- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
How about trying a novel in Spanish? Amores Virtuales is one of the most astounding novels I've read in recent years. Dr. Ulises Blanco is a recently widowed psychiatrist who consents to online therapy via an avatar representing his beloved mentor, also deceased. Some of the machine-driven therapy is effective and some causes him to blunder magnificently. This plus his relationships with his existing human clients make for interesting novelistic twists. The author is a practicing psychotherapist so expect some weighty reflections on the life process and on self-revelation.
If you haven't watched a TED Talk yet, I highly recommend you do! TED is a non-profit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading" and stands for Technology, Entertainment & Design, an annual conference that started in 1984. Since then, they've created a great video library of short (20 minutes or less) lectures on lots of interesting topics.
The video embedded in this post is a great example of a shorter TED Talk. If you like it, don't stop there! Many of the speakers are also authors and you can follow up a TED Talk with the book! For example, Sir Kenneth Robinson's TED Talk is one of the most-watched videos online. And SJPL carries his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative.
Watch, then read!
A few years ago, a co-worker of mine gave me a t-shirt with that famous cartoon by Peter Steiner published in the New Yorker - "On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog." It really is hard to tell what's real and what's not online, but there are some ways to stay grounded.
In thinking about the various mis-information that has come my way via emails, facebook posts and forwarded newspaper stories, they usually sort out into three categories.
Scams. These are the worst - and potentially the most harmful to you. Those emails from Nigerian Princes who just need a bank transfer in order to claim their throne and their vast fortune which they'll share with you are a classic example of an online phishing scam. That one is easy to spot, but the ones that supposedly are coming from the IRS or your bank are a little harder to point out. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody gives out free iPads and don't send your passwords to anyone!
Parody. If you see a ridiculous news story - odds are good it came from The Onion. They do such a good job of writing hilarious parody stories. Sometimes a friend or relative might even fall for it and think it's real. If you haven't checked out The Onion, be warned, their stories spare no-one and you might be offended once you stop laughing.
Urban Legends. I see stuff on Facebook all the time that falls into this category. The most recent has to do with the new Timeline feature and changing subscription settings to keep strangers from reading what you and your friend are posting on Facebook. Others range from such innocuous topics as the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe to the more insidious like terrorists poisoning cans of soda or a celebrity that died in a snowboarding accident.
It's all fiction and don't you fall for it!
What can you do to figure out if the information you've found online is for real? Snopes.com is my favorite debunking source. This simple site is constantly updated with the latest wrong information and gives you the straight scoop on what is really going on.
And don't feel bad if you have fallen for a tall tale on the Internet. This kind of stuff has been going on since man started talking! If you are interested in reading some Urban Legends, here is a good book to get you started...
Encyclopedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand Brunvand has been writing about Urban Legends for decades. This book is a compilation of legends that have been collected over time. Its over 500 pages of paranoia inducing stories in all their variations.
Cory Doctorow is the most epic author of our time, as well as a proponent for the freedom of digital information and internet users' rights. His book Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is hard to pin down, but best described as a fantastical story about an exceedingly strange family, its children, and one child (Alan) and his interactions with "the regular world." The plot is enthralling and if you're a fantasy or science fiction fan, this story won't disappoint. If you're an HP Lovecraft fan, the style will seem quite familiar to you. Otherwise, think of it as urban fantasy and magical realism, with a dash of identity crisis. Alan's progress through the world and his flashbacks to his strange upbringing shed some light on our own families, identities, and future.
How does the future of society look, to you? It doesn't look too bright according to these recent books that credit the effects of information technology on humans for decreases in reading and other signs of impending societal decline. The fact that these interesting books are not flying off our library shelves kind of supports their arguments, if you get my drift. Check them out.
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr is a very well written book positing the view that your behavior on the inherently distracting Internet impedes your ability to achieve deep reading behavior that is necessary for education, professional work, and other endeavors. Carr references scientific research to buttress his claims and is an excellent writer even on a subject that could be hard to make interesting. This is an easy-to-deep-read book.
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future by Mark Bauerlein is a book that is hard to stop reading, not because it is well written so much as because it paints a riveting but depressing portrait of Generation Y's educational and intellectual shortcomings. Well documented, the book focuses on the intellect of under-30-year-olds, not only concluding that they are the "dumbest generation" but doing a good job of refuting those academics who contend otherwise.
Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age by Maggie Jackson is an easy-to-read book that includes significant documentation in support of its thesis that modern multitaskers' inability to focus attention will usher in a period of societal decline. Unfortunately, the book itself would be better, if more tightly focused on fewer points and less sensationalistic in predicting a Dark Age due to general inattention.
Related books that are also recommended for this topic are You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier and The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory by Torkel Klingberg.