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Zeros and Ones
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About the Author

Sadie Plant is 33. She received her PhD from the University of Manchester and is the author of The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationalist International in a Postmodern Age. She has been a lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham and Research Fellow at the University of Warwick.

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William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer (1984), calls this book "a brilliant and terrifically sustained cyberfeminist rant." Certainly it is a feminist rant, and it does deal with women's contributions to computing and its mechanical predecessors, weaving and typing. But Plant (The Most Radical Gesture, Routledge, 1992) is arguing on so many levels‘social, philosophical, sexual, etc.‘that it is difficult to grasp her position. It also is not clear whether the book's prodigious use of sf quotes is meant to bolster her argument or provide a lead from which to argue a new position. While the author demonstrates a great deal of energy with her historical, biological, psychological, and sociopolitical asides, her vision of the future is derived from interpretations many of us would either question or not understand. Perhaps she is just too far ahead of her time. For larger women's studies collections.‘Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.

In this vibrant manifesto, Plant (The Most Radical Gesture) weaves a portrait of the influences that women have had on the development of the computer age. Women, their work and their thought have nurtured the growth of computing for a long time, she explains. From the egomaniacal wisdom of Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace, and her involvement with Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine, through the "runaway female circuitry" of human reproduction, this appropriately nonlinear history illuminates both the enormity and the subtlety of female software. Not only were women the first computers, when computers were not machines, says Plant, but their minds arguably work differently from male minds: "women... think about more things, allowing all parts of their brains to rest." What is most remarkable here is that, in her description of the roles women have played in the digital age, Plant demonstrates the "`woven' interconnectedness" (George Londow, quoted by Plant) of digital networks. She asserts, and simultaneously demonstrates, that "no topic is as regular and simple as was once assumed." Plant finds that Darwinism is "a self-reinforcing loop with which orthodox conceptions of evolution have simply been unable to cope." Similarly, the circular, crafted logic of this often brilliant work is a challenge, although readers who embrace it will be well rewarded. (Oct.)

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