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Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut [Kindle Edition]

David Shenk
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $8.00
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers


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Book Description

Media scholar ( and Internet Enthusiast ) David Shenk examines the troubling effects of information proliferation on our bodies, our brains, our relationships, and our culture, then offers strikingly down-to-earth insights for coping with the deluge.

With a skillful mixture of personal essay, firsthand reportage, and sharp analysis, Shenk illustrates the central paradox of our time: as our world gets more complex, our responses to it become increasingly simplistic. He draws convincing links between data smog and stress distraction, indecision, cultural fragmentation, social vulgarity, and more.

But there's hope for a saner, more meaningful future, as Shenk offers a wealth of novel prescriptions—both personal and societal—for dispelling data smog.

Editorial Reviews Review

It is said that information wants to be free, but most days on the net, don't you feel that all it wants to do is be in your face every last minute? Did you ever feel yourself go "tilt" when a search engine retrieves 30,000 possible hits to your query? Or downloads 50 pieces of new e-mail? Perhaps some relief will come when you know the Laws of Data Smog that frame this book, among them: Silicon circuits evolve much more quickly than human genes; Equifax is watching; Beware of stories that dissolve all complexity; Too many experts spoil the clarity. David Shenk is certainly going to stir controversy with his conclusions, especially that government should get involved in reducing the information glut.

From Library Journal

In this engaging look at some of the side effects of the Information Age, Shenk convincingly argues that the reality of "data smog," or information overload, is surely leading to more societal ills than anyone else cares to admit. A fellow emeritus of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University and commentator for public radio's "Marketplace," Shenk homes in on technology's darker side, exposing a mutating society that clearly favors speed above content, image above meaning, and instant reaction above careful deliberation. The result is a sobering expose of a phenomenon that Shenk believes is entrenched but not necessarily inevitable. His remedies, nestled in a nice set of insightful appendixes, nurture with the hope that the current trend need not necessarily end with the infernal interrupt trap halt warning that is foe to every techobuff alive. Sparkling, witty, and wry, this is recommended for all collections.?Geoff Rotunno, "Tri-Mix" Magazine, Goleta, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 242 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Rev Upd edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,818 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelmed by Information? This book might help March 24, 2003
Are we drowning in a sea of information? Blinded by a smog of data? That's Shenk's premise, and I have to admit I'm in somewhat of an agreement with him. It's either agree with him, or admit that I'm getting old and can't keep up anymore. We are of an age, however--he relates how his first computer was a Macintosh in 1984. He talks about becoming involved in the early days of digital communication (back then, there was Compu$erve, the $ource, and local BBSes). He went on the reporting route, while I took the technology route. Now we both feel surrounded by too much stuff, data being the prime component. Shenk blames it on the new medium, whereas I think that maybe it is the nature of our general society.
Don't get me wrong. I love data. Databases are your friend, and they've certainly been mine, as I make my living off maintaining them, writing interfaces for them, and creating reports from them. The problem seems to go back to something much older than the Internet, but to the early days of computing. There is a term, not in much use today, called GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Too much data being stored in databases these days was dumped there, without editing, without sorting, without review. Just because modern tools allow you access to data in these storage areas better, faster, and cheaper, does not mean that data poorly stored has any more value. I am sure many of you have run into a case where the computer was supposed to help you with a task, but instead it just seems that you were able to process more data, not necessarily do the job quicker or easier. More data, as Shenk discusses, is not a solution. Better data would be, but no one is providing quality.
And this is where I say the problem is not the technology but the society. Americans have a hard time with quality.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Smog! April 19, 2000
Data Smog presents the good, the bad, and the ugly of what the Information Age is all about. For those of us on the fringes of the technology revolution, it is an eye-opener. Shenk shares many personal anecdotes to demonstrate his points. His clever use of language in "The Laws of Data Smog", chapter titles and description make it an enjoyable read. However, it's a bit hard to swallow his solutions, coming from an admitted information junkie. While he suggests ways we can reduce data smog, he doesn't quite succeed in convincing us that he has cleaned up his own act.
Shenk starts out with an appropriately brief account of the evolution of the information age, to explain how we got to the point of data smog. He clearly shows how information overload is creating more confusion, more stress, and decreased attention. His argument that technology threatens personal privacy is well-supported and currently a hot-button issue. His claim that the development of niches from sophisticated data analysis will splinter our culture is not quite as convincing. He has to be commended, though, for taking a stand against the idea that technology always means progress.
As an educator I had to take issue with the analogy he makes in "The Fourth Law of Data Smog: Putting a computer in every classroom is like putting an electric power plant in every home." I would argue that computers are a vital addition to the classroom, if used appropriately. If they are only used for skill and drill, then yea, they don't give much advantage over paper and pencil worksheets. But when computers are used for researching, communicating with others, and making projects, they are a nice tool that adds to the educational experience. In addition, computers increase teacher productivity immeasureably.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Outdated September 30, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book as a requirement for a master's degree course. Although the information presented is very compelling, it is somewhat outdated.

Written in 1997, many of the topics that author David Shenk describes in the future tense have already occured. For example, he goes into great detain about the Y2K computer problem and the effect it could have on people's computers. We all know that this turned out to be no problem at all. Further, he mentions the need for a national no-call list for telemarketers. Again, this has already happened since this book was published. I feel that it is time for a new edition to be published with more up-to-date information.

I do feel that the idea of "data smog" the overabundance of information that is overwhelming people today, is covered very well. I found the thirteen laws of data smog very interesting, and the antidotes to combat these laws were informative and helpful.

Overall, this book rates slightly above average, due to it being 8 years old, and many of the topics discussed have already taken place. If the author were to write an updated edition, then I would rate it higher. However, there are some good points that will make the reader think about the amout of information being placed for consumption and what we as consumers must do to filter out the smog so we can make good and informed choices.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effects or information through technoloy October 13, 2000
David Shenk's broad insight into technology, covering mostly the computer and internet, covers the many possible causes of stress, addiction, confusion, misunderstanding, etc.... and most importantly our thought process. If you have ever been afflicted or affected by these or any other of technologies problems. David Shenk gives his own practical solutions to such problems in part 4 of his book Data Smog. "All technologies introducted into our human ecosystem come with a raft of expected and unexpected consequences." If you decide to read the first 3 parts of Shenk's book, he will explain the direct effect technology has on the whole of society. He certainly will unveil the many indirect effects of technology. "Above all else, it is imperative that in the coming years we strive to keep the quality of our thinking as great as the quality of our information."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ahead of the curve
excellent foresight into the issues with high tech culture and how tech itself shapes interactions in some unsavory ways. impressed that this was written in 1998.
Published 15 days ago by Max Stratford
4.0 out of 5 stars New approach to information overload, yet no solutions
This book covers interesting ground regarding the social ramifications of too much information. However, it offers little in the way of hands-on solutions.
Published on May 26, 2005 by Jeff Davidson
3.0 out of 5 stars The good and the bad of information
David Shenk's examination on the information flow is somewhat sobering. Shenk has a good grasp on the major problems resulting from too much information. Read more
Published on November 7, 2001 by josee Vincent
4.0 out of 5 stars Data Smog filled with Good Information
Mr. Shenk does a fine job of informing us of the potential pitfalls of the information explosion. He uses excellent examples of how too much information stuns some people, makes... Read more
Published on October 19, 2001 by Mark S. Hubbard
2.0 out of 5 stars What Might Have Been
I am disappointed that I end up rating David Shenk's book so low because there are some very interesting ideas at work here. Read more
Published on February 1, 2001 by J. Michael Gallipo
4.0 out of 5 stars LETTER TO THE AUTHOR
Dear Mr., Shenk
After reading Data Smog, there were many things that I had never realized. The book over all was written well, but there were some agreeing and disagreeing... Read more
Published on December 6, 2000 by Kristina Arakelyan
4.0 out of 5 stars Can we see through the Data Smog?
A linear picture at the beginning of the book caught my attention first: a lonely man climbed on his horse in front of beautiful scenery. Read more
Published on September 19, 2000 by Zhu Yongqin
4.0 out of 5 stars First Heartbeat of the CyberEcology
"Data Smog" presents the good, the bad, and the ugly of what the Information Age is all about. David Shenk does a good job describing the problem and effects of information... Read more
Published on August 30, 2000 by A. Petrotchenkov
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiber for your brain
Feeling a bit blitzed lately? Like you're mentally constipated? Like you're just a tube through which someone or something rams the maximum amount of stuff every day? Read more
Published on April 5, 2000
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More About the Author

David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including THE FORGETTING ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), DATA SMOG ("indispensable" - New York Times), and THE IMMORTAL GAME ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US, has been called "engrossing" by Booklist (starred review) and "empowering...myth-busting" by Kirkus.

Shenk's work inspired the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary "The Forgetting," and was featured in the Oscar-nominated feature "Away From Her." He has advised the President's Council on Bioethics, and is a popular speaker. His original term "data smog" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004.


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