- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; Rev Upd edition (May 19, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062515519
- ISBN-13: 978-0062515513
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,633,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut Revised and Updated Edition Rev Upd Edition
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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.
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. We give it lip service, but what we really want is quantity. The tagline for Godzilla, "Size matters," was perfect for us. Yes, we want more. We want a biggie fries and a biggie shake. We want to Super Size that Extra Value Meal. We purchase Range Rovers and the only range we rove is the median when there's a traffic jam. Let's go to CostCo and get the five-pound jar of spaghetti sauce, even though we only eat spaghetti at home once every two months. We'll take 52 channels of crap on the cable, although only four are worth watching. Bigger, we imply, is always better. Our hardware store here has a tagline that says they have "more of everything."
Shenk says, more is less. You are a limited creature; you can only handle a limited amount of input. Why not get some quality input for a change? I like the idea, and I have to admit that Jill and I were already working towards this goal before our move. Jill calls it "divesting ourselves of the material culture," but mainly it's just getting rid of stuff. Why did we have 700 CDs? We couldn't listen to them all, and hadn't listened to more than 5% in the last year. Why did we have 2000 books--did we intend to reference or reread all of them? I have been keeping bank and billing records for the last 15 years? Why? We cleaned out the closet, evaluating the things we really needed to meet our goals. And it isn't that much. Why did we have all that stuff. Because we were being good little members of the consumer society.
This simplification of the life style is one of Shenk's answers to Data Smog. The others include being your own filter (limit your inputs--cut off the TV, unsubscribe from those lists [well, except from mine]), being your own editor (take your time to understand what you read and hear, don't settle for sound bites), become a generalist (Robert Heinlein said, "Specialization is for insects."), and, lastly, take part in government rather than forsaking it. These antidotes are strong medicine towards regaining control of your life. Shenk probably didn't mean this as a self-help book, but if the tool pouch fits....
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. As always, the focus needs to be on what is best for student learning... technology provides more tools that give more options for how we teach. Computers will be a major part of life in the future and we need to teach kids the skills they need to use them properly.
Most recent customer reviews
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