“We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us.” — John Culkin (1967)
From computers and phones shaping our posture, the fuels burned to run our information infrastructure, and social media changing the way we communicate, consume information, and reason about the events around us, humans are creating anthropological-level changes at record pace. The following list of readings presents scholars, lawyers, writers, and journalists grappling with the effects of these changes and how we approach them on personal, inter-personal, cultural, legal, and artistic levels.
CARR, NICOLAS. THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS. W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC. 2011
Nicolas Carr picks up his examination of media where Marshall McLuhan left off. In The Shallows he explores the impacts of an environment that encourages the user not to engage deeply with their material, but one where their attention is constantly grasped at by links, ads, notifications, and the seamless transition away from tasks one is currently engaged in.
FRIEDBERG, ANNE. THE VIRTUAL WINDOW: FROM ALBERTI TO MICROSOFT. MIT PRESS. 2006.
Anne Friedberg discusses the virtual and seeks to decouple it from its contemporary incarnation of meaning “electronically mediated.” Friedberg helps us understand the mutli-screened world of today by examining the “virtual” across time. The Virtual Window is an interdisciplinary exploration of philosophy, architecture, painting, and new media that provides understanding for when the window and the screen are used as metaphor.
FAIRFIELD, A.T. JOSHUA. OWNED: PROPERTY, PRIVACY, AND THE NEW DIGITAL SERFDOM. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 2017.
Fairfield approaches the digital age as a property lawyer. He examines the earliest rulings regarding rights and digital ownership. As more of our devices get bound up in licensing agreements and as Americans own less, our privacy and our most fundamental rights erode. Owned argues that the best way to restore our rights is to take our qualms and complaints about the new order through the courts and use the longstanding history of property law to win our rights back.
O’CONNELL, MARK. TO BE A MACHINE: ADVENTURES AMONG CYBORGS, UTOPIANS, HACKERS, AND THE FUTURISTS SOLVING THE MODEST PROBLEM OF DEATH. DOUBLEDAY. 2017.
Mark O’Connell explores the world of futurists, transhumanists, and others who fret about the existential problem of mortality. He talks with futurists about how they might solve death and interviews DIY biohacking groups actively performing surgeries on themselves so that they may merge themselves with machines. Throughout the book O’Connell ruminates on the faith these groups have in the ability of technology to deliver them from the human condition.
TURKLE, SHERRY. ALONE TOGETHER: WHY WE EXPECT MORE FROM TECHNOLOGY AND LESS FROM EACH OTHER. BASIC BOOKS. 2011.
Alone Together is Sherry Turkle’s third book in a trilogy that explores who we are and who we become in a machine connected world. She works from a psychoanalytic perspective to understand what we want and expect from machines and how often the longing of a desire for a robot or an online connection to fulfill a role is simply our desire to have the role fulfilled by people. The work has a deep focus on how often we are willing to settle for facsimile.
SAX, DAVID. THE REVENGE OF ANALOG: REAL THINGS AND WHY THEY MATTER. PUBLIC AFFAIRS. 2016.
David Sax examines business trends that focus on physicality and being physically present: vinyl, board games, print media, and brick and mortar retail stores. Through analyzing sales and business trends Sax makes the argument that the sheen of the digital world is wearing off and that people want to be engaged physically; the return to analog is a manifestation of these desires.