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Information, Technology, Media, Culture, and the Human Mind

Todd I. Stark "Cellular Wetware plus Books"
The list author says: "The "Information Age" has come to mean the revolutionary changes brought about by the widespread availability and use of increasingly mobile computing. Technologies that were still often considered toys in the 1990's rapidly became widely considered the new shape of human culture in the early 2000's. We are increasingly connected and continuously exposed to massive amounts of information. The working assumption is now that more information is better and that clever programmers will always come up with ways to make better use of it.

There is a well known cognitive bias whereby we tend to see our current situation as the inevitable result of a constructive, positive progress from the old fashioned to the shiny and new. We want to see ourselves as living in the best of times, and see our past as leading up to that. It isn't very popular to question the assumptions that result from that bias.

So it is with some courage that some of the best authors in this list question that assumption. I also include authors whose work is more along the lines of supporting these ideas or taking them boldly into the future rather than just critiquing.

Several big issues of reflection for the Information Age:

1. The availability of information vs. the creation of knowledge, how do we best filter, organize, and learn from the vast information available to us?

2. The economics of information production and distribution and how it biases availability

3. The specific ways in which technology affects the way we think

4. Do different media have different long term effects on us, and what are they?

5. How exactly do we take advantage of the latest technology without losing the benefits we enjoy
with the existing technology?

Not everyone wants to think about these questions, but those who do may enjoy this list."
The Social Life of Information
The Social Life of Information
"It's the "Information Age" and not the "Knowledge Age."  The focus of modern tools is generally on the production and distribution of information, not on the processes by which we create knowledge.  This book gives reasons why it is a mistake to take knowledge for granted, such as the social context and tacit information needed to use information."
The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
"The ownership of information and information channels is also a central issue.  None of the futuristic visions, either negative or positive, is inevitable.  We have to take an active role in the way networking is controlled.  If the government doesn't or can't regulate networking, it tends to be regulated by businesses and special interests."
The Control Revolution: How the Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know
The Control Revolution: How the Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know
"Putting control of information in the hands of individuals seems to many to be a natural consequence of distributed mobile computing.  The shift has many implications that bear more careful reflection."
Wireless Nation: The Frenzied Launch Of The Cellular Revolution
Wireless Nation: The Frenzied Launch Of The Cellular Revolution
"We tend to assume that the technologies we enjoy now were the natural result of an inevitable evolution toward more sophisticated technology.  This book reveals the dark side of technological change, showing the central role of economic and political motives in the process rather than just technological improvement."
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
"Network technology lets us harness the power of human gossip and form groups effortlessly, something that most of us find has both advantages and disadvantages.  Benkler offers a more sophisticated analysis of the networked information economy than most, leading to his support of ad hoc groups and their potential to compete effectively with profit making ventures."
Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy
Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy
"It is economic forces, not the benefit of individuals, that drives the success or failure of technology.    This is a dense and thorough discussion of the economic rules that drive technology, describing how marketing and distribution work in a network economy."
Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet
Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet
"This is a positive book, although the vagueness of its suggestions is a little ominous if you think about it.  Mostly speculates on what sort of infrastructure might best support scholarship given the technological and social changes of current times."
The Age of Missing Information
The Age of Missing Information
"McKibben contrasts direct experience with media exposure and draws the (hopefully not too surprising) conclusion that there are advantages to experiencing things directly and limits to what electronic presentations of information really provide us."
Orality and Literacy (New Accents)
Orality and Literacy (New Accents)
"A broader and scholarly tour of the ground that McKibben covers informally, personally, and more narrowly. The fundamental differences between direct immediate experience and abstract and conceptual learning."
Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder
Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder
"The compelling premise is that moving information to electronic networked sources tends to erode its the organization we previously labored to impose, effectively making everything "miscellaneous."  Weinberger makes the important point that information aggregation takes on special value in a miscellaneous world."
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
"A technical exploration of what makes the human brain uniquely able to trasmit its thoughts over time through reading, and the implications for different kinds of media."
Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages
Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages
"How information has been organized and used through the ages and how systems of information have been transformed over time."
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition
"Classic work of media analysis which offers a rich collection of thought-provoking suggestions about the effects of media technology on culture.  Emphasizes the role of active exploration in constructing knowledge."
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
"Among the most erudite, sophiticated, and lively of the culture critics, Postman discussed the trends of increasing dependence upon technology, numerical quantification, and misappropriation of "Scientism" to all human affairs, trends which have proven to continue since the 1993 edition of this book."
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
"Among other points, Carr makes the very important and not at all obvious point that memory is a central and active aspect of thinking, not a passive recording of data. So there is a fundamental error in trying to "offload" our memory onto the web and confuse information technology with human understanding."
Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction
Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction
"The success of computers has led to the underlying philosophy of computer science being applied to everything including ourselves.  It has long been argued that the nature of humans is closer to skilled, engaged practice than to disembodied rationality.  THis book applies the idea to human/computer interaction, offering a new and unique view of the future of social computing."
Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing
Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing
"Argues that pervasive embedded computing must take context into consideration to a greater extent, and offers new design guidelines for making technology more usefully interactive."
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
"Argues that new forms of media will not replace old ones but instead interact with them in a complex way, a "convergence culture," a cultural shift where we will actively participate in the outcome. Illustrates through examples the complex interdependencies and challenges of current media technology."
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
"Focused attention is important to human thinking and the wave of technology emphasis is on treating people as passive information conduits.  The cool thing about this book is finding a savvy techie who appreciates this!"