What’s happening right now in the technology world? What are the social implications of the digital tools now available to everyone with an internet connection? How is our thinking mind changing due to the constant use of the web? Why do people blog? How can people find the time to write Wikipedia? Who are those annoying groups that are disrupting your second life?
These are only some of the questions that are tackled by the inspiring collection of essays edited by Steven Johnson in The Best Technology Writing, 2009. As he emphasizes in the introduction, there has been a shift in technology writing in the last years. The focus is more and more the analysis of the current trends and phenomena and less and less speculations of how the future might surprise us. The digital world has become so complex and varied that it requires the most effort to be explicated. And the future? The future is now and, at the same time, we understand that it is increasingly difficult to anticipate what it will unveil. Especially if we consider that today’s most advanced and popular trends were utterly unpredictable just some years ago. Think about the Facebook phenomenon. Who could have foreseen that it would have grown to contain more people that the United States? Clive Thompson studies the new social media in his “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”, introducing us to the concept of ambient awareness.
Like the status updates of Twitter and Facebook, the essays in the book provide us a glimpse of the present (what is happening right now?) technological realm. But how is this constant presentness and exposure to an interminable flow of information affecting our thinking? Nicholas Carr tries to answer in his “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.
The closing essay is by Clay Shirky and well explains where people find the time to spend online socializing, uploading videos to YouTube or writing new articles in Wikipedia. There is a cognitive surplus that is slowly sobering up from decades of TV drunkenness. The Wikipedia effort consists of approximately 100 million hours of human thought. Every years in the US alone, people spend 200 billion hours in front of the TV screen. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Wikipedias every year! If only 1 percent of that time is carved out for producing and sharing, we could have other 100 Wikipedia-like projects every year!
Stop watching TV. Read The Best Technology Writing, 2009 and contribute to the expanding knowledge world we are creating.