I compiled my thoughts on a bunch of recent books about the internet, social concerns, and brain matters into a piece called “This is Your Brain Online: Recent Books on Cognition and Connection” for 21C Magazine, many of which have been hashed out right here on this site.
Here’s an excerpt:
Regarding public cell phone use, comedian Bill Maher once quipped that if he wanted to be so privy to one’s most intimate thoughts, he’d read his or her blog. Nancy Baym addresses this technologically enabled collusion of public and private, as well as the more traditionally debated clashes, in Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Polity, 2010). Baym’s is by turns all-encompassing, in that she covers nearly every epistemological viewpoint on so-called social media expressed thus far, and all-purpose, in that anyone can read this book and see how these structures of knowledge apply to their own use of technology. In her study of technology’s influence on social connections, she breaks it down into seven key concepts: interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, and mobility. Sure, any time one attempts to slice up such a malleable and ever-changing landscape into discrete pieces one runs the risk of missing something. This process, one of closing off an open system in order to study it, is necessary if we are ever to learn anything about that system. Nancy Baym has collected, synthesized, and added to the legacy of digital media and indeed technology studies at large. This book is a great leap forward.
Many thanks to Ashley Crawford for the opportunity to contribute to 21C. Read the full piece here.