Peter Lunenfeld, The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine

The MIT Press

The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262015479, 219 pages, 2011, English
What kind of medium the computer can be, it is not yet a solved question. Once networked and being able to produce and transmit most of the cultural content we consume, the computer was defined as a “convergent medium”, including all previous media in digital form. But now mobile and more miniaturized properties are expanding its scope. Peter Lunenfeld, a reference point for analyzing structural aspects of digital aesthetics and function, is also skillful at creating influential concepts. And this book is full of such things. The main dualism of downloading (=passive consumption) and uploading (=active production) forms the thrust of the book. Lunenfeld theory is articulated around the act of dismissing the paradigm of TV, as a cause of our addiction to media (as industrial synthetic sugar is to our brain), instead embracing an open and free production, different from the “continuous partial production” of (also addicted) “prosumers” on social networks. The argument may not seem new, but it is contextualized with timely historical examples (compiled in some sidebar sections) in a compelling scenario. So, after an excellent definition of “cultural diabetes” at the beginning, the reader enters a series of different paths/chapters, which decode the computer as a “cultural machine” and its social strategies, outlining a different possible future: here people embrace their responsibility for producing and taking care of their online content, finally being aware of the medium they constantly deal with.