Tech Reading

by Kristen Abell

One of the types of posts we’ve been doing lately are internal blog prompts – prompts we come up with for ourselves just to keep things fresh and interesting. My prompt for today is all about books – a stretch for me, as I’m sure you can imagine. But it’s a wee bit more focused than that – I’ll be discussing books on technology for y’all today. So get your GoodReads profile up (or whatever mechanism you use to make lists of books), because I’m getting ready to drop some good suggestions on you.

First up, it should come as no shock to anyone that I’m going to suggest a book about blogging: Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg. Though I’d been blogging for a little while already by the time I read this book, I had no real understanding of the history of blogging and the impact it had made at that point. This book does a great job explaining the hows and whys of blogging, and pretty much every time I present on blogging, I recommend it to my participants. I can think of no better book to give you a comprehensive overview of the history, as well as the many reasons someone might blog, and how we can continue to use blogs in the future. Of all these books, this one is probably the only one I would absolutely, postively call a “must read.”

For those of us in student affairs, another great tech-related read is The iConnected Parent by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore. Okay, it’s not strictly about technology, but it does discuss the impact of recent technological developments on the relationship between students and their parents, as well as parents and their student’s university. Well worth a read if you work with parents…I mean students.

If you’re at all curious about how certain things began and became what they are, especially those with big names behind them, I have three book recommendations for you: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick (also known as Zuckerberg’s Whipping Boy), The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness by Steven Levy, and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Let me break it down for you:

The Facebook Effect, while written by someone who has obviously had more than a little taste of the Zuckerberg Kool-Aid, is still a dang good read if you want to find out more about how Facebook became, well, Facebook. And despite the fact that he’s such a fan – or maybe because of it – Kirkpatrick does a great job explaining what the original intentions of Facebook’s creators were, which, if you’re like me, makes you appreciate why they seem so anti-privacy at times.

Fun fact about The Perfect Thing - each chapter was written as an individual piece so that you could start on any chapter and not need to have read the chapter before it. Also, there are several different versions of the book – each with the chapters in a different order, much like the iPod Shuffle. That’s how cool this book is. If you’re looking for history about the Walkman-to-iPod transition, this is your book. Also, it’s funny to read the author’s story of meeting with Steve Jobs when he had a case covering up the beautiful design of the iPod (the author, of course, not Jobs).

Speaking of Steve (yeah, I’m on a first-name basis with him…in my head), if you haven’t had a chance to read it, his biography is a fascinating look at how Apple was born…and then re-born. To tell the truth, the first half or so of the book is a hard read. The man was just a downright asshole (sorry, there’s no nice way to say that). But if you skim that part or at least stick through it, the second half has some fascinating history on how Apple became the company it is today.

I’ve got a few more I could share, but I think that’s enough for one post. What tech-related books have you read lately? I’m always adding books to my list, so please share!

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  • http://mistakengoal.com/ Kevin R. Guidry

    I really shy away from books by authors that try to describe theories or ideas that are built almost entirely on their own opinions, experiences, and hand-selected anecdotes e.g. Friedman, Tapscott, and anyone with “thought leader” in their self-description.  That is a long-winded way of saying that I’m an academic snob.

    Three “tech” books I’ve recently read:

    Nancy Baym’s recent book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age” is an excellent summary of what we know about computer-mediated communication.  It’s dense and if you’re already familiar with that body of research then it will be a bit boring.  But if you’re not familiar with that body of research then it’s really worth reading and digesting as we’ve done quite a bit of work over the past several decades that many people don’t know about.  In other words, we know a lot more than we think we know but we just don’t know that.

    Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together” is a very interesting book that has recently made a splash with Turkle’s recent New York Times editorial (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all) and TED talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs).  I am a little bit suspicious about some of her conclusions as she does not adequately support them.  But given her history and background I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that the lack of empirical support is due to the media in which she is publishing and not due to a lack of evidence (i.e. no one wants to read a lengthy description of qualitative methodology in a popular press book).

    An oldie (1989) but a goodie that I recently finished is JoAnne Yates’s “Control Through Communication.”  It’s a historical look at the development of communication technology in U.S. corporations around the turn of the 20th century.  I like reading books about the history of technology because it keeps me grounded by reminding me how technologies really developed and have been used.  This book is great because it forces me to reconsider my definitions of “technology” as it discusses the impact of technologies such as regular reports, mass-produced memos, employee handbooks, and vertical filing.  More importantly, this book helped deflate the popular notion that technology drives innovation by documenting how corporations in the U.S. developed these technologies in response to their growth and not the other way around as many of us would assume.

    • http://kristendomblogs.com Kristen Abell

      Thanks for the suggestions, Kevin – these look like some great reads to add to my list! The last one in particular sounds right up my alley, as I’m always interested in learning more about the history of various technologies (in case you couldn’t tell from my suggestions above). Thanks again!