Simon Biggs on 30 Jun 2000 15:38:56 -0000

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<nettime> review of The Internet and Everyone

Review by Simon Biggs of

The Internet and Everyone
by John Chris Jones
isbn 1 899858 20 2
592 pages
Published 2000 by oooEllipsis

The Internet and Everyone is a book about the Internet. It is also a book
about almost everything else. It is one of those texts that ranges across
subjects, points of view, opinions and events with an eclecticism both
inspiring and frustrating; inspiring in the way the author shows us the
connectedness of thingsŠfrustrating in that we are unable to fully explore
any one element of the writers thoughts. The text makes and breaks
connections between things like a prose poem.

The Internet and Everyone was commissioned by the publishers as long ago as
1995, and much of it first appeared on the web, at the publishers website,
some years ago ( Its journey to print was
clearly a long one.

In many respects this text would be better read online, or at least as an
electronic hypertext. However, it is still the case that the "old media" of
print demands, and is by far the most successful means of achieving,
concentrated and structured reading. John Chris Jones's approach to the
writing of this book was clearly hypertextual. He mentions in the forward
his use of Cagean techniques such as randomising chapter sequences, and he
asks us, the reader, to contemplate what sort of reader we might be and how
we might want to approach this text (linearly, randomly or by structured
navigation). The author observes that "Šthe purpose of writing a book has
now changedŠfor each one now can be writing, and living, the book of
her/his lifeŠ" and sets himself the task of writing just such a
post-Derridean text.

The body of the book is structured as a series of twenty-five letters
written by the author to the publishers. Each letter has one or more
"attachments" (each letter was originally an email) that make up the
primary content, whilst the letters give us an insight into the author's
relationship to the texts and also function to create a deconstructive
distancing relative to the subject matter.

The book as a whole reads somewhat like a diary as the letters give us such
intimate access to the authors thoughts as he goes about his work. The
texts that these letters bind together range across a diverse and often
confusing range of subjects. Stylistically the writing has something of the
Victorian diarist's manner about it, and similarly the content echoes the
"cabinet of curiosities" approach to etymology.

Each of the "attachments" reflect on one of a diverse range of subjects,
such as the ergonomics of interface design, the textuality of email, the
experience of visiting a medical specialist, an interpretation and critique
of a contemporary dance performance and the hermeneutics of a
self-referential web of homepages. In a Kafkaesque sense the connections
between each of these and the many other subjects are clear. For example,
Jones implies a comparative critique between mechanical and electronic
manufacturing processes with the character of the doctors surgery by
placing "attachments" about each in proximity to one another. Jones regards
each as an example of an interface between people and processes and it is
here that what appear to be totally different subjects are found to be the
same. Reading this book we are very aware that we are engaging with a very
particular and singular writer.

In many respects this book is unfinished and unfinishable. As the author
points out, endings are not necessarily appropriate anymore. In the last
section of the text Jones admits he fears he has failed, that it was a
mistake to organise the texts as he has and to bind them together with the
letters to his publishers. He muses that he has abrogated his authorial
responsibility and obligations by choosing this route, where he has had no
need to impose a single coherent structure upon the text.

This might well be, but this reader cannot see that the author had much
choice in the matter. Any attempt to create such a singular text would have
failed in evoking any particular sense of its subject. In the end The
Internet and Everyone reads as a book that had to exist in the form that it

The Internet and Everyone is probably the least needed book, the last book
one would regard as required reading, for understanding its subject - and
yet this book, whilst not essential, manages to suggest the essence of the
net and bring to us a sense of what we are becoming as we adapt to living
with/in this new medium. It is essential reading for anyone who has found
the net become an important part of their life.

Simon Biggs

Simon Biggs
London GB

Professor of Research (Fine Art)
Art and Design Research Centre
School of Cultural Studies
Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield, UK

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