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The Age of Missing Information Paperback – June 13, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812976076
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this worthy but belabored attack on television, McKibben compares his experience watching 1700 hours of videotaped TV unfavorably to that of contemplating nature in the Adirondacks. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The wonderfully fluent young author of The End of Nature (1989) here softens the lamenting, doomsday tone of that book, counting on impressions of sweet nature to bring us to our senses. By contrasting the shallow information he absorbed by watching more than 1700 hours of cable video--the entire output of the Fairfax, Virginia, cable-TV system--to the deep knowledge he gained from a short camping trip in the Adirondacks, McKibben advances the subversive idea that TV has actually made us less informed by blinding us to the subtlety and power of unmediated experience in nature. ``Time for a swim. I ease myself down from the rocks into the chilly water, feeling the mud between my toes.'' Again and again, McKibben contrasts such quiet, plainly stated sensory impressions, the fruits of 24 hours spent alone atop an anonymous mountain, with the meaningless jumble of ``information'' that pours forth daily from the one hundred channels of the largest cable system on earth. The items he reproduces from TV--extracted from shows ranging from CNN to McHale's Navy to Wild Kingdom--are harrowing in their dumbness or their dramatic exaggeration or their disconnection from reality. What's worthwhile, though, are the arguments that McKibben weaves from these video scraps: that we must abandon mindless consumption for a stable, sustainable economy; that we can learn to draw emotional comfort from being part of a community; that we can learn to savor the physical and aesthetic pleasure that comes with enduring a little rain and cold and effort in our lives. Most of all, McKibben persuades us that there is ``another real world'' out there that also broadcasts around the clock--and that it has the power to transform us if we can stand still long enough to listen to its faint and ancient call. Suffering from bouts of verbal overkill, but, still, a brilliantly lucid and effective challenge to the myth of the Information Age. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and 350.org, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.

Customer Reviews

It's a fun book, profound, and a quick read.
Stephen R. Laniel
This fascinating book cleverly illustrates how we are negatively affected by such massive (and more and more predominating) exposure to media-generated artifice.
Barron Laycock
This book is a meditation on the effects of television on society.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The author taped all the TV shows being broadcast for 24 hours, then watched all of the shows over the necessary time period, and then spend 24 hours alone with nature. There are some well-thought and well-articulated insights in this book. Information is not a substitute for nature. The information explosion is drowning our senses and cutting us off from more fundamental information about our limitations and the limitations of the world around us. Television really did kill history, in that it continually celebrates and rehashes the 40 years of time for which there is television film on background, and overlooks the 4000 years behind that. The worst disasters move slowly, and the TV cameras don't see them.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Welcome to our teletronic nightmare! "The Age of Missing Information" is an intriguing book that covers an interesting and diverting subject; the human effects of sustained exposure to the seductive silver images flowing from our TV sets. As a people, we Americans are increasingly spending more time immersing ourselves in these unnatural, artificially generated, and carefully maintained environments, in what the author describes as the dangerously seductive throes of a quite strange (and unrepresentative) version of reality. This fascinating book cleverly illustrates how we are negatively affected by such massive (and more and more predominating) exposure to media-generated artifice.
Although the immediate focus of the book revolves around comparing what he learns as a result of a random 24 hour period in front of his boob tube as opposed to another day spent out in the natural world, what he really seems to be questioning is the electronic media's subtle but significant effect on our consciousness, on the way we perceive, interpret, and interact with the world outside our doors. It is chilling to recognize the degree to which sustained congress with the electronic media negatively paints, influences, and organizes our conscious perspectives on all we see and do. One of the most dangerous results seems to be a receding appreciation for and familiarity with the natural world. This can lead to some dangerous confusion about what is and is not real.
For people habitually electronically connected, the world of artifice & entertainment becomes the predominating influence on conscious awareness. What is the result of sustained exposure to the electronic equivalent of junk food? No one seems to know, but it can't be too great.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a meditation on the effects of television on society. After living in an area with no TV reception for a few years, McKibben embarked on massive project to try to understand what information television conveys and how this affects society. He had a very novel approach for this project: he identified Fairfax County, Virginia as having the greatest number of cable TV channels at the time (almost 100), so he recruited a Fairfax volunteer for each channel to record the entire day's broadcast on a video cassette recorder. The day chosen for the recording was May 3, 1990. On the day the tapes were being recorded, McKibben went hiking near his home in the Adirondacks, and kept a careful journal of all his observations up on the mountain. Then, for the next year, McKibben watched the TV tapes of May 3, for 8-10 hours a day, taking notes and analyzing what kinds of information they contained. In this book, he reports on the kinds of messages that were being spread through the broadcasts, and contrasts this to what he learned by observing the natural world on the mountain. The methodology may sound a little trite, but the project was very well executed, and McKibben leaves us with many disturbing points to ponder.

Some critics of TV say that TV is bad because watching all the violence on TV makes people, especially children, violent. Others point out that the gratuitous violence is lamentable, but worse is the fact that watching TV contributes to hyper-consumption. McKibben takes the criticisms of the media to a much higher level. In this extended essay, he points out how much TV plays a role in how we see the world, how we expect it to work, and how the essential mismatch between the TV version and reality leads to unhealthy expectations or apathy.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cuthbert on November 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
McKibben questions the term "information age" and sets out to discover whether he can learn more from a day of television (24 hours of programing from each of 93 channels) or from a day of hiking in the mountains. Though the results are arbitrary, it is, nevertheless, an interesting read that poses thought-provoking questions about important issues for our society. Most striking is the quick-cut writing style that parodies an erratic channel clicker.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By timothy hilliard on July 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this rather short book(250 pages)there is much to lament.
Bill Mckibben volunteered to undergo the torture of watching every program that filled the 90+ channels in a 24 hour period in Fairfax,Virginia in May of 1990.This required 90 volunteers (to tape their specific channel for 24 hours)to make his project a reality.
As he begins to go through the 90 odd tapes full of dreck it is not surprising that Mckibben finds a wasteland populated by infomercial hucksters,inane blather on talkshows,endless streams of commercials hawking an endless train of useless garbage.None of this is anywhere near as disturbing as the fact that there seems to be nowhere in the world of television where intelligent debate,contextual information or even a concern with thoughtful dialogue about anything ever makes an appearance.It is apparent that tv itself is inherently useless except for the business of selling product and images.Jerry Mander,in his book_Four arguments for the elimination of television_ goes into much greater depth than does Mckibbon on this subject.
The best observation of the entire book may be that tv constantly recycles the images,stories and shows of the last 40-50 years.What is insidious about this is that a generation that has grown up on tv is likely to have a vastly more limited grasp of history.If the young are swamped by the history of a short 50 years as though the world hardly existed before 1950,hasn't then the education process become that much more difficult?The decline of education has become so precipitous in the last 4-5 decades that standards have had to be lowered time and time again so that a large chunk of students don't flunk.
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