Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good Life in the Digital Age

William Powers, Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building A Good Life in the Digital Age (New York: Harper, 2010) is essentially a companion piece to Nicholas Carr's new book. Powers describes how every new information technology has brought challenges and that our present age has us always connected, our focus distracted, and our thinking often made fuzzy -- much the same arguments Carr makes. Instead of emphasizing the cognitive issues, Powers examines what Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Thoreau, and McLuhan have to offer with their observations about the use of information and, for them, the new technologies supporting the use of information. Powers teases out a set of principles, such developing positive rituals for shutting the technologies down from time to time, and poses them in a highly readable way. Carr's book may be the one I would select for a course, but Powers also provides a critical and useful critique. Neither author suggests anything astoundingly new, but they present their perspective in a very user friendly way that engages the reader and that certainly could be used in undergraduate and graduate courses.

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