Information & Culture: New Book Reviews

Making IT Work: A History of the Computer Services Industry by Jeffrey R. Yost
Reviewed by Sarah A. Bell

The computer services industry has worldwide annual revenues of nearly a trillion dollars and employs millions of workers, but is often overshadowed by the hardware and software products industries. In this book, Jeffrey Yost shows how computer services, from consulting and programming to data analytics and cloud computing, have played a crucial role in shaping information technology—in making IT work… (MIT Press)

Weaving the Dark Web: Legitimacy on Freenet, Tor, and I2P, by Robert Gehl
Reviewed by Elinor Carmi

The term “Dark Web” conjures up drug markets, unregulated gun sales, stolen credit cards. But, as Robert Gehl points out in Weaving the Dark Web, for each of these illegitimate uses, there are other, legitimate ones: the New York Times‘s anonymous whistleblowing system, for example, and the use of encryption by political dissidents. Defining the Dark Web straightforwardly as websites that can be accessed only with special routing software, and noting the frequent use of “legitimate” and its variations by users, journalists, and law enforcement to describe Dark Web practices (judging them “legit” or “sh!t”), Gehl uses the concept of legitimacy as a window into the Dark Web. He does so by examining the history of three Dark Web systems: Freenet, Tor, and I2P… (MIT Press)

My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File by Katherine Verdery
Reviewed by Kalpana Shankar

As Katherine Verdery observes, “There’s nothing like reading your secret police file to make you wonder who you really are.” In 1973 Verdery began her doctoral fieldwork in the Transylvanian region of Romania, ruled at the time by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. She returned several times over the next twenty-five years, during which time the secret police—the Securitate—compiled a massive surveillance file on her. Reading through its 2,781 pages, she learned that she was “actually” a spy, a CIA agent, a Hungarian agitator, and a friend of dissidents: in short, an enemy of Romania. (Duke University Press)

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