Some books worth reading

by on March 10, 2008 · 1 comment

I used to be better about posting short reviews of the books I was reading, but I’ve gotten lazy and stopped doing so. I’m going to try to get back in that habit. For now, I’ll just post a few links for some interesting books I’ve read recently, or just started digging into:

* The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, by Daniel J. Solove. As a rabid free speech advocate, I found Solove’s book quite challenging because he points out the occasional downsides of uninhibited speech when it comes to reputation. I generally subscribe to the “your-privacy-is-over, get-over-it” camp, but Solove makes a powerful case regarding the dangers of that position when innocent people get caught up in an online war of words and have their reputations ruined for years, or perhaps even life. Jim Harper posted a review of Solove’s book last October and pointed out that these occasions are probably more rare than Solove suggests, but they still do exist. The question is: How much of a role should the law play in countering or correcting those “wrongs”? Solove has some interesting answers. [Note: You can read the book online here.]

* Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, edited by Ronald J. Deibert, John G. Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, and Jonathan Zittrain. This is essential reading for anyone studying the methods governments are using to stifle online expression. The contributors provide a regional and country-by-country overview of the global state of online speech controls and discuss the long-term ramifications of increasing government filtering of online networks. Even if you don’t read the whole thing, this is a must-have title for your bookshelf since there is no other resource out there like this. [Note: It also contains a very helpful chapter on the mechanics of Net filtering.]

* Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, by Henry Jenkins. I finished this one several months ago but thought I would plug it here anyway. Jenkins is one of my favorite writers, and in many ways he follows in the footsteps of Marshall McLuhan and Ithiel de Sola Pool, who wrote my favorite technology policy book of all time, Technologies of Freedom. I really like Henry’s definition of convergence: “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.” He goes on to argue that, “In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms.”

* Kids These Days: Facts and Fictions About Today’s Youth, by Karen Sternheimer. This is a pretty good book, but I actually liked Sternheimer’s previous book more: It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children. It was a hard-nosed look at some of the myths about kids and modern technology. Read that one first.

* The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, by Sasha Issenberg: Although it is not, strictly speaking, a book about technology policy, I highly recommend this book to everyone. There are many books out there today about the impact of globalization on economies and cultures, but none that do so by viewing it through the prism of my favorite food! Specifically, Issenberg takes a look at how the global market for sushi (specifically tuna) developed over the past few decades and tells the amazing story about how local, regional and international actors and forces came to work smoothly together to put delicious fresh fish in our tummies! “As the world gets smaller,” he argues, “the selection in those glass cases gets bigger–and better. Eating at a sushi bar, then, is not so much an escape from fast-paced global commerce as an immersion in it. Globalization is, at its most simple, the integration of local economies through trade, a development that has taken place over centuries but accelerated in the late twentieth.” My only problem with this book is that it made me hungry every time I picked it up!

Up next on my reading list…

* The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It, by Jonathan Zittrain. I just saw Jonathan out at a Stanford Law School conference and he was kind enough to bring complementary copies of his new book for the rest of the speakers. Looks like a very provocative book, and Jonathan is a very gifted writer and an even better speaker.

* Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky
* Cass Sunstein’s Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. [Both these books seem to be building on themes similar to those found in Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Tapscott & Williams as well as Benkler’s Wealth of Networks and a bit of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People by Dan Gillmor and Chris Anderson’s Long Tail book and essays for Wired. ]

* How Computer Games Help Children Learn, by David Williamson Shaffer [Appears to build on James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy].

[And I’m also currently trying to re-read Melville’s Moby Dick! It’s good to keep some classic literature in the mix to keep one sane while reading all this nerdy tech policy stuff.]

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