WE’RE LIVING IN THE DIGITAL AGE WHERE THE INTERNET AND NEW SOCIAL MEDIA IS REDEFINING THE BOUNDARIES OF WHAT CAN AND CANNOT BE POSSIBLE. AWARE OF THIS, THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS CHURNING OUT LOADS OF BOOKS COVERING NEARLY EVERY ASPECT OF THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION. IRONICALLY THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS ONE OF THOSE THAT WILL NEED TO ADAPT WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF E-BOOKS AND SELF-PUBLICATION. HERE ARE FEW TO WHET YOUR APPETITE.
Too Big to know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room
Author: David Weinberger
Publisher: Basic Books
In the old days, anyone wanting a list of references or information beyond that provided by half hour news broadcasts needed to get out, smell the fresh air and hop, skip, cycle their way to the local library. These days all one needs is a gadget and an internet connection. The ‘Age of Books’ is over.
In elegant prose Weinberger argues that online information is widespread and branching, unlike in books and journals where information and content is easily available and listed. On the web it consists of loose classification and categorization with branching pathways dependent on how one specifies a search term. Similarly, audience participation is greater with people choosing which sites to browse for their information. In other words, it’s all interconnected in a ‘network’.
As such he suggests that to make optimum use of the World Wide Web as a knowledge and information tool requires the utilization of ‘networking’, not just making connections socially, but in terms of information gathering and in helping make knowledgeable decision making. In other words he advocates the dawn of the ‘Age of Networking’.
In practical terms this means having networked organizations arriving at networked solutions. In other words Weinberger is drawing parallels with how we think – we don’t think in straight lines, but in a series of associations and interconnections which can be visually represented by a mind map. This is how the World Wide Web operates as well.
If knowledge is contained in networks, then it follows that no-one source whether it be a person, organization, or even government, holds or monopolizes all the answers. So in the end this all a good thing as far as Weinberger is concerned. I wonder what he would make about the recent NSA Snowden revelations then.
Celeb 2.0: How Social Media FosterS Our Fascination with Popular Culture
Author: Kelli S. Burns
In an interconnected world, fame and shame can cross international and geographical borders at the speed of light. The public’s fascination with those in the limelight, as well as the yearning in many of us for attention and accolades, is transplanted, magnified and warped by the new technologies, avenues and opportunities afforded by the World Wide Web.
Burns writing covers the full gamut of the Internet Celebrity culture phenomena. She explains how the relationship between content producers, providers and consumers is becoming fluid and ever changing. Stars and attention seekers such as Ryan Gosling and Kim Kardashian nowadays post events and daily musings direct to fans, bypassing their publicists. Bloggers like Perez Hilton post gossip about celebrities, becoming popular icons themselves. Video hosting sites provide a means for budding artists (like Justin Bieber) and others to uploaded their videos and movies to be watched by millions.
Burns also interviews those involved in the social media scene from industry players to social media users. She notes the growth of fandoms – splinter online communities dedicated to a particular show or celebrity. She also acknowledges the problems that instant fame can bring: the end of anonymity, privacy and even opening up someone like the Star Wars kid from a few years ago to public ridicule.
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker
Author: Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak (Foreword), William L. Simon (Contributor)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Written by the man once dubbed ‘the world’s most wanted hacker’ and pursued by the FBI, Ghost in the Wires is a chronicle of the exploits of Kevin Mitnick as he scammed and hacked his way through computer systems throughout the 80s and 90s. Having been arrested and spent a few years in jail, he now works on the side of the angels as a consultant and has his own cyber security company helping to detect flaws in the systems of various organizations so they could be remedied.
The book follows Mitnick from his formative teen years where he learned how to make free calls up to hacking into Fortune 500 companies, and among other things, changing their computer passwords and reading through private emails.
Unlike the stereotypical image of hackers we have today as unwashed uber geeks with pale skin and zero social skills, Mitnick is highly charismatic and a consummate charmer. It’s how he was able to dupe those he called up at major companies into divulging their security secrets and even their source codes and which facilitated his actual computer hacking.
Despite his convictions, Mitnick has always maintained he never hacked for profit – but more for the thrill of breaking into what seemed an impenetrable system and just to prove he could. In his mind he’s more a cyber-scoundrel than a criminal. He never actually used the top secret data he garnered to his material advantage. But still, does that absolve him of wrongdoing?
Therefore the tone of the book is never contrite; Mitnick doesn’t appear repentant and seems to be almost proud of his exploits. Which are described in repetitive manner, though not to the extent of swamping you in a deluge of codespeak.
But to this cynical reader, the idea that someone would go to all that trouble to get at the source codes and not use it to embezzle money for example is – stretching it. Also the notion of victimless crime since nothing was stolen or really damaged here echoes the debate on online piracy as well.
Ghosts in the Wire is a fascinating journey through the early net history with one of the forerunners of the hacking movement as your guide.
Growing Up Wired
Author: David Wallace Fleming
Publisher: David Wallace Fleming
A coming of age story about a young College student named Victor Hastings and his encounters with women while growing up. Typical framework for young adult fiction, except this one is also about how the internet can influence personal relationships – often to a detrimental degree.
Victor is a prisoner of his own choice – trapped by his computer and gadgets he finds it difficult to operate outside the virtual world of online relationships, and internet surfing. Because he finds it more comfortable to surf for web porn, Victor lacks many of the skills and understandings required for a real-life encounter with anyone outside his circle of friends, especially with girls.
Fleming writes well about a typical college boy’s life in this wired age. Viktor has to deal with well-meaning frat brothers trying to help out with his lack of dating, to underage drinking and having to vie for the affections of a girl with other love struck guys who have seen her sexy photos online.
The author deftly weaves a story about a young man’s journey for love and life – at the same time exploring the question of how being detached from actual reality ensconced in a virtual world of web porn, forums and social media sites can be detrimental to our ability to connect and form relationships.
Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age
Author: Manuel Castell
Since about 2009 or thereabouts, uprisings have been on the increase globally. Perhaps due to stark economic conditions brought on by the credit crunch and the ensuing financial crisis, citizens of various nations just wanted change and took to the streets to implement it.
Manuel Castell focuses on the role of the internet, especially social networking in contemporary protest movements. The internet was also a means of spreading news that the authorities didn’t want to be known. This meant the traditional means of keeping a restless population quiet by controlling mass media such as TV, radio and newspapers was futile.
It was also notable that street demonstrations and protest assemblies were being organized and supported through the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media applications. Egypt, for example, shut down internet access throughout the country for few days during the height of the Tahrir Square protests.
The writer expands on his theory using recent examples such as the Arab Spring that afflicted Tunisia, the revolution in Egypt, and even the global economic crisis in Iceland and Spain – along with the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US.
There are several problems with Castell’s main ideas. His argument that these protest movements occurred because of the availability of the internet and social media downplays other factors that could have pushed masses of people into revolution such as the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities. Hence, it is rather deterministic that current social movements are only flourishing due to the internet and the use of interactive media. Again, it’s not really looking at the other factors such as demographic or ethnic tensions, economic, or environmental factors, that could have contributed.
Nevertheless Networks remains an intriguing and timely work that is pertinent to us all in these times of social and geopolitical upheaval.