OFF THE SHELF: Cautionary tales warn ‘net users

One of the strongest core values of any public library is intellectual freedom, which means that all sides of an issue will be represented in the library’s collection of books and other materials.

One such issue, and it is an issue, that is currently under debate is the value of information technology – that is, the use of technology (mainly the Internet) to find and share information.

While there is no question that the balance of books written on this subject is shifted toward the benefits of information technology, the following titles provide another, more cautionary perspective.

–– The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

A comprehensive and critical look at the wider impact on society of Google’s vast ambition “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and the growing resistance to its expansion across the globe.

–– The ShallowsWhat the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr and Paul Michael Garcia.

An absorbing and disturbing investigation of the effect of the Internet on our brains and neurological pathways, and concludes with a petition for balancing our human and computer interactions.

–– Alone Together:  Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle.

A leading expert on how computers affect us as humans looks to the future and makes a strong case that what was meant to be a way to facilitate communications has pushed people closer to their machines and further away from each other.

–– Lost in Cyburbia:  How Life on the Net has Created a Life of its Own by James Harkin.

The author explores our obsession with instant access to information and how it is shared over networks — and considers what has been lost and what has been gained.

Are we more connected than ever before or more isolated? Have our thinking processes been forever altered? Is the democratic nature of the net slowly being eroded by corporate interests? Or, as once hoped, will the ‘net enable the awakening of a new kind of global consciousness?

–– Virtually You:  The Dangerous Powers of the E-personality by Elias Aboujaoude.

We spend a shocking amount of time online and the author offers a penetrating examination of the insidious effects of the Internet on our personalities-online and off.

The Internet can enhance well-being but Dr. Aboujaoude has spent years treating patients whose lives have been profoundly disturbed by it.

–– You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier.

This fascinating and provocative exploration of the Internet’s problems and potential calls for a more humanistic alternative future in which the individual is celebrated more than the crowd and the unique more than the homogenized. The creativity of the individual is exalted over the collective efforts of the “hive mind.”

–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. Her column, Off the Shelf, appears every second Sunday in The Morning Star.