I have a book addiction and I'm not ashamed of it. There's a ton of great stuff out there in the book-o-sphere. And the focus it takes to write and produce a great book means that there's more signal and less noise in a book than in most other media. I know from past experience that most of my readers here at VSL love to read. Otherwise they wouldn't trudge through my longer posts. We've pretty much scared off the people who profess to not like reading much...
Today, instead of crooning about the latest cameras or doing another heartfelt post about shooting with your heart instead of your brain, I'm reviewing a book that has absolutely nothing to do with photography and everything to do with why we enjoy photography less, feel as though we have less time to devote to our photography and can't seem to get a foothold onto the steep cliff of creative expression. And why we're spinning our wheels instead of getting stuff done.
Reader, Jason Benlevi, sent me his book entitled, "Too Much Magic. Pulling the Plug on the Cult of Tech." (full disclosure: It is a review copy, paperback, and no other value or exchange of services has occurred to, in any way, influence my reviewing of the book.)
The book is both a history of our entanglement with, and accommodation of, all the devices and programming and social interfaces that the past 100 years of technological advancement brought to the consumer. Benlevi makes a very good case that every new application and device has a useful side and a dark side and that we, as consumers, are being pushed into choices and use patterns without informed consent. And without truthfully acknowledging the dark sides.
I won't go into detail and spoil a great read for you but one of the statements that jumped out at me concerned the shift in our focus of brain and financial resources. At one point, two generations back, we (the U.S.A.) sent men to the moon. Now, with our focus on recreational and sales oriented websites as targets for our joint venture dollars the only way we can get our people to the international space station is to hitch a ride on a Russian spacecraft. We our the masters of "I'm at Starbucks!" "Do these shoes make me look fat?" and other important social interactions. But at the same time we earn less than we did 20 years ago and work harder.
Benlevi is a good writer and he makes the concepts flow. His time lining of our tech history helps all the concepts fall nicely into place. His ability to show both sides of the tech coin comes from his own long history in the technology world. He is a hardly an outsider.
If you've felt uneasy about the massive intrusion and implied necessity of social networking in your life but you don't understand why you feel uneasy or what to do about it, then this book is for you.
If you think an iPad is a tool to enhance your creativity then this book is for you.
We are being stalked for our consumer information every minute we're on the web or on our phones. The people who vacuum up our information are deciding what we will see and what we won't. They are using the information to help us spend more and to spend it more often. They are helping us relentlessly upgrade. Find out how and find out why.
I got the book yesterday afternoon and finished the 361 pages over coffee this morning. That's all I have to say because I'm off to pull the plug on my Facebook account.