Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

Reading E-Text; and Reacting to the Idea of Cyborgs

Lora Schwartz

My first reaction is that electronic reading is a slow way to read a book since I am reading it off campus over the telephone lines. But the text pages with no pictures come fairly fast so I'm not too annoyed. I read very differently on the computer. I read a lot faster since I can scroll down quickly. It is easier for me to scan paragraphs and get the gist of it without really reading every word. Is this cheating? I feel this self imposed pressure to click to the next thing. I want to be active instead of just reading. Even with this new reading style, I rememer the words a lot more because I can remember a page visually, as I would a picture, and then recall what various parts of the page said.

City of Bits discusses many technical questions I've had for a long time. I have wondered what is the net? where is it? how is identity maintained. The cyber world has been explained to me like one tells a child a fairytale; there is a reverence for a magical, beautiful world. City of Bits makes with world seem like a fact of life and not at all remote.

I'm not sure how to react to the idea of cyborgs. If cyborgs are half machine - half human, than I don't think where clothes and eyeglasses makes that definition. Certainly my dependence/interaction on machines is not half of me. Thinking that we will take on more and more electronic devices that are woven in our clothes and implanted in our skin does come closer to making cyborgs. But, I can't picture humans becomeing "half" machine because I don't see machines as part of an individuals identity. I like that mitchell has a sense of humor about it. "It's eleven o'clock, Smarty Pants; do you know where your network extensions are tonight?" is pretty funny considering he is suggesting that there literally will be smart pants.

It seems that in every section, Mitchell repeats the fact that the net allows for transactions that don't take place in physical space but in amorphous boundaries of the net. Business politics or body politics; it always is pointed out that what happens is not physical but it does have real consequences. I think that accepting the lack of physical reality is fairly simple. The task is figuring what effect is there from cyberspace on reality. Or, more personally, on *my* reality...