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Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art
By Virginia Heffernan
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
So for what it's worth, I tried very earnestly to be a fan of Virginia Heffernan's Magic and Loss, a new collection of academic essays concerning "what the internet really means." I was attracted to it when first coming across it because her main conceit is that the internet is the largest act of performance art in human history; not the individual parts that make up the internet, which ultimately are nothing special (shooting a video for YouTube is fundamentally the same process as shooting a video for VHS; writing an essay for a blog is fundamentally the same process as writing an essay for a paper magazine), but rather the way these trillion pieces of content come together, the way they influence each other, the way that humans' lives have fundamentally changed through the act of being exposed to these trillion pieces of content all at once.
But books of academic essays are a hit-and-miss proposition for non-academes like me; and for every great, accessible academic writer like Malcolm Gladwell you come across, there seems to be an equal amount of books like this one, essentially 300 pages of high-falutin' masturbation, ten-dollar words, Emily Dickinson references, and endless goddamn callbacks to other academic talks at SXSW and TED. It made me grow weary of this book rather quickly, which will be the reaction of most non-academes to this as well; although if you are a full-time resident of the ivory tower, by all means take a chance on it, because doubtless you'll have a better experience than me.
Out of 10: 6.5, or 8.5 for full-time academes