Books I’d Like to Read

For your reading and collection development pleasure. It’s been so long since I last did one of these listings, I actually have another one coming up in a day or so.

Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia by Joseph Michael Reagle Jr. (ISBN-13: 978-0262014472)

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community–a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture.

Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet’s Universal Repository and H. G. Wells’s proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology–which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia’s good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.

Wikipedia Revolution, The: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia by Andrew Lih (ISBN-10: 1401303714)

With more than 2,000,000 individual articles on everything from Aa! (a Japanese pop group) to Zzyzx, California, written by an army of volunteer contributors, Wikipedia is the #8 site on the World Wide Web. Created (and corrected) by anyone with access to a computer, this impressive assemblage of knowledge is growing at an astonishing rate of more than 30,000,000 words a month. Now for the first time, a Wikipedia insider tells the story of how it all happened–from the first glimmer of an idea to the global phenomenon it’s become.

Andrew Lih has been an administrator (a trusted user who is granted access to technical features) at Wikipedia for more than four years, as well as a regular host of the weekly Wikipedia podcast. In The Wikipedia Revolution, he details the site’s inception in 2001, its evolution, and its remarkable growth, while also explaining its larger cultural repercussions. Wikipedia is not just a website; it’s a global community of contributors who have banded together out of a shared passion for making knowledge free.

I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton (ISBN-13: 978-0307591111)

Are we driving off a digital cliff and heading for disaster, unable to focus, maintain concentration, or form the human bonds that make life worth living? Are media and business doomed and about to be replaced by amateur hour?

The world, as Nick Bilton–with tongue-in-cheek–shows, has been going to hell for a long, long time, and what we are experiencing is the twenty-first-century version of the fear that always takes hold as new technology replaces the old. In fact, as Bilton shows, the digital era we are part of is, in all its creative and disruptive forms, the foundation for exciting and engaging experiences not only for business but society as well.

Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider by Amir D. Aczel. ISBN-13: 978-0307591678

The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest, and by far the most powerful, machine ever built. A project of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, its audacious purpose is to re-create, in a 16.5-mile-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss countryside, the immensely hot and dense conditions that existed some 13.7 billion years ago within the first trillionth of a second after the fiery birth of our universe. The collider is now crashing protons at record energy levels never created by scientists before, and it will reach even higher levels by 2013. Its superconducting magnets guide two beams of protons in opposite directions around the track. After accelerating the beams to 99.9999991 percent of the speed of light, it collides the protons head-on, annihilating them in a flash of energy sufficient–in accordance with Einstein’s elegant statement of mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2–to coalesce into a shower of particles and phenomena that have not existed since the first moments of creation. Within the LHC’s detectors, scientists hope to see empirical confirmation of key theories in physics and cosmology.

In telling the story of what is perhaps the most anticipated experiment in the history of science, Amir D. Aczel takes us inside the control rooms at CERN at key moments when an international team of top researchers begins to discover whether this multibillion-euro investment will fulfill its spectacular promise. Through the eyes and words of the men and women who conceived and built CERN and the LHC–and with the same clarity and depth of knowledge he demonstrated in the bestselling Fermat’s Last Theorem–Aczel enriches all of us with a firm grounding in the scientific concepts we will need to appreciate the discoveries that will almost certainly spring forth when the full power of this great machine is finally unleashed.

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (ISBN-13: 978-1596915657)

Veteran journalists Kovach and Rosenstiel (The Elements of Journalism) begin their intelligent and well-written guidebook by assuring readers this is not unfamiliar territory. The printing press, the telegraph, radio, and television were once just as unsettling and disruptive as today’s Internet, blogs, and Twitter posts. But the rules have changed. The gatekeepers of information are disappearing. Everyone must become editors assuming the responsibility for testing evidence and checking sources presented in news stories, deciding what’s important to know, and whether the material is reliable and complete. Utilizing a set of systemic questions that the authors label “the way of skeptical knowing,” Kovach and Rosenstiel provide a roadmap for maintaining a steady course through our messy media landscape. As the authors entertainingly define and deconstruct the journalism of verification, assertion, affirmation, and interest group news, readers gain the analytical skills necessary for understanding this new terrain. “The real information gap in the 21st century is not who has access to the Internet and who does not. It is the gap between people who have the skills to create knowledge and those who are simply in a process of affirming preconceptions without growing and learning.”

A History of the Internet and the Digital Future by Johnny Ryan (ISBN-13: 978-1861897770)

A great adjustment in human affairs is underway. Political, commercial and cultural life is changing from the centralized, hierarchical and standardized structures of the industrial age to something radically different: the economy of the emerging digital era.

A History of the Internet and the Digital Future tells the story of the development of the Internet from the 1950s to the present, and examines how the balance of power has shifted between the individual and the state in the areas of censorship, copyright infringement, intellectual freedom and terrorism and warfare. Johnny Ryan explains how the Internet has revolutionized political campaigns; how the development of the World Wide Web enfranchised a new online population of assertive, niche consumers; and how the dot-com bust taught smarter firms to capitalize on the power of digital artisans.

Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age
by William Powers (ISBN-13: 978-0061687167)

A crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: “Where’s the rest of my life?”

At a time when we’re all trying to make sense of our relentlessly connected lives, this revelatory book presents a bold new approach to the digital age. Part intellectual journey, part memoir, Hamlet’s BlackBerry sets out to solve what William Powers calls the conundrum of connectedness. Our computers and mobile devices do wonderful things for us. But they also impose an enormous burden, making it harder for us to focus, do our best work, build strong relationships, and find the depth and fulfillment we crave.

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