I look forward to authors exploring the ebook format as something more than just a different package for print books. Ebooks are a format, distinct from print, and can do things that print can’t, tell stories in ways that print could never accomplish.
It’s more than the obvious idea of integrating multimedia elements (but how cool would Rigg’s “Peculiar Children” books be if the images were subtle animated GIFs?). Ebooks aren’t ink on paper, which means the text doesn’t have to be permanent. The words themselves could be made changeable.
This review was first published by Booklist on December 15, 2016.
This book will be a useful resource for anyone who wants to know how to deal with cyberbullying. Chock-full of examples of what cyberbullying is—each chapter opens with the story of a victim—the narrative’s greatest value is the well-informed and practical advice it offers about how to handle cyberbullies and what parents can do if their child is the one doing the bullying. The author also provides insightful analysis of what makes cyberbullying different and why it can be more harmful than other forms of bullying. The work concludes with a comprehensive list of resources and support organizations available to those who need them. Parents will appreciate the guidance. Hitchcock founded one of the first organizations dedicated to combating online abuse and is a recognized expert in the field. She approaches the subject from the perspective of her own experiences, which testifies to her authority on the subject, but at times it comes across as a bit self-promotional. However, she also interviews several other cyberbullying experts and includes their insights, making this a well-rounded resource for parents and educators.
This review was first published by Booklist on December 15, 2016.
This book is a survey of the movement to use video games as tools to educate and empower positive social change. Each chapter dives into a specific game or media company to present the history of this movement through real-world examples. Games can be forces for good—these games have been used to foster empathy and compassion, to illuminate mutual understanding, to promote involvement in civics and science, and even to help the sick deal with illness. Lead author Burak has been a pivotal figure in the Games for Change movement. Just about all of the games profiled in this book were projects that his organization, Games for Change, was involved with in some way. This makes him biased on the subject, certainly, but it also makes him better informed about the state of social-impact games than just about anyone else. This is an insider’s perspective, and the authors make a compelling argument. Games for Change might just change the world someday. It will be exciting to see what comes next.
This review was first published by Booklist on November 1, 2016.
Luckett and Casey are established authorities in the world of social media. If anyone can help us understand this digitally connected world, it’s them—and they don’t disappoint. They propose that the best way to comprehend the nature of social media is through the model of the seven characteristics of biological life. The book offers a deeply informed and nuanced portrait of the social-media landscape, supported by numerous examples. Although the outlook is hopeful, the authors clearly recognize the pitfalls and dangers social media presents and argue that we must guide its development if we want to make it better. The title implies that this will be a practical how-to manual for anyone who wants to take advantage of social media. It’s not. This is an overarching theory of social media, spanning disciplines from biology to anthropology to business to computer science. Whether or not you agree with their vision for what social media can be and do, this work offers a compelling model to understand what social media is.
This review was first published by Booklist on July 7, 2016.
Modern technology has become so complex that even experts can no longer understand technological systems in all their parts and workings. It frequently feels like we’re losing control of our own technological creations. Technology often behaves in ways that appear mysterious to us, the causes of effects too difficult to tease from the tangle. Arbesman explores this complexity and the limits of our ability to comprehend truly intricate systems and offers a strategy for better understanding. He argues that such complications are inevitable and that the evolution of our technology is best understood as a quasi-biological process. Biological thinking allows us to approach technological complexity in a more useful and holistic way and to accept the limits of our ability to understand it. What stands out most is Arbesman’s compelling hopefulness for the future. Caution in the face of our technology is understandable, but there’s no reason to be afraid of it. Technology can sometimes seem miraculous—yet that’s no reason to worship it. This book aims to offer us a better way forward.
This review was first published by Booklist on May 18, 2016.
When we think about companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and Uber, we tend to focus on the technology they innovate and how they’re changing our daily lives. But these platform businesses are some of the largest in the world today, commanding huge swaths of the modern economy. They’ve attained a scale long considered impossible by more traditional business models. Modern Monopolies analyzes platform businesses from the perspective of economics. Platform companies haven’t just beaten more traditional businesses; they’ve changed the nature of business itself, created whole new markets, and redefined what constitutes value. The authors analyze the path to success for platform companies and explore several ways that these businesses can fail. They display a strong grasp of the theoretical principles at play here but also evince a down-to-earth, nuanced, and critical view of how these companies function. Of particular importance, they suggest a fundamental reanalysis of the assumed value of “network effects.” This book is satisfying and timely, a valuable contribution to our understanding of modern business.
This review was first published by Booklist on April 1, 2016.
So you’ve started a business, now what? Ammirati seeks to answer this question in this sequel of sorts to the standard texts on the science of startups. In response, Ammirati offers a science of growth—a guide on how to scale your business once it’s successfully established. Why did Facebook beat Friendster? How did Tesla outdo Fisker? Why does McDonald’s boast over 35,000 locations worldwide, when White Castle has fewer than 500? Ammirati examines 26 well-known companies to discover what separates the success stories from the failures. He draws examples from diverse industries and isolates several variables: prerequisites for growth, catalysts for growth, and foundational elements to sustain it. An authority in the field of the startup economy, Ammirati teaches the subject at Carnegie Mellon and heads of the country’s most successful startup incubators, and it shows in the way his book is thoroughly researched. It’s also accessible, easy to read, and eye-opening. This is a necessary and welcome addition to the business canon.
In his book, Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library, Dr. Wayne Wiegand groups library services into three major categories:
These categories clarify a nagging issue I have with the language we use to talk about the importance of internet access in libraries. The following quote from a recent article by Larra Clark is a good example:
I spoke to a gentleman recently about the efforts of public libraries to bridge the Digital Divide, both in terms of offering broadband internet access to those who otherwise don’t have it, and teaching digital and information literacy to those who need it.
This gentleman told me that he thinks the internet is useless. He’s been online, tried the social media thing, wandered around the web, and he sees no value in any of it. He concluded that it’s all just a flood of unreliable, unverified information, and people being mean and wasting time. He believes that we’d all be better off without it.
He told me that he can’t understand why we work so hard to provide access to something that people don’t need and shouldn’t be using in the first place. I don’t believe this man was intentionally exclusionary or prejudiced—he sincerely couldn’t understand why anyone would value something which, to him, is so obviously value-less.
Rather than argue with this gentleman’s opinions regarding the supposed value of the internet, I responded:
Information professionals like to crow that we’re living in a Golden Age of Information. More information is available to more people than ever before in history, and it’s easier to access than ever.
The standard response is to point out that there’s more bad information than ever before. A whole lot of the information currently circulating around out there isn’t reliable.
This is true. But it’s also true that there’s more good information available to us than ever before, too. Just as bad information has increased, good information has increased alongside. I believe this firmly and I’ll stand by this statement.
But I’m not sure if the increase in good information is keeping pace with the increase in bad. It may be the proportion of good-to-bad has become more unbalanced. It may be that good information is being increasingly overwhelmed by the bad.