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Category Archives: Recommended Books

Commentary – Welcome to the ‘New Dark Age.’

OpenDemocracy – “Data is making us dumber. This seeming paradox has been gaining currency, at least in the tech-saturated Global North. We’re increasingly bombarded with advice on how to manage data overload. The English comedian Dave Gorman summed it up in the tongue-in-cheek title of his recent book: “Too much information: Or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think.” We like to laugh about this stuff. It helps us to cope with the deep human fear that the world has moved beyond our understanding and control. If indeed we’re in a state of hysterical denial, James Bridle wants to give us all a slap in his forthcoming book “New Dark Age: Technology, Knowledge and the End of the Future.” Bridle invites us to engage in a direct confrontation with our decreasing comprehension of the world. Through a wide investigation of diverse fields from aviation to social media, the pharmaceutical industry and climate science, he sets out to show how our data-driven culture is threatening our existence as a species. While we might expect to be offered a route back to knowledge and security, Bridle’s book breaks new ground by proposing that we embrace uncertainty instead. “We have been conditioned to think of the darkness as a place of danger, even of death” he writes, “But the darkness can also be a place of freedom and possibility, even of equality. Uncertainty can be productive, even sublime.” It’s an intriguing and unsettling proposal. As a journalist, technologist, and visual artist, Bridle has employed a multiplicity of strategies for thinking differently about technology. He’s still probably best known for developing what he called the “New Aesthetic” in 2011, now an art meme centred around a tumblr account that captures the physical objects and signs of the digital world like data centres or surveillance drones…”

Women, Gender, Sexuality, and Computing History

David Brock, Computer History Museum: “The experience of women, and the issues of gender and sexuality, are vitally important to our understanding of the story of computing, and hence our contemporary world, for many reasons. Perhaps most straightforwardly, women have been ubiquitous throughout the history of computing as makers and users of it. As Eileen… Continue Reading

OCLC Research’s Merrilee Proffitt Shows How Libraries Can Leverage Wikipedia

OCLC: “In Leveraging Wikipedia: Connecting Communities of Knowledge, published by ALA Editions, Merrilee Proffitt of OCLC Research shows how libraries can contribute to Wikipedia to improve content quality and make library services more visible. The vision statement of the Wikimedia Foundation states, “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the… Continue Reading

Good News – Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness

The Guardian – Jonathan Rauch, author of The Happiness Curve, was relieved to find an explanation for his gloom – academics say adulthood happiness is U-shaped “Academics have found increasing evidence that happiness through adulthood is U-shaped – life satisfaction falls in our 20s and 30s, then hits a trough in our late 40s before… Continue Reading

Book Review – ‘The Efficiency Paradox’ Review: Big Data, Big Problems

WSJ – Though technology is making our lives ever more convenient, it also may be having the unintended effect of lowering our skill set. Gregg Easterbrook reviews “The Efficiency Paradox” by Edward Tenner. “‘Big Data” is the Big Bad of our moment. Companies and governments amass enormous troves of information about our online and offline… Continue Reading

The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized

Scientific American – Scott Barry Kaufman – March 1, 2018: “What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that… Continue Reading

Recommended – The best books on Military Strategy

Via Five Books: “Texts about military strategy take us back into the mists of time but what it is, and what the nature of war is, remains hotly debated. Antulio Echevarria II of the US Army War College talks us through key books, both old and new, on military strategy.” Continue Reading

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours: a Pre-Photographic Guide for Artists and Naturalists

Via Colassal: “First published in the pre-photographic age, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours was the preeminent guide to color and its classification for artists, scientists, naturalists, and anthropologists in the 19th-century. Without an image for reference, the book provided immense handwritten detail describing where each specific shade could be found on an animal, plant, or mineral. Prussian Blue for… Continue Reading

The Golden Age of the Illustrated Book Dust Jacket

The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 chronicles the rise of the book dust jacket from disposable object to a creative platform for publishing design. “…The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 by Martin Salisbury, out now from Thames & Hudson, chronicles how this once disposable object became a major creative force in publishing.Salisbury has identified numerous book illustrators, yet a… Continue Reading

Beyond GDPR: The Challenge of Global Privacy Compliance

TechPrivacy – Daniel Solove: “For multinational organizations in an increasingly global economy, privacy law compliance can be bewildering these days. There is a tangle of international privacy laws of all shapes and sizes, with strict new laws popping up at a staggering speed. Federal US law continues to fade in its influence, with laws and regulators… Continue Reading

New book – All of us today are related by descent from a small pool of ancestors just a few thousand years ago

If you have access to the WSJ.com (subscription req’d or you may review if you Follow the site’s Twitter feed, this book review in and of itself is fascinating reading. There are now numerous gene and ancestry testing methods available and many people are using them seeking to better understand their origins. “What “Brief History”… Continue Reading

Times Literary Supplement review – how emojis are moving us away from written communications

Times Literary Supplement: “…Both Evans [The Emoji Code, Vyvyan Evans] and Danesi [Marcel Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji] set out to explain why emoji are an important development, why it is interesting to study them, and why we can ignore naysayers who cite them as another example of the erosion of standards. For Evans they… Continue Reading