The library of the subconscious

MediatedEnoughParadoxofchoice InpraiseofslownessCultofinformation
There's a small pile of books accumulating on my shelves… stuff that I've been buying and hording (i.e. not reading) for the past few years, for no particular purpose. I call it my library of the subconscious. Since I've started this blog about digital detoxification, though, it's obvious that a theme is emerging. Can you see what it is?

  • The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More (Barry Schwartz)
  • In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed (Carl Honore)
  • Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Bill McKibben)
  • Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It (Thomas De Zengotita)
  • The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking (Theodore Roszak)

Maybe the slow media diet will give me an opportunity to finally consume these things. A few other ones that I'm looking forward to reading soon: Against Technology: From the Luddites to Neo-Luddism (Steven E. Jones), The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand Year Journey to Your Inbox (John Freeman), You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Jared Lanier).

Speaking of books, I just re-read this great one called The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage,
who considers telegrams as a historical analogy for e-mails and text
messages. The author recounts how people of the mid-19th-century were
originally skeptical about the telegraph and wondered why anyone would need, or
want, to send instantaneous messages over long distances.

And this was at a time when it took the Pony Express at least 10 days to deliver
letters from Missouri to California! Back then, boosters believed wholeheartedly that the telegraph would usher in an era of worldwide peace, love and understanding. Sheesh, 175 years and counting… Where's our global village, already? Maybe it's time we admit that more information and faster communication is not the solution.

I recall saying something along those lines to the dissertation committee at my oral exam — joking that the world's information problems had been solved and I should shift my focus to transit issues, since transportation is clearly more intractable. The room full of journalism and sociology professors laughed heartily, whether at the truth or the absurdity of it, I can't say.