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Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It’s True? Hardcover – June 26, 2014


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Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It’s True? + 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (June 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026081
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Virtual Unreality
 
Mr. Seife (a professor of journalism at New York University and the author of five books on science and math) . . . is a meticulous writer, and he quickly won me over—unfortunately. . . . [H]is portrait is persuasive and thus disconcerting and frightening.
—Howard Schneider, The Wall Street Journal
 
Virtual Unreality is a talisman we gullible can wield in the hope that we won’t get fooled again.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times


Praise for Proofiness

"Passionate...this is more than a math book; it's an eye-opening civics lesson."--The New York Times Book Review

"An admirable salvo against quantitative bamboozlement by the media and the government."--The Boston Globe

"A delightful and remarkably revealing book that should be required reading for...well, everyone."--Booklist (starred review)

"Detailed and hardhitting."--The Charlotte Observer

"If Stephen Colbert had had time to write a math book, he surely would have written Proofiness."--The Dallas Morning News
 

Praise for Decoding the Universe

"For the former liberal arts major and other right-brainers, Seife is the man."--Salon.com

"A timely book."--New Scientist
 

About the Author

Charles Seife is the author of five previous books, including Proofiness and Zero, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first nonfiction and was a New York Times notable book. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, Wired, New Scientist, Science, Scientific American, and The Economist. He is a professor of journalism at New York University and lives in New York City.

 

 


More About the Author

Charles Seife is a correspondent for Science, a London--based international weekly science magazine. He has written for Scientific American, The Economist, Wired UK, The Sciences, and numerous other publications. He has a masters degree in mathematics from Yale.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By NF TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Charles Seife has written a thought-provoking book about information in the digital age, and it's a book that should scare you as well as educate you. Seife does more than just talk about Internet hoaxes and misinformation; he also discusses the history of past generations of hoaxes and scams, and how the Internet has dramatically altered the playing field. The book is extensively footnoted, as well, showing where his information comes from. With the Kindle edition, this was a bit of a problem, as I occasionally clicked a link when I was simply trying to turn the page.

Topics in the book include such things as:
- Stock manipulation
- Spam and the various money-making schemes that would have been impossible prior to the Digital Age
- Wikipedia and the dangers of relying on it.
- Plagiarism
- How the Digital Age has changed, and is continuing to change, the way that news is gathered and disseminated.
- Fake identities, fake profiles, and sock puppets.
- How search engines have changed not just the way that information is shared but also how it is created.
- Digital manipulation.
- Social media

And the "Top Ten Dicta of the Internet Skeptic," including such gems as "A social media site's purpose is to serve its users -- in the same sense as a zoo's purpose is to serve its animals."

The book can be dry at times and some of this information is pretty widely known. But I'm a pretty well-informed technical guy who makes a living in the online world and some of the information here was eye-opening, not just the details but the history and theory behind it. Seife also provides some practical advice on how you can protect yourself, at least to a certain extent. The listed length of the book is a bit misleading, by the way, since 30% of the book consists of links, footnotes, and an extensive index.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Goldstein on July 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Virtual Unreality is a pretty impressive book with a very accurate title. I thought I was pretty internet-savvy, and that I could spot a hoax a mile away. Turns out that the "unreality" goes beyond the requests to transfer large sums of money into my bank account and Facebook tracking my likes. There is a quote in this book to the effect that if you aren't paying for something, then you are what is being sold. Pretty disturbing stuff, and seemingly true. I also had no idea how much the internet has changed the advertising and news industries.

If you think you know everything about the internet, and feel like you could never be fooled, then read this book. I'll bet that there is some way that you have been fooled and never realized it. Virtual Unreality not only tells you how you get tricked, it also tells you how avoid being fooled. A fast, worthwhile read.

Also, I have a large sum of money that I could tranfer to you - I just need $500 to help me release the funds.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on August 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I don’t consider myself very Internet savvy. Nor am I a big time Internet user/abuser. But I do use the Internet so I did feel the need to read this book particularly since its subtitle is something that I have thought about for a long time. Also, I’ve read a number of this author’s books and therefore knew that, at the very least, the book would be quite enjoyable. I was not disappointed.

Overall, I found that much of the information contained here is really beyond my need-to-know, at least for the present. However, some information was truly astonishing and useful to me – particularly the chapter on Wikipedia. I think that this alone was worth the read. Something else that I did not expect to find here is information on various aspects of psychology and human behaviour - which, in retrospect, makes a lot of sense. Facebook, LinkedIn, Match.com and several other social media were also discussed to varying degrees.

As usual, the author’s writing style is clear, friendly, lively and quite captivating. As far as the book’s audience is concerned, I think that anyone who uses the Internet in some capacity will likely benefit, to varying degrees, from reading this book and heeding its warnings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jen Selinsky on September 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Don’t believe everything that you read on the Internet? Neither does Charles Seife. In his thought-provoking book, "Virtual Unreality," Charles debunks many Internet myths which people have come to believe. The author focuses on many aspects of untrue online information. Fabricated examples include doctored photos, blogs, incidents, and even people! This has become more a problem in the digital age, since now most everyone can easily transform and publish information. "Virtual Reality" provides interesting and shocking examples of falsities, which further prove that one shouldn’t believe everything that they read!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ron Titus on July 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Based on his own experience as a journalist and a professor, Charles Seife provides a readable account of having to live with the Internet run amok. He opens with an interesting warping of reality, the case of the Muppet Bert's affiliation with the terrorist Osama Bin Laden. What had started as a joke with the "Bert is Evil" website was transformed in to strange reality when someone made up posters using images off the Internet. This segues into eleven chapters and three half chapters that covers a lot of ground regarding the effect the Internet has on your life (the half chapters provide a longer look at specifics covered in the previous chapter). He then finishes with a Top Ten list for the Internet skeptic.

Seife provides plenty of material for information literacy discussions with his discussions of the interaction of information versus knowledge versus wisdom, the problem with authority (citing sources and proving sources), trolling, fake people, interconnection rather than communication, copyright issues, etc. He also discusses the problems of too much information with noise drowning out signal, the dumbing down of intelligence, and the use of public/private information being used for private gain by companies and individuals.

Charles Seife packs a lot of information in a small book with the unfortunate result that it feels like a collection of essays rather than a coherent argument. The coverage of multiple and divergent topics and some of the examples used will leave this book feeling dated in a few short years. That being stated, the author has provided many coherent arguments that should be examined and discussed not just by librarians, information literacy specialists and academics, but by the public as a whole.
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