will force you to see our culture—for better and worse—in an entirely new way.

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Lee. I saw your recent interview regarding our student loan debacle. I applied for a disability discharge for lung cancer with a prognosis of 6 to 12 months to live. and it was granted. However, I then found out the amount discharged is now due as a FEDERAL TAX! I got the discharge because the only one benefiting from my loan was the service company (ACS) who was receiving regular interest. I am 77 and have not been able to pay on the loan for the past 10 years as I only receive social security benefits. Had I not applied for the disability discharge I would not have had the federal tax liability but the interest would be continuing to rise. I didn't think that was fair.
I don't understand how our government can make tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid loans to hundreds of foreign countries - then when they can't pay, our generous government simply "forgives' the loan and writes it off. Yet as an American citizen I cannot get the same assistance as those foreign countries. I agree that students should develop a boycott and not pay their student loans and ask for the same consideration given to those foreign countries whose loans are forgiven. Count me in! How can I sign up for the boycott? Thank you. Joseph Paul Langton.


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About the author (2008)

Lee Siegel is the author of the essay collections Falling Upwards and Not Remotely Controlled. In 2002 he received the National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

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