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The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution

by David Shenk

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0253336341, Hardcover)

"Information overload" is a simple phrase for a complex phenomenon: the overwhelming sense that modern media technologies churn out more words and images than our culture can usefully absorb. David Shenk, a technology critic with a knack for unraveling the complex, has an even simpler name for it--"data smog." That was the title of his first book, a smart, useful critique of the march of info-tech "progress" that has brought us such marvels as spam, junk mail, and 57 channels with nothing much on.

His second book, The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution, continues and expands Shenk's analysis, collecting articles and commentary he wrote for National Public Radio, The New Republic, FEED, Wired, and other high-minded venues over the last three years. Shenk's targets here vary widely: the corporatization of scientific research, the dizzying ethical choices surrounding biotechnology, and the scourge of Web sites with too many bells and whistles all get due consideration. But his central message remains the same throughout. Our technologies, he warns, are shaping us into a nation of info-hungry, data-dizzy "button smackers," risking the quality of our life and culture for the doubtful thrill of instant knowledge.

Shenk's warning is a gentle one, however, tempered by an affectionate familiarity with the media he critiques. And though this book could have used a little more winnowing (in particular, the transcribed conversations with assorted media-critic pals of Shenk's come off as little more than chummy, self-indulgent filler), in general his writing has a sure, light touch that glides past the bombast of classic technopunditry. Happily, Shenk follows his own prescriptions, cutting through the information haze rather than adding to it. --Julian Dibbell

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

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