Thursday, September 25, 2014


Books on the Internet and Technology



In the last few months, I've spent time thinking about how I approach the gargantuan behemoth of the information, entertainment, and communication source which we collectively call the Internet. It's something which I think a lot of us take for granted, and perhaps we don't give it enough thought and consideration. Some who know me may have noticed that I'm not around on social media anymore, or just not as much. This has been somewhat of an self-experiment, and honestly it doesn't feel like I'm missing out on anything.
So I've been reading. A lot. And these are the different books which collectively gave me a better understanding and the "big picture" of how we as both an individual and as a collective culture use and are used by this new technology. Some of these are new, some are older. Some are really good, some are not as good. This are just a list of what I've absorbed, and whether I think you will get a lot out of it as well.

Onto the books!

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Shallows is part neuroscience, part social science, part history. It gathers a lot of fascinating scientific data and studies surrounding our minds, attention spans, intelligence, and motivation. The conclusion it comes to is easy to see coming (read the subtitle of the book maybe?), and yet it still will have a significant impact. I agreed with the thesis, and it definitely made me approach the problem from a different angle.

As for the book itself, it is a fairly quick read, never slows its pace, and is interesting all the way through. I HIGHLY recommend you find a copy to read, even if you don't think you'll find the subject matter interesting. It'll make for a good conversation in the very least. 

This book is probably the most different from any other on this list. Rather than focusing on the affect the internet has on a person, Morozov documents the affect that the internet has on the people, or entire cultures, or nations even. In the last ten years especially, it's easy to look at significant world events and credit them to the progress of technology. Morozov fights against this idea, and instead argues that the internet might actually be hurting the status of democracy than helping it.

Although it's pretty compelling in places, I think it maybe was a bit too long. He kept repeating his main thesis pretty often, and I think that the lack of differing viewpoints made his views seem a little one-sided. I'd still recommend it if a political-tech book sounds appealing.

Postman, one of the greatest social critics of the twentieth century, is more well known for another book on this list. This book is a history of how the progress of technology has been reflected in the culture's attraction and usage of said technology. There isn't much to say about this - just go read it. It's actually a good preface to any of the other books here. It's a quick read and you will enjoy it.

Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers

This is one I was recommended to by none other than the internet. IRONY HAHA!!
But I found the title funny, liked the subject matter, and thought it would be a good addition to this library. It had a good introduction, and his main point was solid. Powers basically says that he's found a better life by using the internet sparingly, only as a tool, and not relying on it for everything.

Except... that it really isn't that good of a book. It reads like a blog post that went on for 250 pages. I really almost didn't finish it due to the repetitive middle section. I'd say instead, go read The Shallows and form your own opinion of how you should live your cyber-life. Don't recommend.

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

This one is kind of crazy. It's a economic science-nonfiction social discourse. Yeah, that probably didn't make any sense. Basically Lanier has created a massive theory on how our future is going to progress due to the internet, and especially how it affects the economy. I wasn't completely sure what I was getting into when I picked it up, but I still found it refreshingly readable. The style and tone of the author is mostly what sets it apart. I'm still not sure whether I can recommend it - it's definitely not for everybody. I'd say go check it out if you are interested.

This is the big one. Originally published in 1985, what can this book about television have to do with the internet?


I'm not kidding when I say that this book has probably increased in relevance even from when it first was released. Postman brilliantly provides an explanation on how the style and presentation of television has massively impacted both how we think as an individual AND as a people. He explains that instead of Nineteen-Eighty-Four happening, we've instead gone in the reverse direction and have been polluting ourselves with the garbage of what we think we love. Alex Huxley's Brave New World is his comparison point instead.

If there's one book your read on this list, make it this one. I read it in a single afternoon because it was so absorbing and horrifying. I truly think that it's probably the most relevant thing I've read on this list. Read this book!

Wrap up:
I hope you enjoyed reading this write up. If you like the format of this multi-review, leave a comment and tell me. I liked doing this more than any of the other reviews I've done. Thank you for reading!