BOOK REVIEW

Ars Electronica: Facing the Future, edited by Timothy Druckrey, ISBN 0262041766

As all that is e becomes more mainstream and enters common discourse and business practice, there is a tendency towards an uncritical acceptance of the current position, historical development and future status of cyberspace.

Throughout the mainstreaming of new media there have been writers and artists who raised questions. This collection of papers from the Ars Electronica Festival provides a 20-year-long snapshot of some of those concerns.

Names such as Bruce Sterling, Marvin Minsky, Richard Dawkins and Paul Virilio will be familiar to many and their themes of surveillance, virtual reality psychology and mind viruses may have been well-rehearsed, but something happens when they come together in a collection like this.

We may have integrated email into our lives and firms, and virtual dealing rooms and video-conferencing may be a given, but when you enter the minds of thinkers such as these, technologies and media become strange again.

This is important not only from a political and cultural point of view (the aim of Ars Electronica), but also from a business perspective. It is only when we know exactly what we are dealing with that we can fully exploit its potential.

We may be looking for ways to fully integrate digital media and technology into our business practices but, as the best of these papers makes clear, that business is also a culture. The cultural location and impact of new technologies as they have developed during the past 20 years is a complex and powerful one.

This is not a book to read cover-to-cover, it is one to dip into and let it raise the sort of questions that might enable a more creative and fundamental engagement with the new technologies.