Steven B Johnson’s new book on the internet and politics

I have read a number of his works, including Emergence:

And so, over time, a book I had written about social insects and video games and software algorithms started to feel more and more like a book about politics…

I look forward to this book and hope it goes beyond the aspect of political organization via the web. My own personal politics have been informed and transformed thanks to the internet, and my experience mirrors his observation:

The funny thing about this new movement was that it didn’t readily fit the categories of either political party in the US.

The internet and living abroad have definitely given me a more nuanced view of politics. I have added Future Perfect to my To Read list.

Steven B Johnson’s new book on the internet and politics

[REVIEW] Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web

Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social WebGrouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web by Paul Adams
My rating: ★★★★★

Great little book giving an overview of a wide array of research on social networks and how information passes through them. Though near the end it gets a little too evangelical for permission marketing IMHO, I think it is a great starting point for learning about the social aspects of building web products today. Many of the cases in the book might be familiar to you if you read a lot of new business books, or books on decision-making and/or popular psychology. Adams does a good job highlighting these cases and tying them together for the web entrepreneur.

I listened to the audiobook which was a quick and easy listen. I am going to pick up a text version so I can explore the footnotes.

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[REVIEW] Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Possibly a bit of a sensationalist headline, but there is a key take-away in the final graf about battling anti-atheism:

“If you manage to offer credible counteroffers of these stereotypes, this can do a lot to undermine people’s existing prejudice,” he said. “If you realize there are all these atheists you’ve been interacting with all your life and they haven’t raped your children that is going to do a lot do dispel these stereotypes.”

Being vocal, standing up and being counted, coming out of the closet, conciousness-raising: this is how many censured social groups have overcome prejudiced attitudes. Like women, gays and racial/class minorities atheists too must also use these strategies to defend themselves and ultimately gain acceptance. This is the thinking behind things like The Out Campaign and other efforts by “outspoken” atheists.

I cannot make you come out, or burn the closet down around you. I can only encourage you to come out by letting you know there are many, many of us like you. Please make your voice heard.

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff

Rushkoff’s appeal for a wider understanding of our rapidly changing technological environment seems like it might be the typical anachronistic song for simpler times, heard throughout humankind’s history of technology. It is more subtle than that. Rushkoff broaches a commonly heard criticism in his final chapter when he asks, “We all know how to drive our cars, yet few of us know how our automobiles actually work, right?”

Throughout the twentieth century, we remained blissfully ignorant of the real biases of automotive transportation. We approached our cars as consumers, through ads, rather than as engineers or, better, civic planners. We gladly surrendered our public streetcars to private automobiles, unaware of the real expenses involved.

Digital technology is different because:

Our screens are the windows through which we are experiencing, organizing, and interpreting the world in which we live. … They are fast becoming the boundaries of our perceptual and conceptual apparatus; the edge between our nervous systems and everyone else’s, our understanding of the world and the world itself. If we don’t know how they work, we have no way of knowing what is really out there. … Our senses and our thoughts are already clouded by our own misperceptions, prejudices, and confusion. Our digital tools add yet another layer of bias on top of that.

A short tract, but a worthy read nonetheless. Filled with great quotes.

Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff