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Having read the last post on Half Empty surrounding the use of list features as a ‘go-to’ solution for lazy bloggers looking to build clicks, I thought it was about time that I wrote one myself. Thankfully I can justify this post as it relates to books, which immediately makes it important and highbrow.
Anyway, being an aggressive technophobe, I thought I’d take this opportunity to put together a list of what I’d consider the best books for making you want to switch off your PC and flush your iPhone down the crapper. Here are my top five:
|5. Alone Together: Alone Together examines the idea that despite being surrounded by communication tools, human beings have grown increasingly isolated from one another. The first half of this two part manifesto considers how we have grown ever more dependent on machines, both to communicate and to care for one another. The second half goes on to examine how – having grown ever more comfortable around machines – we have become ever less comfortable in the company of others.Quote: “Just as we imagine things as people, we invent ways of being with people that turn them into something closer to things”|
|4. Technopoly: In 1985 Neil Postman wrote “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, a critical classic that examined the possibility that television was eating away at all other forms of culture. Following this, Postman wrote Technopoly in an attempt to extend his ideas to the rise of the personal computer. Relying on Marshal McLuhans “medium as message” theory, Postman convincingly argues that by providing us with a window into the world, computers ultimately distort the way we view it.Quote: “The computer redefines humans as information processors and nature itself as information to be processed”|
|3. Data Smog: Written by David Shenk, one of the founders of the technorealist movement, Data Smog questions the universal assumption that greater information leads to greater decision making. As the level of information grows, Shenk argues that we are actually cloaking our own thought processes in a cloud of data smog. This smog of information is choking everything from our political awareness to our mental well being.Quote: “It is our nature to leave no stone unturned. But how can one reconcile this dogged determination with an endless field of stones?”|
|2. The Shallows: Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows considers how internet technologies are changing the physical structure of our brains. Placing particular focus on the shift from printed literature to online publishing, The Shallows examines our shrinking attention spans, failing patience, and general lack of considered thought.Quote: “The Net is making us smarter, only if we define intelligence by the Net’s own standards. If we think about the depth of our thought rather than just its speed – we come to a different and considerably darker conclusion.”|
1. The Filter Bubble: In The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser suggests that by offering personalised web content, companies such as Facebook and Google are ultimately distorting people’s access to information. As a common example, if an oil lobbyist were to search Google for “climate change” he would be more likely to see skeptical articles that reinforce his existing views. Similarly, a student who attended a high quality college may be offered personalised Facebook adverts for a high quality university, while an algorthimically poorer student would receive no such opportunities.
Quote: “We assume search engines are unbiased. But that may be just because they are increasingly biased to share our own views. Your computer monitor is a kind of one way mirror, reflecting your own interests.”