Elaine Nelson's Reviews > The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

The Master Switch by Tim Wu
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's review
Sep 30, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: economics, history, politics, non-fiction, favorites, technology
Read from April 04 to 06, 2011

As with Nothing to Envy, I should have written this review right after reading the book. It was fantastic, and I'd like to read it again. Great history of the "Information Empires" of the 20th and early 21st century, the continuing tension between openness and control. The history of television seemed particularly instructive: there was no early era of openness; instead Sarnoff (RCA/NBC) manipulated everything he could to make sure that it came out under the exact same control as radio at the time. Found myself kinda wishing for some discussion of Facebook in the closing chapters, in which there was a lot of focus on Apple & Google. It seemed to me that Facebook (or its moral equivalents) are the elephant in the room in that discussion. Very highly recommended.
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message 1: by Raina (new)

Raina In college, I wrote a paper on the influence of the rise of radio on popular music. I wish I could remember the content - I'm sure it would relate to this. Maybe I'll dig it out sometime. :)

Elaine Nelson Actually, that reminds me of something I didn't include, something about the effect of the Information Empires on pop culture creating a feedback effect towards more breakups. Only now I can't remember where I was going with that train of thought...something about the end of the Hayes Code with the breakup of the studio system. (Which, holy moley! Talk about private censorship. I knew about about it, since Mom's a movie buff, but was a bit startled by the extent of the rules.)

He does talk in places about the effect of the empires on various aspects of popular culture. Random tidbit: early phone networks were more like group chat, and people in an area would all call the party line and get on the phone to read the newspaper aloud, play music, etc.

message 3: by Raina (new)

Raina And this is why I love reading your reviews. I'd love to read this stuff, but have no time! :) Thanks for writing them up!

message 4: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Robb Wu’s narrative style is impressive. As a film history fan, I knew something of the power the studios had over theaters but Wu really brought that history to life.

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