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Hardcover | $33.00 Short | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780262122498 | 394 pp. | 7 x 9 in | August 2002
Paperback | $19.95 Trade | £13.95 | ISBN: 9780262621809 | 394 pp. | 7 x 9 in | August 2003

Dark Fiber

Tracking Critical Internet Culture


According to media critic Geert Lovink, the Internet is being closed off by corporations and governments intent on creating a business and information environment free of dissent. Calling himself a radical media pragmatist, Lovink envisions an Internet culture that goes beyond the engineering culture that spawned it to bring humanities, user groups, social movements, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), artists, and cultural critics into the core of Internet development.

In Dark Fiber, Lovink combines aesthetic and ethical concerns and issues of navigation and usability without ever losing sight of the cultural and economic agendas of those who control hardware, software, content, design, and delivery. He examines the unwarranted faith of the cyber-libertarians in the ability of market forces to create a decentralized, accessible communication system. He studies the inner dynamics of hackers' groups, Internet activists, and artists, seeking to understand the social laws of online life. Finally, he calls for the injection of political and economic competence into the community of freedom-loving cyber-citizens, to wrest the Internet from corporate and state control.

The topics include the erosion of email, bandwidth for all, the rise and fall of dot-com mania, techno-mysticism, sustainable social networks, the fight for a public Internet time standard, the strategies of Internet activists, mailing list culture, and collaborative text filtering. Stressing the importance of intercultural collaboration, Lovink includes reports from Albania, where NGOs and artists use new media to combat the country's poverty and isolation; from Taiwan, where the September 1999 earthquake highlighted the cultural politics of the Internet; and from Delhi, where a new media center explores free software, public access, and Hindi interfaces.

About the Author

Geert Lovink is an independent media theorist and net critic. He is the founder of nettime mailing lists, a member of Adilkno, and a cofounder of the online community server Digital City.


"... a truly brilliant book by a truly brilliant guy.", Roy Christopher, Frontwheeldrive
"... A unique contribution to the field...not to be missed.", J. Macgregor Wise, Journal of Communication
"... Geert Lovink warns that government and corporations are shutting down the culture of dissent that is the Net’s true value.", Paul Boutin, Wired
"Lovink offers a technologically savvy, theoretically tight, and—-perhaps surprisingly—-easily readable collection of 'net.criticism.'", Tobias C. van Veen, Capital Magazine
"Read Dark Fiber for a real Internet critic's insider's view of the realities and possibilities of network culture.", David Cox, Fine Art Forum


"For over a decade now, Lovink has been one of the most prominent figures in cyberculture and new media worldwide. A new-media theorist, an Internet critic, an activist, an inventor of new innovative forms of net-based discourse, an organizer of ground-breaking events—remarkably, he excels at all these different roles. I think of Lovink as a network of distributed sensors: everywhere at once, he is always the first to notice new changing directions of net culture, the first to name them, and the first to offer sober and illuminating analysis. Now we are fortunate to have his brilliant dispatches from the net front collected in one book. This is a new kind of book from a new type of public intellectual. Think of it as theory on-the-go—or as a set of help files to keep handy as you navigate the present, on- and off-line."
Lev Manovich, Department of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego, author of The Language of New Media
"Geert Lovink taught me how to think critically about technology, and I always turn to him for thoughtful and humane analysis. Too few technology writers have any sense of social and cultural context, and too few technology critics have an appreciation of why people find technologies attractive and how they improve people's lives. I recommend Dark Fiber to those who haven't yet learned to think critically about Internet technology and the culture that has grown up around it, and to those critics who fail to see the real advantages afforded by the Internet."
Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community
"Lovink is our major thinker about the intersections of tactical media, net criticism, and the social design of technology. Dark Fiber is a sterling work of radical pragmitism, the essays within pointing to a better and yes, possible, future for network societies."
Peter Lunenfeld, Media Design Program, Art Center College of Design, author of Snap to Grid: A User's Guide to Digital Arts, Media and Cultures
"Remember the future? Geert Lovink comes not to praise, but to bury, the 'techno mysticism and digital Darwinism' that fogged our vision in the 1990s. The preeminent practitioner of Net criticism (a discourse he co-founded), Lovink combines a no-bullshit street wisdom acquired in his days as a squatter with a bear-trap intellect honed on postmodern theory and endless late-night debates. Geert Lovink is the Linus Torvald of open-source theory—a free-agent thinker cracking the cultural code that cages our minds. Where he leads, I follow."
Mark Dery, author of The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink