I'm asking questions about the way we use technology and reading what others have written about the philosophy and politics of technology. I'm not sure whether I am on my way to a book. A book is a journey. You might not know exactly how it will begin and how it will end and precisely how you will get from the first to last page, but the territory has to be somewhat constrained before you know you are writing a book. What I am doing feels more like an odyssey. Part of it, as I've been presenting for a few months, is memoir. Part is exploration. On an odyssey, you pay attention to the next move more than anything else. So I'm down to writing this a paragraph at a time, directly in BBEDIT.
Here's one leg of the odyssey: I spent the first week of June in Lancaster County, PA, where tens of thousands of people still travel via horse and buggy, light their homes with kerosene lanterns, and the telephone is in a booth out in the pasture. I was interested in how Old Order Amish make their rules about tools.
In retrospect, my career over the last fifteen years has been an unplanned corriculum in self-taught technology criticism -- from the Institute of Noetic Sciences to Xerox PARC to Whole Earth to Wired, from Tools for Thought to Virtual Reality to The Virtual Community, to first-hand participation in the creation, rise, and fall of an Internet startup, to direct work in civic community-building. As I tell my story as an observer of and participant in the digital revolution of the 1980s and 1990s, I want to share with you some of what I've learned from reading and meeting people, from getting my hands dirty (and burned) in pursuit of a few simple questions about technology: Where are we going? Do we want to go there? Is there anything we can do about it?