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24 Hours in Cyberspace: Paintings on the Walls of the Digital Cave

by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt

Some 10 years ago, Rick Smolan’s name appeared on coffee tables everywhere when he launched the Day in the Life series of photography books. Smolan’s latest installment, 24 Hours in Cyberspace, is as ambitious an endeavour as he’s ever embarked on: a massive project to document a single day in the life of the Internet. With photographers from all over the planet clicking shutter and mouse, Smolan’s team at “Mission Control” received some 200,000 digital images via the Net and posted a selection of them to the Web during one frantic all-nighter in February 1996.
24 Hours in Cyberspace assembles the best of the images received on that day. The production quality is outstanding, pairing sharp images with smart captions without the clichés that pollute most writing on the Internet. What emerges from this book is the good, the bad, and the ugly world of the Net. We meet Aul Pedajas, a 32-year-old Estonian man with a brilliant mind and a withered body who reached to cyberspace for help; Toronto-based Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who uses the Web to propagate his nonsense; and a San Francisco sadomasochist who met her partner through a newsgroup and has since pledged eternal servitude to him.
Ironically, considering the nature of the project, the accompanying CD-ROM is a flop compared to the book. It’s a nightmare to install and contains little that isn’t available on the Internet. Put the book prominently on the coffee table and use the disc as a coaster.