Customer Reviews of Being Digital
Outdated, but still thought-provoking
I bought and read this book by the time it was first published. Fascinated by Negroponte's direct and elegant style I read it through one sitting. For the last 13 years (or so) I've kept this book around and from time to time I find it curious to flip through random pages and absorve vintage information (technology-wise) mixed with wit and intelligence that pours from every page. Negroponte swore never writing a book again - "too much of a hassle and time-consuming for me" - so I just clicked on this link to see whether it got some updated epilogue or something. But no such luck: he's still adamant on his promise. I ordered a new copy just to get it hard-covered (albeit losing Chip Kidd's emblematic original cover).
What is Digital? Is it merely as simple as the "information superhighway?" Or, is it a complex web of intermingled electronics destined to replace everything home, hearth and workplace?
In this, the Technology Age, one is lead to believe it's either get on the bandwidth-to modify the phrase--or die a slow, excruciating information death, like a victim of Civil War Gangrene.
Negroponte takes all us pseudo-techies, the ones who are too ashamed to admit they just don't quite get `it', and guides us down the path of digital history. As a founder of MIT's Media Lab, a place where technology is studied for fun and academics, Negroponte is certainly qualified to discuss such things. He does so comfortably and simply, explaining digital technology in a concise and entertaining manner. The format is precise, the prose is easy-to-read. This is a man one could truly envision enjoying a cup of microwaved coffee with.
Negroponte explains technological history and its implications on society in basic terms that any literate luddite could process. The premise is based in a clever analogy: Atoms (the real, tangible items we see, touch, use each day) vs. Bits (it's the packets of information stupid!). Atoms are the tangible stuff that comprise everything physical; bottled water, books, computers. Bits are the invisibly-invisible minute pieces of information upon which much of modern society relies; credit as we swipe our bankcard at the grocery; on-demand instant information via the web; e-mail rather than antiquated parchment air-mail letters.
Understanding the digital phenomenon is easy with Negroponte. The chapters are almost flashcard/sound bite like. A brief introduction is followed by sub-sections that explain the technical stuff and offer familiar real-life comparisons. The chapter on bandwidth (that same bandwidth everyone seems to be bent on increasing these days) gives an account of what bandwidth means; its potential (more TV channels fer g'dsake!), and its complications (if government rations out bandwidth to a few big-media conglomerates, public access will be restricted and we'll have to pay more for those channels). Negroponte also discusses some failures in the digital age, HDTV for one. His thesis? HDTV? Been there, seen it, done it, forget it! Give me Digital-it's clearer, faster, and it's interactive.
The book is filled with visceral descriptions that relate technology to real life. Examples such as driving 160 KMP per hour are compared to faxing at 1.2 mbps (millions of bits per second). This is how fast we can and should want to be transferring those bits back and forth to each other.
Negroponte foresees potential benefits for citizens of a digital society. In the on-demand digitized marketplace, customers are still real people but their merchants become the computer. Thus, each of us has the potential to request what we want, (a TV program or an airline ticket) when we want it, where we want it, and at the price we want to pay. Think pay-per-view and priceline.com.
We will also have the capability of becoming more intelligent and time proficient thanks to pc browsers capable of knowing what we want on screen-even before we demand it. One need only look at the recent ads for etour.com, "surf without searching." (You register, get profiled, and are instantly delivered websites matching your interests).
However, some criticized Negroponte as being too optimistic. Technology that can recognize our eyeprint? Who cares? And then there's the popular fear of Internet addiction and the thought that all this info-on-demand will create generations of solitary, mouse-clicking, chip-crunching moles. Negroponte believes rather than become isolated, technology and computers connect us to cultures, people and ideas previously inaccessible to the average person--even if we have been sitting alone at the computer screen for three days running.
Some of Negroponte's scenarios may have seemed fantastical in 1995, but we truly have come to see many of his visions as day-to-day reality-cars with satellite navigation systems, recordable CDs, `intelligent interfacers' (our personalized browsers). Rather than go west young man, we should be cheering Be Digital! Thanks to Negroponte, we know why.
Or should I say "Negroponte rules!"
For those who don't know who he is, we're talking about the man who has spearheaded the efforts to make out of MIT's Media Lab one of the state-of-the-art technology workshops of the world. What those guys are working there is what you and I might own or work with (as a gadget, for instance) in a few years, depending on your wlak of life. These guys are light-years ahead of us. And Negroponte is even ahead of them!
If you were a follower of Negroponte's last-page articles in Wired magazine for several years, you might not find the book all that new, but even then, you will have to acknowledge that he has a unique and very intuitive way to explain digital technology to people who are not tech savvy. He reminds me at times of Nobel-prize winner Richard Feynman in that sense.
Anyway... Think of this book, whether you are a techie or not, as a statement written five years ago about what's to come. Some of the things he refers to in the book have already occurred, which makes it even more exciting: it means that he's right, and those things that have yet to come will definitely be part of our lives sooner that we can maybe imagine.
Buy it and you will devour it in a day, I predict!
Still digital after all these years
As old as this book is (35, in internet years), it is still visionary. Lucid, interesting, lively reading. Conversational. I'm not in an e-commerce company but I want to understand something of the changes ahead as we move to an information-based economy. If that's you, too, read this book, along with Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web; then read Evans and Wurster's Blown to Bits and (maybe) Kelly's New Rules for the New Economy, and you will have a bunch of new ideas, I promise.
I wish I'd read this book when it first came out.
Being Digital in Digital Planet
IMAGINE that in a bright morning you read a digital newspaper which was specially "printed" for you. Supported by a telepresence tool, your digital form can be present at some places at the same time -- without getting effort at all from your house. Mostly of your job will take over by smart-digital-interface tools. You are living in digital life.
I read this book for the first time in 1996, when I was in Tokyo, Japan. Negroponte, to some extend, can be said as the Father of Digital Revolution. He reveals the mistery of multimedia, virtual reality, band-width and Internet.
Nearly 10 years later, now, I still enjoy to read this book. This is a fascinating book. Indeed, this is a must read book for those who want to know how digital tools can change our life in our new planet: digital planet.
Please find what method exactly offered by Negroponte to be "digital people"?