BOOK REVIEW

The Internet and Everyone, by John Chris Jones, published by Ellipsis (ISBN 1899858202)

There are many odd things about The Internet and Everyone. It's almost 600 pages long, but each one is odd – first its A6 size, then in layout, sometimes one column, sometimes two, sometimes both, and then in content. Written by a former professor at the Open University, and author of classic texts on the process of eSign, this little book is as enigmatic, infuriating and tantalising as the internet itself.

As with its subject, the premise is simple but the effect very complex. John Chris Jones' book is a collection of letters written to his publishers as he began to explore a technology that was new to him. But just as the internet is more than the sum of its parts, and its effects are more unpredictable and chaotic than can be pinned down, so Jones' musings spark relationships and connections, open up vistas and create cul-de-sacs in equal measure. His letters and their numerous attachments, digressions, notes and jottings, act like one of those web pages one sometimes discovers that excites, and acts as a springboard to productive research and copious timewasting.

Like the web, the book refuses linear reading. Jones offers a metaphor of different types of readers: the rabbit who selects books and opens pages by chance; the sheep who reads every page from first to last; and the goat who is sceptical and careful, researching the contents and creating a path of their own. Not content with this digression, the author then offers different paths for reading his book, depending on which character the reader identifies with. Whichever path one takes, the reader will find far more than the growing number of "how-I-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-net" confessions.

The letters offer a glimpse of a unique mind that has spent a long time grappling with the nature of design in our contemporary society, coming to terms with a techno-culture, virtual space, communications practice and political-economic business that rips up traditional rulebooks.

You may not agree with everything he identifies. You may not even be able to grasp them, but you may well find, like one of those infuriatingly addictive websites, that you keep coming back to them.