iGen

Jean Twenge (2018)

“Born in the mid-1990s up to the mid-2000s, iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person-perhaps contributing to their unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

But technology is not the only thing that makes iGen distinct from every generation before them; they are also different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialise in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality.”

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Adam Alter (2017)

Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.

The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us

Nicholas Carr (2015)

In The Glass Cage, Pulitzer Prize nominee and bestselling author Nicholas Carr shows how the most important decisions of our lives are now being made by machines and the radical effect this is having on our ability to learn and solve problems.

In May 2009 an Airbus A330 passenger jet equipped with the latest ‘glass cockpit’ controls plummeted 30,000 feet into the Atlantic. The reason for the crash: the autopilot had routinely switched itself off. In fact, automation is everywhere – from the thermostat in our homes and the GPS in our phones to the algorithms of High Frequency Trading and self-driving cars. We now use it to diagnose patients, educate children, evaluate criminal evidence and fight wars. But psychological studies show that we perform best when fully involved in a task, while the principle of automation – that humans are inefficient – is self-fulfilling. The glass cockpit is becoming a glass cage.

In this utterly engrossing exposé, bestselling writer Nicholas Carr reveals how automation is affecting our ability to solve problems, forge memories and acquire skills. Rather than rejecting technology, Carr argues that we must urgently rethink its role in our lives, using it to enhance rather than diminish the extraordinary abilities that make us human.

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

Robert McChesney (2014)

Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the Internet.

McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect, McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems and massive indirect subsidies and other policies have made the internet a place of numbing commercialism. A handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners a 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers.

Capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made the internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance and a disturbingly antidemocratic force.
In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.

Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains

Susan Greenfield (2014)

We live in a world unimaginable only decades ago: a domain of backlit screens, instant information, and vibrant experiences that can outcompete dreary reality. Our brave new technologies offer incredible opportunities for work and play. But at what price?

Now renowned neuroscientist Susan Greenfield—known in the United Kingdom for challenging entrenched conventional views—brings together a range of scientific studies, news events, and cultural criticism to create an incisive snapshot of “the global now.” Disputing the assumption that our technologies are harmless tools, Greenfield explores whether incessant exposure to social media sites, search engines, and videogames is capable of rewiring our brains, and whether the minds of people born before and after the advent of the Internet differ.

Stressing the impact on Digital Natives—those who’ve never known a world without the Internet—Greenfield exposes how neuronal networking may be affected by unprecedented bombardments of audiovisual stimuli, how gaming can shape a chemical landscape in the brain similar to that in gambling addicts, how surfing the Net risks placing a premium on information rather than on deep knowledge and understanding, and how excessive use of social networking sites limits the maturation of empathy and identity.

But Mind Change also delves into the potential benefits of our digital lifestyle. Sifting through the cocktail of not only threat but opportunity these technologies afford, Greenfield explores how gaming enhances vision and motor control, how touch tablets aid students with developmental disabilities, and how political “clicktivism” foments positive change.

In a world where adults spend ten hours a day online, and where tablets are the common means by which children learn and play, Mind Change reveals as never before the complex physiological, social, and cultural ramifications of living in the digital age. A book that will be to the Internet what An Inconvenient Truth was to global warming, Mind Change is provocative, alarming, and a call to action to ensure a future in which technology fosters—not frustrates—deep thinking, creativity, and true fulfillment.

The Big Disconnect — Why the Internet hasn’t transformed politics (yet)

Micah L. Sifry (2014)

“Now that communication can be as quick as thought, why hasn’t our ability to organize politically—to establish gains and beyond that, to maintain them—kept pace? The web has given us both capacity and speed: but progressive change seems to be something perpetually in the air, rarely manifesting, even more rarely staying with us.

Micah L. Sifry, a longtime analyst of democracy and its role on the net, examines what he calls “The Big Disconnect.” In his usual pithy, to-the-point style, he explores why data-driven politics and our digital overlords have failed or misled us, and how they can be made to serve us instead, in a real balance between citizens and state, independent of corporations.

The web and social media have enabled an explosive increase in participation in the public arena—but not much else has changed. For the next step beyond connectivity, writes Sifry, “we need a real digital public square, not one hosted by Facebook, shaped by Google and snooped on by the National Security Agency. If we don’t build one, then any notion of democracy as ‘rule by the people’ will no longer be meaningful. We will be a nation of Big Data, by Big Email, for the powers that be.”

To Save Everything, Click Here

Evgeny Morozov (2013)

In the very near future, technological systems will allow us to make large-scale and sophisticated interventions into many more areas of public life: politics, culture, public debate, even our definitions of morality and human values. But how will these be affected once we delegate much of the responsibility for them to technology? The temptation of the digital age is to fix everything—from crime to corruption to pollution to obesity—by digitally quantifying, tracking, or gamifiying behavior. But when we change the motivations for our moral, ethical, and civic behavior, we may also change the very nature of that behavior itself. Technology, Evgeny Morozov proposes, can be a force for improvement—but only if we abandon the idea that it is necessarily revolutionary and instead genuinely interrogate what we are doing with it and what it is doing to us.

From urging us to abandon monolithic ideas of “the Internet” to showing how to design more humane and democratic technological solutions, To Save Everything, Click Here is a dazzling tour of our technological future, and a searching investigation into the digital version of an enduring struggle: between man and his machines.

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

Douglas Rushkoff (2013)

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we don’t seem to have any time in which to live it. Instead we remain poised and frozen, overwhelmed by an always-on, live-streamed reality that our human bodies and minds can never truly inhabit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.

People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and connect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instantaneous network where time and space could be compressed.

Well, the future’s arrived. We live in a continuous now enabled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technological shift. Yet this now is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.

Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eternal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fiction signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.

As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.

Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real-time.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You

Eli Pariser (2012)

Imagine a world where all the news you see is defined by your salary, where you live, and who your friends are. Imagine a world where you never discover new ideas. And where you can’t have secrets.

Welcome to 2011.

Google and Facebook are already feeding you what they think you want to see. Advertisers are following your every click. Your computer monitor is becoming a one-way mirror, reflecting your interests and reinforcing your prejudices.

The internet is no longer a free, independent space. It is commercially controlled and ever more personalised. The Filter Bubble reveals how this hidden web is starting to control our lives – and shows what we can do about it.

Alone Together

Sherry Turkle (2011)

Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication. But this relentless connection leads to a deep solitude. MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues that as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. Based on hundreds of interviews and with a new introduction taking us to the present day, Alone Together describes changing, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, and families.

The Net Delusion

Evgeny Morozov (2011)

“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. But as journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov argues in The Net Delusion, the Internet is a tool that both revolutionaries and authoritarian governments can use. For all of the talk in the West about the power of the Internet to democratise societies, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. Social media sites have been used there to entrench dictators and threaten dissidents, making it harder—not easier—to promote democracy.

Marshalling a compelling set of case studies, The Net Delusion shows why the cyber-utopian stance that the Internet is inherently liberating is wrong, and how ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” are misguided and, on occasion, harmful.

You Are Not a Gadget

Jaron Lanier (2011)

A programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology, Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media, and among the first to predict the revolutionary changes it would bring to our commerce and culture. Now, with the Web influencing virtually every aspect of our lives, he offers this provocative critique of how digital design is shaping society, for better and for worse.

Informed by Lanier’s experience and expertise as a computer scientist, You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices—such as the nature of user identity—that were “locked-in” at the birth of digital media and considers what a future based on current design philosophies will bring. With the proliferation of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the “wisdom” of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals, his message has never been more urgent.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Nicholas Carr (2010)

“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, or are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

The Winter of Our Disconnect

Susan Maushart (2010)

For any parent who’s ever IM-ed their child to the dinner table – or yanked the modem from its socket in a show of primal parental rage – this account of one family’s self-imposed exile from the Information Age will leave you ROFLing with recognition. But it will also challenge you to take stock of your own family connections, to create a media ecology that encourages kids – and parents – to thrive.

When journalist and commentator Susan Maushart first decided to pull the plug on all electronic media at home, she realised her children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water or hair products. At ages 14, 15 and 18, her daughters and son didn’t use media. They inhabited media. Just exactly as fish inhabit a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there. Susan’s experiment with her family was a major success and she found that having less to communicate with, her family is communicating more.

At the simplest level, The Winter of Our Disconnect is the story of how one family survived six months of wandering through the desert, digitally speaking, and the lessons learned about themselves and technology along the way. At the same time, their story is a channel to a wider view – into the impact of new media on the lives of families, into the very heart of the meaning of home.

The Shadow Factory

James Bamford (2009)

James Bamford has been the preeminent expert on the National Security Agency since his reporting revealed the agency’s existence in the 1980s. Now Bamford describes the transformation of the NSA since 9/11, as the agency increasingly turns its high-tech ears on the American public.

The Shadow Factory reconstructs how the NSA missed a chance to thwart the 9/11 hijackers and details how this mistake has led to a heightening of domestic surveillance. In disturbing detail, Bamford describes exactly how every American’s data is being mined and what is being done with it. Any reader who thinks America’s liberties are being protected by Congress will be shocked and appalled at what is revealed here.

Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine…And Fighting It

Mark Klein (2009)

Whistleblower Mark Klein tells the story of the illegal government spying apparatus installed at an AT&T office by the National Security Agency, and his battle to bring it to light and protect Americans’ 4th Amendment rights. After the New York Times revealed in 2005 that the NSA was spying on Americans’ phone calls and e-mail without Constitutionally-required court warrants, the Bush administration openly defended this practice which also violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. All details of the highly secret program remained hidden from the public—until Klein came forward. A technician for over 22 years at telecom giant AT&T, Klein was working in the Internet room in San Francisco in 2003 and discovered the NSA was vacuuming everyone’s communications into a secret room, and he had the documents to prove it (sample pages included). He went to the media in 2006, and then became a witness in a lawsuit brought against the company by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Googling Security: How Much Does Google Know About You?

Greg Conti (2009)

What Does Google Know about You? And Who Are They Telling? When you use Google’s “free” services, you pay, big time-with personal information about yourself. Google is making a fortune on what it knows about you…and you may be shocked by just how much Google does know. Googling Security is the first book to reveal how Google’s vast information stockpiles could be used against you or your business-and what you can do to protect yourself. Unlike other books on Google hacking, this book covers information you disclose when using all of Google’s top applications, not just what savvy users can retrieve via Google’s search results.

West Point computer science professor Greg Conti reveals the privacy implications of Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk, Google Groups, Google Alerts, Google’s new mobile applications, and more. Drawing on his own advanced security research, Conti shows how Google’s databases can be used by others with bad intent, even if Google succeeds in its pledge of “don’t be evil.”

Uncover the trail of informational “bread crumbs” you leave when you use Google search How Gmail could be used to track your personal network of friends, family, and acquaintances How Google’s map and location tools could disclose the locations of your home, employer, family and friends, travel plans, and intentions How the information stockpiles of Google and other online companies may be spilled, lost, taken, shared, or subpoenaed and later used for identity theft or even blackmail How the Google AdSense and DoubleClick advertising services could track you around the Web How to systematically reduce the personal information you expose or give away This book is a wake-up call and a “how-to” self-defense manual: an indispensable resource for everyone, from private citizens to security professionals, who relies on Google.

ID: The Quest for Meaning in the 21st Century

Susan Greenfield (2008)

If you’ve ever wondered what effect video games have on your children’s minds or worried about how much private information the government and big companies know about you, ID is essential reading.

Professor Susan Greenfield argues persuasively that our individuality is under the microscope as never before; now more then ever we urgently need to look at what we want for ourselves as individuals and for our future society.

ID is an exploration of what it means to be human in a world of rapid change, a passionately argued wake-up call and an inspiring challenge to embrace creativity and forge our own identities.

The Myth of Digital Democracy

Matthew Hindman (2008)

Is the Internet democratizing American politics? Do political Web sites and blogs mobilize inactive citizens and make the public sphere more inclusive? The Myth of Digital Democracy reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse but in fact empowers a small set of elites–some new, but most familiar.

Matthew Hindman argues that, though hundreds of thousands of Americans blog about politics, blogs receive only a miniscule portion of Web traffic, and most blog readership goes to a handful of mainstream, highly educated professionals. He shows how, despite the wealth of independent Web sites, online news audiences are concentrated on the top twenty outlets, and online organizing and fund-raising are dominated by a few powerful interest groups. Hindman tracks nearly three million Web pages, analyzing how their links are structured, how citizens search for political content, and how leading search engines like Google and Yahoo! funnel traffic to popular outlets. He finds that while the Internet has increased some forms of political participation and transformed the way interest groups and candidates organize, mobilize, and raise funds, elites still strongly shape how political material on the Web is presented and accessed.

The Myth of Digital Democracy. debunks popular notions about political discourse in the digital age, revealing how the Internet has neither diminished the audience share of corporate media nor given greater voice to ordinary citizens.
Matthew Hindman is assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University.

Endgame, Volumes 1 & 2

Derrick Jensen (2006)

Endgame is a two-volume work by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006, which argues that civilization is inherently unsustainable and addresses the resulting question of what to do about it. Volume 1, The Problem of Civilization, spells out the need to immediately and systematically destroy civilization. Volume 2, Resistance, is about the challenging physical task that dismantling civilization presents.

The long-awaited companion piece to Derrick Jensen’s immensely popular and highly acclaimed works A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe. Accepting the increasingly widespread belief that industrialized culture inevitably erodes the natural world, Endgame sets out to explore how this relationship impels us towards a revolutionary and as-yet undiscovered shift in strategy. Building on a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises, Jensen leaves us hoping for what may be inevitable: a return to agrarian communal life via the disintegration of civilization itself.
 

Whereas Volume 1 of Endgame presents the problem of civilization, Volume 2 of this pivotal work illustrates our means of resistance. Incensed and hopeful, impassioned and lucid, Endgame leapfrogs the environmental movement’s deadlock over our willingness to change our conduct, focusing instead on our ability to adapt to the impending ecological revolution.