Books I'd like to read: Ebola, Vaccines, AirBnB, Democracies and more

For your reading and collection development pleasure...

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, kind of seeing what's on my mind a little in the science-y and tech-y book world and kind of a way to help me remember what I want to pick up. It's also been a while since I've actually reviewed a book, but I do think I'll be getting to some of the backlog fairly soon in some mass group posts.

In any case, some books I'd like to read, ones that I've not acquired yet but probably will soon.

The Politics of Fear: Médecins sans Frontières and the West African Ebola Epidemic. Edited by Michiel Hofman and Sokhieng Au

The 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was an unprecedented medical and political emergency that cast an unflattering light on multiple corners of government and international response. Fear, not rational planning, appeared to drive many decisions made at population and leadership levels, which in turn brought about a response that was as uneven as it was unprecedented: entire populations were decimated or destroyed, vaccine trials were fast-tracked, health staff died, untested medications were used (or not used) in controversial ways, humanitarian workers returned home to enforced isolation, and military was employed to sometimes disturbing ends.

The epidemic revealed serious fault lines at all levels of theory and practice of global public health: national governments were shown to be helpless and unprepared for calamity at this scale; the World Health Organization was roundly condemned for its ineffectiveness; the US quietly created its own African CDC a year after the epidemic began. Amid such chaos, Médecins sans Frontières was forced to act with unprecdented autonomy -- and amid great criticism -- in responding to the disease, taking unprecedented steps in deploying services and advocating for international aid.

The Politics of Fear provides a primary documentary resource for recounting and learning from the Ebola epidemic. Comprising eleven topic-based chapters and four eyewitness vignettes from both MSF- and non-MSF-affiliated contributors (all of whom have been given access to MSF Ebola archives from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia for research), it aims to provide a politically agnostic account of the defining health event of the 21st century so far, one that will hopefully inform current opinions and future responses.

 

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease. By Meredith Wadman.

The epic and controversial story of a major breakthrough in cell biology that led to the conquest of rubella and other devastating diseases.

Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. The new cells and the method of making them also led to vaccines that have protected billions of people around the world from polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.

 

Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures. By Lorraine Daston (Editor)

With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more—as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman Antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, this volume reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long­-term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science.

 


Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves. By Brenda Peterson

In the tradition of Peter Matthiessen’s Wildlife in America or Aldo Leopold’s work, Brenda Peterson tells the 300-year history of wild wolves in America. It is also our own history, seen through our relationship with wolves. Native Americans revered them. Settlers jealousy exterminated them. Now, scientists, writers, and ordinary citizens are fighting to bring them back to the wild. Peterson, an eloquent voice in the battle for twenty years, makes the powerful case that without wolves, not only will our whole ecology unravel, but well lose much of our national soul.

 

The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions...and Created Plenty of Controversy. By Leigh Gallagher

In addition to exploring the colorful history of its founding and the many factors contributing to Airbnb’s success—an epic recession that left people with a much greater incentive to travel cheaply or to turn their homes into something monetizable; fatigue with a hospitality industry that had become overpriced and overcommoditized; and a new generation of millennial travelers who didn’t bat an eye at the idea of sharing space with strangers—Gallagher also investigates the more controversial side of the Airbnb story. Regulators have fought back forcefully in many markets to curb the company’s rapid expansion. Hotel industry leaders wrestle with the disruption it has caused them and the growing threat it represents to their bottom line. And residents and customers alike struggle with the unintended consequences of opening up private homes for public consumption. Gallagher closely examines crises that hit the company at its core, like ransackings and other fraudulent uses of the platform (including the story of one family in a wealthy New Jersey suburb who learned the hard way that Airbnb’s promise of “trust” can fall short); accidents and even deaths resulting from unsafe conditions at Airbnb listings; and racial and other kinds of discrimination by Airbnb hosts.

 

Stalin and the Scientists: A History of Triumph and Tragedy, 1905-1953. By Simon Ings

Stalin and the Scientists tells the story of the hugely gifted scientists who worked in Russia from the years leading up to the Revolution through the death of the "Great Scientist" himself, Joseph Stalin. It weaves together the stories of scientists, politicians, and ideologues into an intimate and sometimes horrifying portrait of a state determined to remake the world. They often wreaked great harm. Stalin was himself an amateur botanist, and by falling under the sway of dangerous charlatans like Trofim Lysenko (who denied the existence of genes), and by relying on antiquated ideas of biology, he not only destroyed the lives of hundreds of brilliant scientists, he caused the death of millions through famine. But from atomic physics to management theory, and from radiation biology to neuroscience and psychology, these Soviet experts also discovered breakthroughs that forever changed agriculture, education, and medicine.

 

Why Democracies Need Science. By Harry Collins, Robert Evans

We live in times of increasing public distrust of the main institutions of modern society. Experts, including scientists, are suspected of working to hidden agendas or serving vested interests. The solution is usually seen as more public scrutiny and more control by democratic institutions experts must be subservient to social and political life.

In this book, Harry Collins and Robert Evans take a radically different view. They argue that, rather than democracies needing to be protected from science, democratic societies need to learn how to value science in this new age of uncertainty. By emphasizing that science is a moral enterprise, guided by values that should matter to all, they show how science can support democracy without destroying it and propose a new institution The Owls that can mediate between science and society and improve technological decision-making for the benefit of all.

 

Gravity's Kiss: The Detection of Gravitational Waves. By Harry Collins

Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a “very interesting event” (as the cautious subject line in a physicist’s email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves. In Gravity’s Kiss, Harry Collins—who has been watching the science of gravitational wave detection for forty-three of those fifty years and has written three previous books about it—offers a final, fascinating account, written in real time, of the unfolding of one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made.

Predicted by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves carry energy from the collision or explosion of stars. Dying binary stars, for example, rotate faster and faster around each other until they merge, emitting a burst of gravitational waves. It is only with the development of extraordinarily sensitive, highly sophisticated detectors that physicists can now confirm Einstein’s prediction. This is the story that Collins tells.

 

How about some books you think I should read? Suggestions always welcome!

Support this Project: Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science

Every once in a while, I'm happy to use this blog to throw my support behind a worthy project. And there's nothing like children's science books about women in science!

Check out the Kickstarter for Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science, and consider joining me in helping this amazing project come to fruition.

Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science

When children ask questions, their whole world becomes their experiment

Kids ask a LOT of questions. The inquisitive star of Science Wide Open is no different! Her questions about how the world works guide each unique story, while the resulting narrative teaches some of the fundamentals of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

What is Science Wide Open

Science Wide Open is a children's book series. This is a series that... First, explains and teaches some basic concepts in chemistry, biology and physics in simple and memorable terms by using the natural questions and curiosity of a young child. Second, does so by highlighting some of the mind blowing scientific advancements made by women scientists throughout history. The current series consists of three books:

  • Book One -- Women in Chemistry
  • Book Two -- Women in Biology
  • Book Three -- Women in Physics

Inside these books

Each book in the Science Wide Open series consists of more than 32 full color pages, featuring 4-5 female scientists of diverse time periods and backgrounds as well answering questions like:

  • What is DNA?
  • Why do things fall down?
  • What is an Atom?
  • What is a Cell?

The beautiful artwork is accurate to the history and science it represents. The text is fun to read and easy to understand, and there’s even a glossary for curious kids (and adults) who want to delve deeper into the science!

Instill a Sense of Wonder and Possibility

Science Wide Open makes science accessible for all. You don’t need a science background to enjoy these books, but you’ll still appreciate them if you do. The series weaves narration, history, and science together to celebrate the power of curiosity and resilience.

Why these stories matter

If asked for a list of famous women in science, most people would start and end with Marie Curie. The truth is that countless women have made astonishing contributions to science, but many of their stories have been obscured or downplayed.

This is not the future we want for our kids.

Science Wide Open...

  • Engages readers in the amazing science behind how the world works in terms kids can understand and enjoy.
  • Introduces female role models for aspiring young scientists of any gender.
  • Shares inspirational stories of women who have changed the world through their scientific discoveries.

Books I'd like to read: Climate change, critical thinking, the dangers of big data and more

It's been quite a while since I've done one of these posts, that's for sure. But since we're at the start of the new school year, I thought it might be fun to highlight some recent and forthcoming books about science and technology and especially how they intersect with the human condition. Climate change, critical thinking, new horizons, threats to privacy...and more.

These are all books on my list to get at some point, either to catch up on books from earlier this year or books that are yet to be published.

Enjoy!

 

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

We are bombarded with more information each day than our brains can process—especially in election season. It's raining bad data, half-truths, and even outright lies. New York Times bestselling author Daniel J. Levitin shows how to recognize misleading announcements, statistics, graphs, and written reports revealing the ways lying weasels can use them.

 


The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

Are we deranged? The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability—at the level of literature, history, and politics—to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.

 

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers" used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South's segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America's aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam's call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

 

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth.

Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are.

 

The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy by Michael E. Mann

The award-winning climate scientist Michael E. Mann and the Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist Tom Toles have been on the front lines of the fight against climate denialism for most of their careers. They have witnessed the manipulation of the media by business and political interests and the unconscionable play to partisanship on issues that affect the well-being of billions. The lessons they have learned have been invaluable, inspiring this brilliant, colorful escape hatch from the madhouse of the climate wars.

 

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.

But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.

 

And, finally, on the fiction side...

Angel Catbird Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas

Internationally best-selling and respected novelist Margaret Atwood and acclaimed artist Johnnie Christmas collaborate for one of the most highly anticipated comic book and literary events of 2016!

A young genetic engineer is accidentally mutated by his own experiment when his DNA is merged with that of a cat and an owl. What follows is a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired superhero adventure—with a lot of cat puns.

 

And yes, I have an awful lot of catching up to do with reviewing books I've read recently, which I will be doing over the next few weeks!

Books I'd like to read: Food, physics and horror

hardly ever does The Globe and Mail books section every Saturday feature more than one, maybe two, books that I'm interested in. They're pretty heavy on the Canlit side, with a heavy helping of the kind of public affairs books that don't really do it for me. The mystery roundup feature is usually my best bet. Well this week there were three -- count'em three -- books that really piqued my interest. And a pretty diverse bunch too, one physics, one horror fiction and another environmental non-fiction featuring the kind of intersection between food, science and policy that I find so interesting.

Here goes!

Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe by Lee Smolin (reviewed by Dan Falk) (Amazon)

Considering the esoteric nature of some of the material being presented, Time Reborn is relatively jargon- and equation-free. There are some challenging concepts, but nothing to deter the lay reader. (Smolin has said that he’s also working on a more technical book on the same subject, to be co-written with philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger.)

I hope this is the start of an exciting new chapter in theoretical physics. But I fear that Einstein was right, and that the ultimate explanation for time’s apparent flow might come from the realm of psychology or neuroscience rather than physics. Science, after all, has a track record of overturning our “common sense” beliefs about the world. Again and again, things that were “obvious” – that the sun revolves around the earth; that humans are fundamentally different from other animals – have been shown to be artifacts of an anthropocentric worldview. Maybe the “obvious” passage of time is another of these illusions.

NOS4A2: A Novel by Joe Hill (Reviewed by Ilana Teitelbaum) (Amazon)

Hill is the son of Stephen King and, with this new novel, he emerges as a literary inheritor of his father. (Hill’s brother, Owen King, also recently released a new novel, Double Feature.) NOS4A2 contains familiar elements for Stephen King fans, such as the twisting of something beloved (in this case, Christmas) into something pathologically scary, and a maliciously sentient car. But despite its roots in traditional horror, this is a book about the dangers of idealizing innocence and traditional values, a message with clear political implications.

One of the standout qualities of Hill’s work is his ear for the rhythms of language, the creative metaphors that surprise and satisfy. His sentences crackle with wit and understated craftsmanship – the kind so skillful it is only visible if you’re paying attention. It is through language that Hill weaves the subtly disturbing atmosphere that permeates NOS4A2 even in its least threatening moments, such as in a description of a diner: “[She] didn’t like looking at the flypaper, at the insects that had been caught in it, to struggle and die while people shoved hamburgers into their mouths directly below.” Not long before, Hill describes the laughter of a group of girls as being “like hearing glass shatter.”

Consumed: Food for an Finite Planet by Sarah Elton (Reviewed by John Varty) (Amazon)

But I don’t think Elton’s all about casting off the “other side” with tidy dualisms. Indeed, she anticipates, even concedes, some of her critics’ main arguments. She’s aware that “conventional” agriculture tends to out-yield organic; she’s heard about studies challenging the energy efficiency of local food.

Trouble is, so many studies supporting industrial agriculture simply don’t provide a full-cost accounting. Yield, for instance, is clearly important; but preponderant evidence suggests that the total energy inputs of modern agriculture are not returned to us in calories. Not even close.

Friday Fun: 10 Best Books on the Future of Higher Ed

This one is a little less on the strictly amusing side and a little more on the useful and thoughtful side for a Friday Fun post, but sometimes it's worth mixing things up a bit.

I've mostly not read these books myself but I am in the middle of the Christensen/Eyring book right now. And they all look very useful and interesting, if only as a springboard for disagreement and debate. A little bit of end-of-summer reading is always a good thing!

Without further ado, from OnlineUniversities.com, the 10 Best Books on the Future of Higher Ed.

  1. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It by Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker
  2. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring
  3. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa
  4. CChange.edu: Rebooting for the New Talent Economy by Andrew S. Rosen
  5. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz
  6. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg
  7. Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education by David L. Kirp
  8. The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World by Ben Wildavsky
  9. The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected by Jonathan R. Cole
  10. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition) by Derek Bok

Each book has a little blurb accompanying it on the site which will help you figure out if it's interesting.

Books I'd like to read

Another list of books for your reading and collection development pleasure.

Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities by Richard A. DeMillo

When academics get together to talk about the future, they talk mainly to each other, but the American system of higher education has many more stakeholders than that. Over the course of months, the intended audience for what was now clearly becoming a book manuscript shifted noticeably from my academic colleagues to a more general readership--parents, students, taxpayers, elected officials, employers, decision makers at all levels--citizens who have a stake in what happens to the nation's colleges and universities and want to be informed about the forces shaping their future.

This book is intended to reach the many stakeholders in America's higher education system who are outside the academy, who are not involved in higher education on a daily basis, and whose voices are seldom heard from within. It is not a book of secrets, but I suspect that many readers will be surprised by what they read here. Some of my colleagues will be shocked that the curtain has been parted, but many more will welcome the daylight.

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson

When Cathy Davidson and Duke University gave free iPods to the freshman class in 2003, critics said they were wasting their money. Yet when students in practically every discipline invented academic uses for their music players, suddenly the idea could be seen in a new light-as an innovative way to turn learning on its head.

This radical experiment is at the heart of Davidson's inspiring new book. Using cutting-edge research on the brain, she shows how "attention blindness" has produced one of our society's greatest challenges: while we've all acknowledged the great changes of the digital age, most of us still toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century. Davidson introduces us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas-from schools with curriculums built around video games to companies that train workers using virtual environments-will open the doors to new ways of working and learning. A lively hybrid of Thomas Friedman and Norman Doidge, Now You See It is a refreshingly optimistic argument for a bold embrace of our connected, collaborative future.

The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest by Yochai Benkler

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very unflattering view of human nature: that, humans are universally and inherently selfish creatures. As a result, our most deeply entrenched social structures - our top-down business models, our punitive legal systems, our market-based approaches to everything from education reform to environmental regulation - have been built on the premise that humans are driven only by self interest, programmed to respond only to the invisible hand of the free markets or the iron fist of a controlling government.

In the last decade, however, this fallacy has finally begun to unravel, as hundreds of studies conducted across dozens of cultures have found that most people will act far more cooperatively than previously believed. Here, Harvard University Professor Yochai Benkler draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience, economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems, maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the efficacy of civic movements, and more.

Enhancing Campus Capacity for Leadership: An Examination of Grassroots Leaders in Higher Education by Adrianna Kezar and Jaime Lester

Enhancing Campus Capacity for Leadership explores a mostly untapped resource on college campuses--the leadership potential of staff and faculty at all levels. This book contributes to the growing tradition of giving voice to grassroots leaders, offering a unique contribution by honing in on leadership in educational settings. In an increasingly corporatized environment, grassroots leadership can provide a balance to the prestige and revenue seeking impulses of campus leaders, act as a conscience for institutional operations with greater integrity, create changes related to the teaching and learning core, build greater equity, improve relationships among campus stakeholders, and enhance the student experience.

The text documents the stories of grassroots leaders, including the motivation and background of these "bottom up" beacons, the tactics and strategies that they use, the obstacles they overcome, and the ways that they navigate power and join with formal authority. This investigation also showcases how grassroots leaders in institutional settings, particularly more marginalized groups, can face significant backlash. While we like to believe that organizations are civil and humane, the stories in this book demonstrate a dark side with which we must reckon. The book ends with a discussion of the future of leadership on college campuses, examining the possibilities for shared and collaborative forms of leadership and governance.

Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson

The Internet now connects us in unprecedented ways. We have access to tools will allow us to build global learning networks where we can pursue our intellectual and creative passions with people around the world. As educators, these networked opportunities present a very big challenge. To prepare students to flourish in this new learning world, schools will need to transform themselves in important ways. Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education is a road map to follow down the path to that transformation.

Using step-by-step advice and real-world stories, this book aims to narrow the technological divide, put educators on the same footing as students, and provide a recipe for incorporating these tools into every classroom.

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky

Traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product or service, sell it, collect money. But in the last few years a fundamentally different model has taken root-one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more peer-to-peer power. Pioneering entrepreneur Lisa Gansky calls it the Mesh and reveals why it will soon dominate the future of business.

Mesh companies use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. Gansky reveals how there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.

Books I'd like to read

For your reading and collection development pleasure!

Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understand and evaluate them. Planned Obsolescence is both a provocation to think more broadly about the academy's future and an argument for re-conceiving that future in more communally-oriented ways. Facing these issues head-on, Kathleen Fitzpatrick focuses on the technological changes especially greater utilization of internet publication technologies, including digital archives, social networking tools, and multimedia necessary to allow academic publishing to thrive into the future. But she goes further, insisting that the key issues that must be addressed are social and institutional in origin. Confronting a change-averse academy, she insists that before we can successfully change the systems through which we disseminate research, scholars must re-evaluate their ways of working how they research, write, and review while administrators must reconsider the purposes of publishing and the role it plays within the university. Springing from original research as well as Fitzpatrick's own hands-on experiments in new modes of scholarly communication through MediaCommons, the digital scholarly network she co-founded, Planned Obsolescence explores all of these aspects of scholarly work, as well as issues surrounding the preservation of digital scholarship and the place of publishing within the structure of the contemporary university.

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff

The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: It's here; it's everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? "Choose the former," writes Rushkoff, "and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make."

In ten chapters, composed of ten "commands" accompanied by original illustrations from comic artist Leland Purvis, Rushkoff provides cyber enthusiasts and technophobes alike with the guidelines to navigate this new universe.

In this spirited, accessible poetics of new media, Rushkoff picks up where Marshall McLuhan left off, helping readers come to recognize programming as the new literacy of the digital age--and as a template through which to see beyond social conventions and power structures that have vexed us for centuries. This is a friendly little book with a big and actionable message.

The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Changing Academic Practice by Martin Weller

While industries such as music, newspapers, film and publishing have seen radical changes in their business models and practices as a direct result of new technologies, higher education has so far resisted the wholesale changes we have seen elsewhere. However, a gradual and fundamental shift in the practice of academics is taking place. Every aspect of scholarly practice is seeing changes effected by the adoption and possibilities of new technologies. This book will explore these changes, their implications for higher education, the possibilities for new forms of scholarly practice and what lessons can be drawn from other sectors.

Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses by Taylor Walsh

Over the past decade, a small revolution has taken place at some of the world's leading universities, as they have started to provide free access to undergraduate course materials--including syllabi, assignments, and lectures--to anyone with an Internet connection. Yale offers high-quality audio and video recordings of a careful selection of popular lectures, MIT supplies digital materials for nearly all of its courses, Carnegie Mellon boasts a purpose-built interactive learning environment, and some of the most selective universities in India have created a vast body of online content in order to reach more of the country's exploding student population. Although they don't offer online credit or degrees, efforts like these are beginning to open up elite institutions--and may foreshadow significant changes in the way all universities approach teaching and learning. Unlocking the Gates is one of the first books to examine this important development.

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clayton Christensen

The language of crisis is nothing new in higher education--for years critics have raised alarms about rising tuition, compromised access, out of control costs, and a host of other issues. Yet, though those issues are still part of the current crisis, it is not the same as past ones. For the first time, disruptive technologies are at work in higher education. For most of their histories, traditional universities and colleges have had no serious competition except from institutions with similar operating models. Now, though, there are disruptive competitors offering online degrees. Many of these institutions operate as for-profit entities, emphasizing marketable degrees for working adults. Traditional colleges and universities have valuable qualities and capacities that can offset those disruptors' advantages--but not for everyone who aspires to higher education, and not without real innovation. How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to impending disruption?

Introduction to Information Science and Technology edited by Charles H. Davis and Debora Shaw

This guide to information science and technology -- the product of a unique scholarly collaboration --presents a clear, concise, and approachable account of the fundamental issues, with appropriate historical background and theoretical grounding. Topics covered include information needs, seeking, and use; representation and organization of information; computers and networks; structured information systems; information systems applications; users perspectives in information systems; social informatics; communication using information technologies; information policy; and the information profession.

I have a bit of a backlog of these, so there'll probably be another post pretty soon, maybe even this week.

Google Cult Books I'd like to read

The New York Review of Books has a great group review of some recentish books on everyone's favourite Internet behemoth: Google.

And they all look pretty interesting! (And I may have featured a couple of these before.)

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy (ISBN-13: 978-1416596585)

In barely a decade Google has made itself a global brand bigger than Coca-Cola or GE; it has created more wealth faster than any company in history; it dominates the information economy. How did that happen? It happened more or less in plain sight. Google has many secrets but the main ingredients of its success have not been secret at all, and the business story has already provided grist for dozens of books. Steven Levy's new account, In the Plex, is the most authoritative to date and in many ways the most entertaining. Levy has covered personal computing for almost thirty years, for Newsweek and Wired and in six previous books, and has visited Google's headquarters periodically since 1999, talking with its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and, as much as has been possible for a journalist, observing the company from the inside.

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards (ISBN-13: 978-0547416991)

Google's first marketing hire lasted a matter of months in 1999; his experience included Miller Beer and Tropicana and his proposal involved focus groups and television commercials. When Doug Edwards interviewed for a job as marketing manager later that year, he understood that the key word was "viral." Edwards lasted quite a bit longer, and now he's the first Google insider to have published his memoir of the experience. He was, as he says proudly in his subtitle to I'm Feeling Lucky, Google employee number 59. He provides two other indicators of how early that was: so early that he nabbed the e-mail address doug@google.com; and so early that Google's entire server hardware lived in a rented "cage."

The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan (ISBN-13: 978-0520258822)

In The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry), a book that can be read as a sober and admonitory companion, Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media scholar at the University of Virginia, puts it this way: "We are not Google's customers: we are its product. We--our fancies, fetishes, predilections, and preferences--are what Google sells to advertisers."

*snip*

The company always says users can "opt out" of many of its forms of data collection, which is true, up to a point, for savvy computer users; and the company speaks of privacy in terms of "trade-offs," to which Vaidhyanathan objects:

Privacy is not something that can be counted, divided, or "traded." It is not a substance or collection of data points. It's just a word that we clumsily use to stand in for a wide array of values and practices that influence how we manage our reputations in various contexts. There is no formula for assessing it: I can't give Google three of my privacy points in exchange for 10 percent better service.

Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc. by Scott Cleland with Ira Brodsky (ISBN-13: 978-0980038323)

So is Google evil? The question is out there now; it nags, even as we blithely rely on the company for answers--which now also means maps, translations, street views, calendars, video, financial data, and pointers to goods and services. The strong version of the case against Google is laid out starkly in Search & Destroy, by a self-described "Google critic" named Scott Cleland. He wields a blunt club; the book might as well been have been titled Google: Threat or Menace?! "There is evidence that Google is not all puppy dogs and rainbows," he writes.

Google's corporate mascot is a replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton on display outside the corporate headquarters. With its powerful jaws and teeth, T-Rex was a terrifying predator. And check out the B-52 bomber chair in Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's office. The B-52 was a long range bomber designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

(Quotes from the NYRB article)

Geek Book Gift Guide

Although it is perilously close to way too late, but you do have time to rush down to an actual, honest-to-goodness bookstore (or perhaps get an ebook from an estore) and maybe pick up one of these titanic suggestions from Ethan Gilsdorf on Tor.com. All great stuff for the geek in your life.

Hint, hint.

Anyways, here's what Gilsdorg suggests with his descriptions at the original post:

Best Science Books 2010: Physicsworld.com

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure.

  • The Tunguska Mystery by Vladimir Rubtsov
  • Coming Climate Crisis? Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix by Claire L Parkinson
  • How It Ends: From You to the Universe by Chris Impey
  • Lake Views: This World and the Universe by Steven Weinberg
  • The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It by Scott Patterson
  • Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson
  • Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
  • Massive: The Hunt for the God Particle by Ian Sample
  • How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel
  • The Edge of Physics: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Cosmology by Anil Ananthaswamy

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.