Book Review: Rising Technomass, by Jose Fuentes and Satyananda Gabriel

I recently finished reading, or should I say, viewing, “Rising Technomass” by Jose Fuentes and Satyananda Gabriel.

Prolonged Personal History

I’ve been meaning to read this since 2010, after being introduced to it by the authors themselves. Professor Satya Gabriel taught an Economics of Cyberspace class that is a top contender for one of my favorite college class, and Jose was the TA. They were working on this book the same semester I took the class — but I somehow lost track of it (I have several, disparate book lists all over the place that I want to centralize!).

Almost 5 years since this book was published, I got my hands on it, and sat with it on my couch.

It was very sunny when I began. Rays of sunshine dappled my couch, filtering through the slats of the window blinds. Ready?

Rating

Awesome! I would rate it 9/10.

My Impressions

The book talks about the ‘rising technomass’, i.e. the group of people using internet to publish their points of view, as well as ‘hackers’/programmers who publish the technology itself which allows the masses to publish their points of view. The ‘masses’ here, or the ‘technomass’ is a proxy for millions of people like you and me, who would have been hard-pressed to have access to platforms to publish content, and thereby contribute to culture itself, as recently as a few decades ago.

The language in the prose portions of the book are academic, and laden with meaning, so it takes a few re-reads to fully get through some of the sentences. For example, “Although multiculturalism has received a great deal of attention in countries as diverse as the United States and Canada, France, China, Malaysia, and Brazil, the conditions for abandoning the idea of the alien and often hated Other and for abandoning racist points of view (since the concept of race is based on a genetic fiction) are quite clearly not yet present.” on page 2 of my version.

Let me break that down–

  • Although multiculturalism
    • has received a great deal of attention
      • in countries as diverse as
        • the United States and Canada, France, China, Malaysia, and Brazil,
          • the conditions for abandoning the idea
            • of the alien
              • and often hated
                • Other
          • and for abandoning
            • racist points of view
              • (since the concept of race
                • is based on a genetic fiction)
          • are quite clearly
            • not yet present.

Yeah yeah that breakdown is not perfect but whatevs you catch my drift — it’s a complicated sentence, which took me a couple of passes to understand each clause and piece it into a full understanding of that whole sentence.

The prose in this book is full of sentences like this. It takes a while to piece together an understanding of the sentence, and in turn, the paragraph, and the chapter.

But the thing is, this stuff is so rich that once you get it, you’re like woah. My feeling is that this book tells the truth, and a truth I wasn’t accustomed to hearing–about the democratization of culture, which means, instead of watching TV in the 1950s and not being able to review the shows, news, content you were watching and calling ‘culture’, we who now use internet to not only consume, but critique and produce content, which is really akin to producing culture in the hyperconnected societies in which many of us live.

(Was that like a complete sentence I just wrote or what?)

The prose covers some of the threats to this increasing power of the technomass, such as the threats to net neutrality.

Cool!! So basically we all have all these powers now that we never would’ve had in the 1950s and prior. The voice of a single rando non-elite individual (case in point, all these twitter storm-starters) is able to be magnified many times over, and reach so many more people. But our powers could be taken away if we don’t have net neutrality and some other stuff.

I had actual shivers run up and down my arms when I was reading this book, thinking about how powerful I now was, because internets, lol. I’m like so smart because I have access to all this information that I never would’ve had a few years ago, and so are you!! Yess! Our humanity is changing to be super-smart humanity. We’re like the rat king but made of humans and tied together by the wires of our computers/the internet, instead of tails. And not causing so much of the plague I would hope.

sorry i just had to

There are non-prose portions of this book that are more visual art, in the style of collages with words superimposed on them. Which is pretty cool too. And the whole thing is able to be remixed, meaning that you don’t have to worry about getting in trouble for using this content and changing it into your own thing if you want. This is the type of Creative Commons license the authors have used for this book, if you’re interested in digging into that. This very much is consistent with what the authors maintain in the book, which is that technology that is used to create content, as well as much of content itself, should be able to be remixed by any free agent in the rising technomass, in order to create exponential innovation and maybe even save us from disasters like the effects of human-caused environmental degradations.

Likes/Dislikes

I guess everything I said above are “likes” and I don’t have many dislikes. It gets a 9/10 and not a full 10/10 rating, because I think this type of content is meant for readers who already sort of understand terms like ‘political economy‘ and ‘black box computing‘, which would make it hard to understand and even inaccessible to folks who haven’t yet learned about these buzzwords that are typically used in academic circles and/or amongst techies. However, since the content of the book is remixable, I can create a Simple English version of the whole thing if I wanted, to make it more broadly accessible. So that’s pretty sweet!

Conclusion

Read this book if you want, y’all! 😀

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