Cyburbia

Once there was no text messaging. No email and no social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. The way we live has apparently been transformed by new ways of communicating. But where did these trends start? And if they can change our behaviour, can they also change the way we think?
Cyburbia is the biography of an influential but little noticed idea called cybernetics. In it I describe how the architecture of our digital lives was built over seventy years. It’s a story which encompasses the work of crackpots, inventors and visionaries, and shows how a concept that began with the need to shoot down German bombers has evolved to govern almost everything – from our lives online to films like Memento and 21 Grams, from plays and TV shows like The Wire to military strategy. It’s an ambitious book: the aim to to completely re-interpret internet culture, and to change forever the way you think about everything you do.

Reviews:

"Just what the doctor ordered for a world in thrall to the online revolution: a bracing, sharp-eyed examination of how technology and the ideas that drive it are reshaping every corner of our culture. A fresh, sane and fascinating look at how we are changing – for good and ill - in the age of the Net." - Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slow and Under Pressure

"James Harkin's elegant re-framing of our internet culture ... Harkin makes a convincing case." — Pat Kane, The Independent (UK)

"We are morbidly afraid of disconnection. It is, Harkin argues persuasively, both a wonderful and a sinister new stage in the evolution of human society." — Rafael Behr, The Observer

“Entertaining, engaging and well-argued…. Cyburbia is just the sort of corrective to the blind techno-optimism of the networked world that we need if we’re to make sensible choices about our digital tomorrows.” — Bill Thompson, BBC Focus Magazine “Lively and enjoyable.” — The Financial Times

“[Harkin’s] roll call of the eccentric and little-known pioneers of the computer revolution is fascinating.” — The Scotsman

“Harkin is a fine guide to the alleys and dark spaces of Cyburbia.” — Kenan Malik, The Sunday Telegraph

“Cyburbia is a persuasive book, and a brave step in thinking about the mess we may have all got ourselves into.” — Nicholas Blincoe, The Daily Telegraph

“Harkin is no Luddite, and his discussion of these issues is as sophisticated as it gets…. [M]any of Harkin’s analyses are fascinating, such as what he calls cyber-realism — non-linear storytelling that exploits cybernetics principles, exemplified by the movie 21 Grams…. For sure, we all need to manage how we manage our time and make sure we have balance in our lives, cherishing face-to-face engagement with those for whom we truly care. And it’s good for all of us to reflect on how to design our lives to ensure that the digital experience is enriching. As such the book is a useful reminder. If you buy it, try switching off Twitter and Facebook and read it from the beginning to the end, as I did. It’s a good narrative.” — Don Tapscott, The Globe and Mail, Canada

“A fine book…. Harkin’s indictment of how we have come to misuse the Internet is both persuasive and deeply disturbing…. You need to start reading books again. My advice is that you start with James Harkin’s Lost in Cyburbia.” — National Post, Canada

“[A]n entertaining, sceptically intelligent analysis of the history of the Internet revolution that steps back from the breathless boosterism of the dotcom decade to examine the novel, often unintended consequences of a network culture that is now a living reality, rather than the stuff of techno-prophecy.” — Art Review

“Fascinating and slightly disturbing.” — Waterstone’s Books Quarterly

"A good value guide through Cyburbia's highways and byways." — Management Today

"A useful primer on the origins of cybernetics…a fruitful way of understanding how we operate as nodes within systems of constant messaging, whether at work at our desks or at play in places such as Facebook and Twitter." — The Irish Times

What a fascinating book… If you are a curious individual interested in this exploding medium and its future, this book is a must. It is informative, fun, and illuminating. Buy it. 10/10" — The New Zealand Herald

"Concisely translating complex theories into everyday language, this book is a timely warning to those who pay too much credence to email and the net" — MX (Brisbane)

"In the seventeenth century the way humans conceived of the world was radically transformed by the new mechanical philosophy that used the machine as a metaphor. In this truly fascinating book James Harkin shows how our consciousness is being reshaped again by a new metaphor - the cyberworld of the computer. Humans thought they were creating a new world with computers, but Harkin argues that computers have created a new human. It's a mind-altering read." — Clive Hamilton, author of SCORCHER and AFFLUENZA

"Fascinating ... essential reading for anyone who needs to understand how communication between people is being impacted by technology, and how that technology is completely changing the way we live. In other words, this book is a must-read for everyone. It will change the way you look at society, your business and even your own life." — Peter Sheahan, author of GENERATION Y and FLIP!

"A compelling read" — Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur, Barnes and Noble Review.

"Brilliantly traces the history of contemporary culture built around IT...a tour de force" — Dalton Conley, Professor and Dean for The Social Sciences, New York University, and author of Elsewhere, USA.