Cover image for The anarchist in the library : how the clash between freedom and control is hacking the real world and crashing the system
The anarchist in the library : how the clash between freedom and control is hacking the real world and crashing the system
Vaidhyanathan, Siva.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
xvii, 253 pages ; 25 cm
Public noises -- The ideology of peer-to-peer -- Hacking the currency : cybercynicism and cyberanarchy -- The peer-to-peer revolution and the future of music -- A work in progress or the final edit? -- Imagineering : to control the culture is to control the future -- Culture as anarchy -- The perfect library -- The anarchy and oligarchy of science and math -- The nation state vs. networks -- The empire strikes back -- Conclusion : the heartbreak of oligarchy and anarchy.
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
T58.5 .V35 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From Napster to Total Information Awareness to flash mobs, the debate over information technology in our lives has revolved around a single question: How closely do we want cyberspace to resemble the real world? Siva Vaidhyanathan enters this debate with a seminal insight: While we've been busy debating how to make cyberspace imitate the world, the world has been busy imitating cyberspace. More and more of our social, political, and religious activities are modeling themselves after the World Wide Web.Vaidhyanathan tells us the key information structure of our time, and the key import from cyberspace into the world, is the "peer-to-peer network." Peer-to-peer networks have always existed--but with the rise of electronic communication, they are suddenly coming into their own. And they are drawing the outlines of a battle for information that will determine much of the culture and politics of our century, affecting everything from society to terrorism, from religion to the latest social fads. The Anarchist in the Library is a radically original look at how this battle defines one of the major fault lines of twenty-first-century civilization.

Author Notes

Siva Vaidhyanathan is currently director of the undergraduate program in communication studies in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This relatively brief book tackles an expansive topic: Internet technology and its effect on our social, political and cultural future. For cultural historian and media scholar Vaidhyanathan (Copyrights and Copywrongs), the digital revolution is about far more than downloading music. Weaving an array of historical examples with prescient analysis, Vaidhyanathan takes the Internet battles common to most readers today e.g., the well-publicized efforts of the recording industry to stop file-sharing; the practices of those who share music online to craft a treatise on how technology highlights the eternal cultural struggle between "oligarchy and anarchy." He discusses the evolution of copyright law in the digital realm, and looks provocatively at the political contributions of such technology and the evolution of nation-states in the digital world, at times painting a truly Orwellian vision of how our future might turn out. For example, digital networks now erase borders for commercial gain as well as for piracy, and at the same time such networks, as illustrated by the war on terror, are elusive and ungovernable. Where, how and on what principles do we draw the lines? Vaidhyanathan refrains from offering any quick-fix solutions, instead arguing that the friction between anarchy and the desire for control now highlighted by technology is an essential element in the creation of culture. Vaidhyanathan is a brilliant thinker and an energetic writer. But the sweeping scope of this book, and its vague, theoretical and at times academic slant may leave readers more confused then enlightened. Then again, welcome to the digital world. Agent, Sam Stoloff. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

According to Vaidhyanathan, contemporary culture wars are being fought out by two groups of electronic communicators: anarchists and oligarchs. The anarchists are hackers and members of peer-to-peer networks, who engage in pirating music and video from the oligarchs, the global recording companies and film studios. The author contends that the anarchists aspire to democratize culture by making it more freely available to larger audiences. The oligarchs, on the other hand, perversely following in the tradition of Matthew Arnold, seek to restrict it to elite groups (i.e., those who can pay for it). In their arsenal, the oligarchs brandish copyright law, which Vaidhyanathan finds increasingly oppressive to artistic and scientific/mathematical creativity, and various technological sleights of hand used to restrict the playing and viewing of copyrighted material. The anarchists are armed with nothing more than their own ingenuity. Until now, that has been more than enough to outwit the oligarchs. Nonetheless, the Recording Industry Association of America has succeeded in shutting down Napster, and the Motion Picture Association of America is currently engaged in a highly publicized campaign to sue video pirates. Intellectual-property-rights advocates may be incensed by this pro-anarchist stance, but Vaidhyanathan eloquently raises awareness of a fundamental crisis in contemporary culture. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. D. M. Gilbert Maine Maritime Academy

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
1 Public Noisesp. 1
2 The Ideology of Peer-to-Peerp. 15
3 Hacking the Currencyp. 25
4 The Peer-to-Peer Revolution and the Future of Musicp. 41
5 A Work in Progress or the Final Edit?p. 65
6 Imagineeringp. 81
7 Culture as Anarchyp. 97
8 The Perfect Libraryp. 115
9 The Anarchy and Oligarchy of Science and Mathp. 131
10 The Nation-State Versus Networksp. 151
11 The Empire Strikes Backp. 167
12 Conclusion: The Heartbreak of Oligarchy and Anarchyp. 185
Acknowledgmentsp. 193
Notesp. 197
Bibliographyp. 221
Indexp. 245