RU Smarter? Media, Technology & Culture

Do your digital devices, video games, and web surfing alienate you from the world or create new connections? On January 8, 2009, Eugene Halton will discuss his new book The Great Brain Suck and Other American Epiphanies which argues that Americans know less and less as our world becomes more saturated with media messages, materialism, and mobile devices. Here are a few other books on the topic.

Digital culture | Consumerism | How we think

Digital culture

The Age of American Unreason book jacket

The Age of American Unreason
By Susan Jacoby
Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a new American cultural phenomenon---the addiction to infotainment, from television to the Internet, which she argues has resulted in a lazy and credulous public.

Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
By Steven Johnson
In this provocative, intelligent, and convincing endorsement of today's mass entertainment, Johnson argues that the pop culture we soak in every day has been growing more and more sophisticated and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are making our minds measurably sharper.

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
By Mark Bauerlein
A startling examination of the intellectual life of young adults, The Dumbest Generation argues that cyberculture is producing a nation of know-nothings.

Born Digital book jacket

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser
Two leading experts explain the brave new world inhabited by "digital natives"--the first generation born and raised completely wired. Palfrey and Gasser offer a sociological portrait of this exotic tribe of young people who can seem both extraordinarily sophisticated and strangely narrow.

Against The Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob
Lee Siegel
From the author dubbed by New York Times Magazine as "one of the country’s most eloquent and acid-tongued critics" comes a ruthless challenge to the conventional wisdom about the most consequential cultural development of our time: the Internet.

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters
Bill Tancer
Tancer searches deep inside the massive database of online intelligence to reveal the naked truth and unexpected insights about how people use the Web, navigate to sites, and search for information--and what that says about individuals and their buying habits.

Consumerism

Point of Purchase book jacket

Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture
By Sharon Zukin
Accessible, smart, and expansive, Point of Purchase shows the incredible impact shopping has had on American life, stretching from the mid-19th century to today's shopping trends from the Internet to Zagat guides. Unlike many social critics, Zukin does not condemn Americans for being so consumer-minded. Rather, she explores why shopping has become so central to our lives: the rise of consumer culture, the never-ending quest for better value, and shopping's ability to help us improve our social status and attain new social identities.

American Mania: When More Is Not Enough
By Peter C. Whybrow
In this startling analysis of a prosperous American society, psychiatrist Whybrow reveals why, as a nation of acquisitive migrants, people's insatiable quest for "more" now threatens its citizens' health and happiness.

The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer
By Juliet B. Schor
The author of the New York Times bestseller The Overworked American explains why, no matter what their income or level of spending, millions of Americans feel poor and unsatisfied.

How we think

Predictably Irrational book jacket

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
By Malcolm Gladwell
Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, the author shows how the difference between good and bad decision-making has nothing to do with how much information can be processed quickly, but on the few particular details on which people focus.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
By Dan Ariely
A behavioral economist argues that human behavior is often anything but rational--that thoughts are not random, but instead are systematic and predictable.

Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious
By Gerd Gigerenzer
Gut Feelings is an exploration of the myriad influences and factors (nature and nurture) that affect how the mind works, grounded in cutting-edge research and conveyed through compelling real-life examples.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.

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