Net Smart: How to Thrive Online Hardcover – Mar 16 2012
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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
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
Chances are if you reading this you are already online. And odds are good you are also active in some social networks, perhaps Facebook and/or Twitter.
Therefore, you may think you know how best to get around the Internet pretty well.
Or maybe you sometimes get overwhelmed by all the emails you receive or all the sites you try to visit each day and just get exhausted.
Whether you are new to the Internet, very familiar or anywhere in between I think you would benefit from reading the new book by Howard Rheingold, Net Smart: How To Thrive Online.
During his 30 years online Rheingold has been thinking and asking some of the more difficult questions about the meaning and impact of how we interact and live online. He coined the term "virtual community" and wrote a great book of the same name, in addition to several other good books you can learn more about at his Web page.
For the record, Howard and I belong to one of the same virtual communities. I consider him a colleague and a friend. But if his book sucked I would admit it and, fortunately, it does not.:)
Howard has a knack for looking at topics in new ways and he does that with this book. For example, we talk in the interview below about how the book stresses the importance of mindfulness and thinking about how you pay attention when online. I hadn't previously given those topics much thought but he makes a good case for why we should consider these matters.
He also stresses the importance, when online, of what he calls "online crap detection," writing, "Unless a great many people learn the basics of online crap detection, and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and soon, I fear for the Internet's future as a useful source of credible news, medical advice, financial information, educational resources, and scholarly as well as scientific research. Some critics argue that a tsunami of hogwash has already rendered the Web useless. I disagree. We are indeed inundated by online noise pollution, but the problem is soluble. The good stuff is out there, if you know how to find it and verify it. Basic information literacy, widely distributed, is the best protection for the knowledge commons; a sufficient portion of critical consumers among the online population can become a strong defense against the noise-death of the Internet."
Howard explains his intentions in the book's introduction.
"Instead of confining my exploration to whether or not Google is making us stupid, Facebook is commoditizing our privacy, or Twitter is chopping our attention into microslices (all good questions), I've been asking myself and others how to use social media intelligently, humanely and above all mindfully. This book is about what I've learned."
He goes on to write "I want to introduce you to new know-how (and how to know in new ways) by sharing what I've learned about five literacies that are in the process of changing our world: attention, participation, collaboration, the critical consumption of information ("aka crap detection"), and network smarts. When enough people become proficient at these skills, then healthy new economies, politics, societies, and cultures can emerge. If these literacies do not spread through the population we could end up drowning ourselves in torrents of misinformation, disinformation, advertising, spam, porn, noise, and trivia.....
"In the chapters that follow, I share specific advice about benefiting from and protecting yourself from today's always-and-everywhere media. I direct this advice to worried parents, anxious and enthused students, concerned teachers, curious managers, ambitious employees, thoughtful entrepreneurs, reflective online enthusiasts, puzzled policymakers, and technoskeptics who are just trying to cope. If you need to know what to tell your children about life online, need help surviving and thriving in your own online life, or are grappling with the changes that always-on media are bringing to your organization, I offer the following stories, advice, arguments, evidence, tools, and exercises for your use. I offer this book to people of any age who are willing to think for themselves about their part in Internet culture."
(I go on to interview Howard here [...]
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