City of Bits

by William J. Mitchell

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Firstly, it is important to note that City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn by William J. Mitchell was published in 1996, so some of the futurist theories found in the book are dated. However, the general ideas or themes in the book—such as the interactions of humans and machines, as well as the interactions of humans with each other within the machine—are very much relevant in the present day.

Beyond the main thesis, which is mentioned in the previous paragraph, Mitchell explores the concept of the internet as a separate civilization. Cyberspace is not only a simulacrum based on the real world—it is an actual world that functions in parallel to the physical universe.

One of the most famous examples of this is the Sims series of games. In the book, Mitchell ponders the difference between a chat room and an actual brick-and-mortar cafe. Is there a difference between the two spaces—despite one being a digital space and the other being physical—if both are designed to host human interaction?

In films such as Inception, the concept of "dream architecture" is presented to the public audience. In City of Bits, Mitchell talks about something similar: the architecture of the cyber city.

Other themes that are explored in the book include how the internet affects human communication and personal interaction. Today, online dating is very common and even has many success stories. However, in the mid-1990s, when the book was published, there was still some skepticism about the benefits of being too immersed in the "world-wide web."

One of the book's predictions that became true in the 2000s regards how the Internet and computer-assisted technologies affected the global economy for the better. The tech boom and the social media age we are in now can be seen as the Industrial Revolution 2.0, which developed new industries, such as video streaming and apps.

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