Untangling The Web

Review: Book

Untangling the Web, Aleks Krotoski 2013

If you are reading this then you are on the web. After more than twenty years of being on the web it’s timely to benchmark what is happening?

In her book, Aleks takes us through some of the questions such as just how much have we changed because of the world-wide web, Facebook, twitter and google and all internet thingys.

Do not expect her to supply you with all the answers as the internet is very much a work in progress.


For instance she checks out Google’s subjective mission “to organise the world’s knowledge and make it universally accessible and useful”.  Yep, they organise it for you and me.

One piece of the evidence is the study she quotes whereby a group was asked to identify the odd one out of several drawn lines. Just one person in the group was not in on the game. All the others indicated the wrong answer and in most cases the lone voice would end up agreeing. It’s all about crowd behaviour. In many ways the internet can also be about crowd behaviour. All that and more Aleks takes you through. Much food for thought.

Recently I have witnessed several instances of crowd behaviour. It is amazing when so many otherwise sensible people get caught up and feel the need to agree with false prophets. Aleks mentions this several times and includes that 1841 quote from Charles Mackay when he expresses concerns for the ‘madness of crowds’.

So I remain convinced about the foolishness of online social media traps such as Facebook. Google remains a tool of choice but I use it knowing how much it is limited. I

n the end I think Aleks is saying that we use the internet but it is a reflection, maybe in many cases an exaggeration, of our behaviour offline. This I would accept having seen recently an instance whereby a group when opened up to an online forum, the leaders jumped in and abused anyone and everyone and bullied anyone they disagreed with. It was indeed a forum for their real behaviour. It was happening online for all to see but they could not see the harm in that. Says it all. But I digress!

The book is a good read. It is timely as a benchmark as we wonder where this is all going and how much control are we giving over, and to whom?

Very much a work in progress.

Aleks’ own web site – useful contributions to the ongoing debates over the internet.

Recommended: 8/10


here’s the online summary as supplied by the Guardian

The World Wide Web is the most revolutionary innovation of our time. In the last decade, it has utterly transformed our lives. But what real effects is it having on our social world? What does it mean to be a modern family when dinner table conversations take place over smartphones?

What happens to privacy when we readily share our personal lives with friends and corporations? Are our Facebook updates and Twitterings inspiring revolution or are they just a symptom of our global narcissism? What counts as celebrity, when everyone can have a following or be a paparazzo? And what happens to relationships when love, sex and hate can be mediated by a computer?

Social psychologist Aleks Krotoski has spent a decade untangling the effects of the Web on how we work, live and play. In this groundbreaking book, she uncovers how much humanity has – and hasn’t – changed because of our increasingly co-dependent relationship with the computer.

In Untangling the Web, she tells the story of how the network became woven in our lives, and what it means to be alive in the age of the Internet.


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