The Internet Is a Crime Against Humanity

Joshua Judd Porter in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Talking sponges, spelling snails, dogs whose howls can be triggered from 1,000 miles away — these are but a few of the many historical examples upon which Justin E. H. Smith draws to illustrate the persistence of the telecommunicative imaginary throughout human history. Working in the same vein of scholarship as Ian Hacking’s “historical ontology,” Smith presents a view of technology in his new book, The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning, that is the exact antithesis of much fashionable continental theorizing. Unlike a Kittler or Virilio — who see the technological object as forming the human subject who comes in contact with it, teaching him or her how to use it, its operation and value not explicitly designed but latent within its form, waiting to be discovered — Smith sees technology as a prosthesis, designed to meet stable desires: “[N]otwithstanding the enormous changes in the size, speed, and organization of the devices we use from one decade or century to the next, what these devices are, and how they shape our world, has been substantially the same throughout the course of human history.” In Smith’s view, the technological object is not “a discursive product forever trapped within the confines of a single epoch’s epistēmē,” but rather a continued striving toward what he presents as the dominant end of human technological innovation: the facilitation of communication.

More here.