Monday, December 20, 2010

i live in the present and apparently i already know how it works...

If you know little about the internet, e-readers, social networking, cell phones & their apps, and video games, you will likely find this book's content new and interesting.  If you also know little about the science of learning and recent developments in our understanding of how the brain adapts, then the info. here will seem even more intriguing (if you keep in mind that the author's actually making an argument here so he's quite selective in the research he's chosen to include and how he interprets its import).  If you believe, as tech writer Nick Bilton seems to, that technology is inherently neutral at worst and in fact "good" in most cases, and that people who express concerns about some of the potentially negative impacts of technology are - in many cases - just "hand-wringing" (one of his favorite condescensions) Luddites, then you will likely find an ally.

If, however, you rather expected a New York Times reporter to present thoroughly compelling, logical cases to support his personal views or to acknowledge that both recent research and personal experience may tend to support some social commentators' concern about how technologies may be impairing concentration and problem solving while increasing impulsivity in the "digital native" generations, you might be disappointed in i live in the future & here's how it works.  And ditto if you aren't a technophobe and have kept abreast of the developments in technology over the past decade or so, as much - though by no means all - of the content will already be familiar.

* Easy to read/skim.  Fluid writing, no doubt. 
* Bilton is, after all, a prominent tech reporter/blogger, and he's amassed enough interesting detail that you're bound to find at least a few sections - or even whole chapters - thought-provoking.  For instance, I found chapters 3 ("your cognitive road map: anchoring communities") and 4 ("suggestions and swarms: trusting computers and humans") personally relevant to some projects of my own and I enjoyed some of his corporate case studies.
* A particularly potent point for me:  Bilton predicts that the future success of many content-based high tech businesses may not be as dependent upon the quality of the information offered as upon the consumer's perception that the content is ultra-new/timely and tailored directly to his/her immediate needs.  While this narrowing toward a world of "me economics" that Bilton hypothesizes rather terrifies me in its implications (a world where we're all connected, but nobody cares unless there's something in it for them), when I bop around the interwebs I find it hard to deny, and well worth remembering as I create web content.

Bottom line for me: 
Bilton's patronizing attitude toward anyone who has concerns about the merits of some technologies is palpable throughout this book, and his "arguments" sometimes veer from addressing the actual concerns of detractors into tangential cases for technological benefits not at issue.  However, I found his writing style engaging and some of his insider info. both interesting and useful. 


** My actions for this book:  I've adjusted some of my projects for this year to be more timely, interactive, and web-video-based in order to balance my penchant for creating texts.  AND I'm only going to focus on content that connects people to the world in ways that will inspire empathy rather than solipsism.

FYI: The review on the Amazon link (click the cover image) provides an alternate, and perhaps welcome, perspective to mine.

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