Brian's Reviews > Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art

Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
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's review
Sep 08, 2016

liked it

I decided to read this after hearing the author on the Recode Media podcast and reading some of her shorter pieces in the Times over the years. There's a lot to think about in Magic & Loss - I enjoyed the lucid language and often insightful commentary. The homage to the death of the telephone was wonderful, and the quick take on 'science' writing in the mainstream media was funny - but there were also a share of flimsy moments (did she really just try to summarize a billion photographs on Flickr by talking about the style of two users?) I found myself occasionally waiting for more substantive technical discussion (maybe I'm conditioned to expect it in any writing about the internet) but I guess the 'internet is art' premise doesn't leave room for grubby engineering stuff. Unfortunately, the end of the book veered into esoteric academia. It's impressive to see someone versed as equally in obscure Youtube clips as they are in Wittgenstein, but wrapping the book's closing chapters in personal academic history (something about Tweeting to a physics professor?) left me feeling disconnected. I may eventually give this book another try, but next time I'll go for the text (instead of the audiobook) so I can pause and follow up on the many arcane references.

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Quotes Brian Liked

“As any American with children knows, our children have at least one bright, clear reason for being: to furnish subjects for digital photographs that can be corrected, cropped, captioned, organized, categorized, albumized, broadcast, turned into screen savers, and brandished on online social networks.”
Virginia Heffernan, Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet

“Cruise through the gargantuan sites—YouTube, Amazon, Yahoo!—and it’s as though modernism never existed. Twentieth-century print design never existed. European and Japanese design never existed. The Web’s aesthetic might be called late-stage Atlantic City or early-stage Mall of America.”
Virginia Heffernan, Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet

Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 8, 2016 – Shelved
September 8, 2016 – Finished Reading

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