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Net Smart: How to Thrive Online [Hardcover]

Howard Rheingold , Anthony Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 16 2012

Like it or not, knowing how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is an essential ingredient to personal success in the twenty-first century. But how can we use digital media so that they make us empowered participants rather than passive receivers, grounded, well-rounded people rather than multitasking basket cases? In Net Smart, cyberculture expert Howard Rheingold shows us how to use social media intelligently, humanely, and, above all, mindfully.

Mindful use of digital media means thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time. Rheingold outlines five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or "crap detection"), and network smarts. He explains how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. He describes the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; he examines how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and he teaches us a lesson on networks and network building.

Rheingold points out that there is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our individual efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody.


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Net Smart: How to Thrive Online + Networked: The New Social Operating System
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Review

The social media landscape changes quicker than you can say 'future shock.' As soon as you think you've mastered one network, another pops up, demanding its share of time and attention. Thank goodness, then, for Howard Rheingold. He has identified the skills -- simultaneously old-fashioned and cutting-edge -- that not only will help you thrive in this tumultuous world, but also help you shape social media into a force for good. Net Smart is a lifeboat for people who want to participate in new technologies without drowning in the flood.

(Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind)

A desperately needed and wonderfully written guide to being literate in today's digital, always-on world. This book is not just descriptive. It articulates a comprehensive set of social norms, practices and protocols that help us unleash the collective power of networked intelligence. And, yes, using the web mindfully can indeed make us smarter, as this book will illustrate. A must read for anyone wanting to thrive in today's increasingly connected world.

(John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corp and Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center; co-author of A New Culture of Learning )

Once again, Howard Rheingold has found a way of journeying into the future and coming back with gold. The questions he tackles here could not be more pertinent. Whether you're thrilled at the amazing potential for online collaboration, or just stressed by your email in-box, his insights on how to achieve a new form of digital literacy deserve wide adoption.

(Chris Anderson, Curator of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design))

Education today is woefully inadequate. It's about teaching people information and skills as if we're alone and disconnected, stocking knowledge and tools in our brains. Today, it is important to learn how to find information and how to collaborate. Written in the traditionally smart and fun-to-read Rheingoldian style, Net Smart is the guide on how to think, learn, survive and thrive in the post-internet era. An essential guide and a must-read!

(Joichi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab)

That Rheingold has written a smart and enjoyable guide is unsurprising....Rheingold does us an important service by offering a number of insights into, and strategies for, the 'net smarts' we need to function more efficiently in our increasingly online world.

(James Hendler Science)

Here, I'd point to the work of my friend Howard Rheingold and his new book Net Smart, which is an excellent guide for how to be a digitally fluent user of all the technologies we have available to us now. It's an excellent book and I think the FCC should include it in their plan for training the digital educators going into schools!

(Christopher Mims Technology Review)

If you are going to purchase one book about using social media, this is the one to read. It's for people who want to go deeper and get practical know how, improved productivity, and integrate physical and virtual lives.

(Beth Kantor)

About the Author

Howard Rheingold, an influential writer and thinker on social media, is the author of Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (both published by the MIT Press), and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read Sept. 2 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A great read. How technology has added to the essential skills we all need to thrive in a digital society.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Net Smart - What we all need to be March 21 2012
By Tom Parsons - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
In Net Smart, Howard Rheingold details how the digital world is reshaping our minds, our culture, and itself, faster than any but the very young and the very dedicated can keep up with.

However, as he shows with examples from his college teaching, the very young lack the perspective to do much more than ride the wave they are part of, even though they provide its power. They cannot clearly evaluate its history, present impact, or possible futures. But he showed me how this no-longer-young person can play a worthwhile part in all that, improve my own mind, and have more fun at the same time.

I thought I was fairly net-savvy from decades of playing and working with computers and being online. But I was surprised by how much I learned from Rheingold, who has been seriously involved at the frontiers of the net and its communities for all the years that I have just dabbled as a user (which should maybe have an "l" in front of it).

Net Smart rearranged a lot of what I sort-of-knew into a more coherent picture that also included a great deal that I didn't know. It is a book that will show you how to interact with the net more productively, and also how to use both your online and offline time in positive-sum games that benefit others as well as yourself.

Despite the electronic title, there is a significant amount of just plain self-help here that I found very worthwhile in its own right. As Rheingold says, "Learning the latest knowledge about the brain's capacity to rewire itself - known as "neuroplasticity" - can increase your power to actually direct your brain's self-rewiring function rather than just being affected by it".

Net Smart will help if you have children and want to participate in their world and help shape it (or them!) for the better. Just yesterday, I was led to a 2007 Larry Lessig TED talk about modern media by a link that my daughter posted on Facebook, and the Lessig page linked to a 2005 TED talk by Rheingold himself, which leads right back to Net Smart and why we all need to be just that.

This book is a treasure.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindfulness Online May 8 2012
By roy christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Media literacy involves grappling with the ways a new medium not only changes but also reinforces our uses and understandings of the current ones. For example, the onset of digital media extended the reach of literacy by reinforcing the use of writing and print media. No one medium or technology stands alone. They must be considered in concert. Moreover, to be literate in the all-at-once world of digital media is to understand its systemic nature, the inherent interrelationship and interconnectedness of all technology and media. As Walter Ong put it, "Today, it appears, we live in a culture or in cultures very much drawn to openness and in particular to open-system models for conceptual representations. This openness can be connected with our new kind of orality, the secondary orality of our electronic age..." "Secondary orality" reminds one of the original names of certain technologies (e.g., "horseless carriage," "cordless phone," "wireless" technology, etc.), as if the real name for the thing is yet to come along.

These changes deserve an updated and much more nuanced consideration given how far they've proliferated since Ong's time. 'Net Smart: How to Thrive Online' collects Howard Rheingold`s thoughts about using, learning, and teaching via networks from the decades since Ong and McLuhan theorized technology's epochal shift. Rheingold's account is as personal as it is pragmatic. He was at Xerox PARC when Bob Taylor, Douglas Englebart, and Alan Kay were inventing the medium (see his 1985 book, 'Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology'), and he was an integral part of the community of visionaries who helped create the networked world in which we live (he coined the term "virtual community" in 1987). In 'Net Smart', his decades of firsthand experience are distilled into five, easy-to-grasp literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection (critical consumption), and network smarts -- all playfully illustrated by Anthony Weeks. Since 1985, Rheingold has been calling our networked, digital technologies "mind amplifiers," and it is through that lens that he shows us how to learn, live, and thrive together.

This book is not only thoughtful, it are mindful. The deep passion of the author for his subject is evident in the words on every page. A bit ahead of their time, Walter Ong and Marshall McLuhan gave us a vocabulary to talk about our new media. With 'Net Smart', Howard Rheingold has given us more than words: He's given us useful practices.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary tools for the 21st century March 14 2012
By J. M. Raimondo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's a pleasure to follow Howard Rheingold on this provocative journey into how best to make sense of the near-now through developing some new and distinct basic competencies. In a way the book is Howard's travelogue through his own cognitive atlas as he sagely builds a set of models for how to now only survive, but thrive in the face of ever-accelerating demands on attention and in the sheer volume of information encountered daily.
As Rheingold skillfully builds his case for acquiring a new set of tools with which to deal with information, he also introduces us to a plethora of experts across a broad swath of disciplines: IT, engineering, learning, cognitive science, and neuroscience to flesh out the concepts he's inventing to help himself make better sense of the world. At the same time, the book provides detailed step-by-step examples of how to implement the dashboard, Radars, agents, and sensors that Howard has arrayed to bring coherence and amenity to his own info-space.
At the book's heart is a key notion of Infotention-a neologism Rheingold coined, and which really sits at the middle of a radical proposition. Developing the cognitive capacity to effectively adopt a "mind-machine combination of brainpowered attention skills and computer-powered information filters" is a deceptively simple proposition with deep implications. Very little in most people's education provides them with the ability to effectively develop the mindset of focus and awareness that Infotention calls for.
Rheingold also brings a deep understanding of the underpinnings of the social platforms that have exploded on to the scene. The book explores deeply and from a variety of perspectives, how much we have learned about ourselves as social beings in the past quarter century, and how that knowledge can be used in association with social networks to develop a new and more self-aware society. At the same time the book acknowledges the concerns that arise when network platforms turn into surveillance tools. Rheingold makes the case for a balanced and aware approach, illustrating with his own humane approach to developing limits and guidelines for behaving in the social sphere.
Finally, the book provides a mind map for understanding how learning online is emerging as its own distinct discipline. Rheingold expounds holographically about how learning is being transformed by social affordances, by new understanding derived from neuroscience, and through the effort of brave teachers who are hacking education from within and without. With subtlety but also with a sense of urgency, Rheingold explores the ways in which the inherited understanding of and approaches to learning stand to be up-ended through the intervention of online means.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not a book, rather a printed, structured blog May 29 2012
By peter hidas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is not a book but a huge collection of tidbits of practical and/or academic information about the Net. Lots of anecdotes/examples from the life of the author. I am sure everybody will find something of value here but I soon lost interest. Perhaps I misunderstood the other critics but I expected something more meaty.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We All Need This Book May 15 2012
By Ken Homer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Net Smart is a wonderfully informative book filled with deep wisdom and illuminating insights into how to live life both as a productive individual, as well as an effective global citizen in the online-mediated world of The 21st Century. Howard has done a fine job of weaving together numerous strands in the braid of meaning to craft a book that succeeds in providing a compelling narrative for context combined with practical advice for tactics.

Howard offers Five Literacies as a baseline requirement for anyone who interacts with computers, smart phones, tablets, social media and their related networks. A comprehensive understanding and clear explication of how we human beings have always and continue to co-evolve with our tools is exactly what one would expect from a man who was an Editor at The Whole Earth Review and who has spent the better part of 30 years living and researching life online.

I came away from this book with a much enlarged understanding of the roles that the internet, the worldwide web, social media, history, politics, personal responsibility and a sense of larger purpose are playing in the collective discovery of a future for humanity that will work for the majority of people on Earth - a prerequisite we'd all do well to recognize as necessary to ensure our species' survival. It is not yet a given that this is the path that we will collectively take.

I highly recommend this book for anyone with a curious mind, a feeling for history and a sense of purpose and adventure.
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