Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Am I a Gadget?

I rarely read book reviews. I rarely read books, so what's the point? Still, a Post review of Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget caught my eye. I know it's a bit ironic to be discussing this particular book in this medium, but so be it. As Lanier said in a recent interview:
... the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia.
Some of Lanier's thoughts about this really work for me. I feel that we are losing sight of the value of ideas and real critical thinking. The Internet (really the Web 2.0 version) brings the focus to little sound bites and aggregations. We all have ridiculous amounts of information washing over us (RSS feeds, tweets, Facebook updates, news pages filled with dozens of headlines), but how much are we really absorbing? How well are we thinking about and synthesizing all this information? At times, I feel like we really are inching toward being stateless automata.

Don't get me wrong: I use Google Reader,, Twitter, and Facebook, but I try to review my use of all these services to see how they are enhancing my life. I am not interested in twisting my life to fit technology; I want technology to help me to
  • do things (pay bills, do work, store information for convenient, intuitive retrieval, etc.)
  • find voices that make me laugh or think (see the Blogroll)
  • stay connected to my family and real friends (Picasa, Gmail)
I think it is important that we all stay vigilant and assess how technology controls our lives. It's seductive and easy to let our gadgets and other technology take over.

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