One of the great early claims of cyberculture was that the Net constituted a realm distinct from the "real world," with a life and laws all its own. This book argues strongly to the contrary. Not only is cyberspace an integral part of the real world, Dan Schiller insists, but it exists primarily to serve powerful real-world economic interests--none of which are necessarily aligned with the principles of individual freedom and equal access commonly touted as the Internet's defining values.
In Schiller's reckoning, it was neither Al Gore, the Pentagon bureaucracy, nor a subculture of long-haired hackers that brought digital networks into being. Rather, it was large corporations in the '40s and '50s that were looking to expand operations across national borders. Through big business's economic demand for sophisticated networking tools, and more importantly, through its direct political demands for deregulated digital telecommunications, these corporate interests carved out the technosocial realm we now know as cyberspace. The Internet thus stands as both symptom and fulcrum of the broader trend toward globalization that is the hallmark of the political economy of the late 20th century.
In Schiller's view, that trend is a decidedly bad thing, and he spends much of the book outlining what he sees as its deleterious effects on economic equality, media culture, and higher education. These are unabashedly anticapitalist sentiments, but whether or not you agree with them, Schiller's account of the relationship between corporations and cyberspace demands to be reckoned with. --Julian Dibbell
"In "Digital Capitalism". . . Dan Schiller provides a compelling and sobering view of the democratic potential of the Internet.--Robert McChesney, "Lingua Franca", "Breakthrough Books"