Since I went on a long jag about Ender's Game recently and how it's poisoning our civilization, I figure I should tip the cap to one positive aspect of that (yes) enjoyable novel: its prescient, thrilling depiction of a proto-Internet.
But then it turns out I already wrote about this a little bit, in 2003 (can't find the link now, sorry):
Ender's Game is the first blogging novel.
[...] Card's novel shows a remarkably forward-thinking perspective on how a many-to-many Internet would (no, will) work. It could certainly be argued that it's really a Usenet novel, but the Usenet doesn't allow for the same consistency and portability of identity as blogs do: on Usenet, you're just your email address and your words, but blogs enable a kind of 'branding' that's closer in spirit to Card's 'Locke' and 'Demosthenes' online handles. The crafting of identities is an important part of the move from online chat to political power in Card's universe: readers accord stature to the Wiggin siblings because they don't just have opinions, they have positions.
The emphasis on a 'many-to-many' Internet is important: the Web c.Y2K was a largely one-to-many broadcast medium for most users, enabling a certain amount of small-audience communication but with many-to-many business happening in non-Web fora like Usenet. Now Usenet is nearly dead (or in any case no longer growing) and the homegrown-expertise promise of the Internet is fulfilled through things like blogs and social software (e.g. del.icio.us).
It's easy to forget this part of Card's first novel; the story centers on Ender and his Battle School travails, with Valentine and Peter's political maneuvering restricted to a chapter on the side. (This is the place to say: Ender's meeting with Valentine at the end of the book is beautiful.) But if the book has any social richness it comes from the Wiggin siblings' links to the outside world. Card's depiction of the online power of the anonymous genius is overwrought, a caricature - the blogosphere isn't that kind of meritocracy, it's more like a public high school, plus (as I've mentioned before) goddamn children don't think or speak that way, you lazy hack - but the dream remains the same. William Gibson's vision of the Matrix is more compelling because more stark, but Gibson's depiction of cyberspace was an entirely solitary affair; Neal Stephenson's Metaverse, a kind of giant VRML recreation of the physical universe, nailed the pointless-chat aspects and the programmatic-reality aspects of online spaces (the Metaverse is a graphical MUD), but left a gaping empty space where social or political backstory would be, for narrative-velocity reasons. Chiba City is too empty, the Metaverse too full; the discussion nets in Ender's Game read just right, and the unbelievable part is the characters, as ever.
Anyhow, let's give credit where it's due: between his prototypical online culture and his eerie video game sequences (possibly the truest thing about Ender's Game is its haunting depiction of immersive video gaming as training mechanism, psychological test, and transformational escapism), Card just nailed several aspects of contemporary digital culture, long before it attained its current rich form. We are more than happy to grant that.
Ugh, why do people drink PBR anyhow?