The Philosopher of Palo Alto

(University of Chicago Press 2023)

Book Cover for Philosopher of Palo Alto

A compelling biography of Mark Weiser, a pioneering innovator whose legacy looms over the tech industry’s quest to connect everything—and who hoped for something better.

Selected Reviews & Praise:

"Weiser’s pioneering ideas, which he refined in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, led to the present-day Internet of Things, but his vision lost out to the surveillance-capitalist imperatives of Big Tech. Tinnell’s profound biography evokes an alternative paradigm, in which technology companies did not seek to monitor and exploit users."
New Yorker

"The story of Weiser’s undertaking is told by John Tinnell, a professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver, in his new biography The Philosopher of Palo Alto, and it’s refreshingly strange. . . . Tinnell presents Weiser both as a progenitor of this state of affairs—his PARC was where 'the seeds for the Internet of Things had been sown'—and as the prophet of an alternative paradigm that might 'hold some conceptual tenets for building a better Internet of Things today,' one that rejects 'total surveillance and zero privacy, runaway automation, and diminished agency.'”
New York Review of Books

"In the life of Mark Weiser, John Tinnell has found a morality tale for our times. For anyone looking to understand how technology is shaping society today, The Philosopher of Palo Alto is a compelling and necessary read."  — Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

Recent Takes on Tech + Culture

"AI can now go anywhere we wish to take it. Is that a good thing?"

We have been gauging the value of ChatGPT largely by its capacity to yield correct answers, compose good sentences and mimic human skills. Much less attention is paid to how ushering these chatbots into work and life stands to flatten the texture of experience. This becomes a more urgent consideration as mobile AI apps roll out.

Read full op-ed @ San Francisco Chronicle

Talking about AI on ABC7 News

An interview I did in August 2023 about AI apps and the origins of mobile AI discussed in my book, The Philosopher of Palo Alto.

Watch full Interview @ ABC7 News

Previous Book


     Actionable Media  (Oxford, 2018)

  • Offers a timely look at the intellectual history and cultural impact of ubiquitous computing
  • Puts forward a new theory for understanding digital practices that incorporate our immediate surroundings
  • Features wide-ranging case analyses of media projects by leading artists, designers, and scientists