This post is part of the series Books in Review 2017
Other posts in this series:
In the final day of reviewing the 54 books that I’ve finished so far in 2017, I’m talking about books focused mainly on technology. I work in tech, I talk tech all the time, and one day I want to be known for writing about tech too.
Neal Stephenson is an acclaimed sci-fi author who invented some of the terminology of the Internet. He is also picky when it comes to his operating system and computing features, as all good technologists are.
This book ends up reading more like a history of Stephenson’s use of operating systems and hardware than a history of the OS, but it is still interesting if tinkering with machines is something that you like to do.
Why do we seem unable to put down our phones, or check them hundreds of times per day? They were designed with that goal specifically in mind. Learn some of the tricks used to make technology addictive, and keep yourself from being unable to go a few minutes without a notification check.
In addition to being an excellent novelist (see Walkaway from Wednesday’s fiction post), Cory Doctorow works at the EFF and writes cogently on digital culture and the ethics and legalities around it. In Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, Doctorow examines and disputes a common rallying cry around Open Source and Free Software, and points out the fact that those creators deserve just as much support – if not more – than the larger companies that profit from their work.
If you are a digital creator I highly recommend this book. If you are a person who cares about the Internet, I highly recommend all of Doctorow’s works.
Both of these books are by Nicholas Carr, and both concern the Internet and technology. Utopia is Creepy is a collection of posts from his blog, which means that the quality of each essay varies a bit, and are rooted in a particular time.
The Shallows is a more traditional book, with a focus on how the Internet is changing how we think. It is not necessarily an indictment of our current culture, though any book like this invariably gets to that point. Instead, Carr contrasts how we gather information as compared to other times in history, such as the amount of attention devoted to consuming a novel or research paper. It’s a good reminder of how we are shaped by technology, and how we have to choose our responses around it.
Short book. Weird book. Weird back story. I can’t say this would get that far were it not the real life mystery that accompanied the distribution of the original 140 copies and the hidden nature of the author.
A fun history of the video game industry, going back to before there even was one up to the present day of AAA title studios and independent game makers. Andrew Ervin has similar tastes in games as art as I do, so it was also enjoyable to read about games that I enjoyed from someone who got the same emotional tug from them.
Sherry Turkle has been studying the anthropology around humans and technology since before I was using computers. Her books are generally written for an academic audience, but they contain a deep level of knowledge and insight.
The Inner History of Devices is Turkle’s attempt to narrate from the point of view of the device itself, and how interactions with humans work. An interesting read which taught me a few things, though didn’t change much of my thinking.
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