Publisher: Harper San Francisco
Author: David Shenk
In a world where it seems that everyone is surfing the Information
Superhighway, David Shenk is on dry ground, happy to be free from
the waves of information that can sink a careless surfer. Data
Smog: Surviving the Information Glut is an excellent book
that warns of the impact of so much technology on our lives. From
families, to race relations, to education, we cannot avoid information,
but we must learn to deal with it properly.
Mr. Shenk takes a refreshing look at the world we live in. We
are constantly bombarded by the notion that more information makes
use smarter, or at least more informed. In the book, we are told
that it is the exact opposite since "the medium that captures
almost everything conveys almost nothing." (Page 194)
The book doesn't just warn us about the effects of the Internet,
but also warns about all forms of mass media, ranging from television
news ("News bites continue not because they are valuable,
but because they are dramatic and entertaining... we would be
much better off ignoring the vast majority of them." Page
168) to mass marketing campaigns ("With elaborate consumer
profiles on record, consumers come to resemble predictable machines
themselves..." Page 151).
It would be easy to complain about all of the problems facing
us today (the book has its fair share of that), but he also takes
the initiative in presenting to the readers some alternatives.
The final section of the book, Part 4: A Return to Meaning,
encourages us to do thins like be our own filter, simplify, and
help improve government.
Most authors who write books about the information revolution
are faced with the unfortunate situation of having their books
become outdated very quickly. Data Smog, on the other
hand, seems more relevant today that it did when it was first
published in 1997 (the paperback version was revised for 1998).
As each day, week, month, and year go by, we are swamped by even
more information, which makes Data Smog a very useful
tool in combating this modern day epidemic.