All Zeit, No Geist?


Kitten Clone by Douglas Coupland (Random House) takes a look at Alcatel-Lucent, the company that developed the internet we know and love today, in a beautifully designed book that asks what our Internet-saturated future might look like. Alcatel-Lucent builds and maintains the fibre-optic cable networks that provide the foundation of the internet; they also operate research facilities and employ patent-generating computer scientists. Coupland gives us a series of snapshots of everyday life at the company, which show how the people who work there strive to connect us all. It’s a humanizing portrait of a corporation, and a layperson-friendly crash course on the mechanics of the internet. The book’s structure is based on visits Coupland made to Alcatel-Lucent branches in New Jersey, Paris and Shanghai, which frame the company’s development from past to future. Images of dim cubicles, skeins of wires and vacant office space replace our vision of a smooth, silver network-connected future, with an unglamorous mess of cables and cutbacks. Coupland focuses on how the internet has begun to shape us, rather than the other way around. No book on this subject would be complete without cat photos, and Kitten Clone delivers, with a series of anecdotes about the human desire to share images of their cats throughout time, which has led us to the ultimate cat-sharing network. Coupland fears that “the zeitgeist of the twenty-first century is that we have a lot of zeit but not much geist”; but only the internet can tell what the future has in store.

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Kelsea O’Connor is contributing editor to Geist. She lives in New Westminster.


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