Read This! What I’m Reading in December 2010

Since last months What I’m Reading post went so well I thought I’d write one for December.


Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky. I’ve been a fan of Shirky since reading his first book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, when it came out.  I watch or listen to any of his speeches I can get access to and he writes just as well. I love this section when he is talking about “finding the time”.

Suppose we consider the total amount of time people have spent on it as a kind of unit—every edit made to every article, and every argument about those edits, for every language that Wikipedia exists in. That would represent something like one hundred million hours of human thought, back when I was talking to the TV producer. (Martin Wattenberg, an IBM researcher who has spent time studying Wikipedia, helped me arrive at that figure. It’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude.) One hundred million hours of cumulative thought is obviously a lot. How much is it, though, compared to the amount of time we spend watching television? Americans watch roughly two hundred billion hours of TV every year. That represents about two thousand Wikipedias’ projects’ worth of free time annually. Even tiny subsets of this time are enormous: we spend roughly a hundred million hours every weekend just watching commercials. This is a pretty big surplus. People who ask “Where do they find the time?” about those who work on Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, relative to the aggregate free time we all possess.

And here is a visualization of that

Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping – As I listen to this so much of it applies to libraries that I’m writing a separate post detailing it, stay tuned! 


Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, the latest report from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy written by Renee Hobbs. Note while this is a great and interesting paper it fails to fully address the role of librarians, especially school librarians.

The Knight Commission recognized that people need tools, skills and understanding to use information effectively, and that successful participation in the digital age entails two kinds of skills sets: digital literacy and media literacy. Digital literacy means learning how to work the information and communication technologies in a networked environment, as well as understanding the social, cultural and ethical issues that go along with the use of these technologies. Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, reflect upon, and act with the information products that media disseminate.

Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, a new policy paper by Renee Hobbs, Professor at the School of Communications and the College of Education at Temple University and founder of its Media Education Lab, proposes a detailed plan that positions digital and media literacy as an essential life skill and outlines steps that policymakers, educators, and community advocates can take to help Americans thrive in the digital age. (Download PDF or Read online)

Use of the Internet in Higher-Income Households from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  Given my interest in broadband and the digital divide neither of these last two should be a surprise to anyone.  Just a few stats

The relatively well-to-do are also more likely than those in lesser-income households to own a variety of information and communications gear.
  • 79% of those living in households earning $75,000 or more own desktop computers, compared with 55% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 79% of those living in higher-income households own laptops, compared with 47% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 70% of those living in higher-income households own iPods or other MP3 players, compared with 42% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 54% of those living in higher-income households own game consoles, compared with 41% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 12% of those living in higher-income households own e-book readers such as Kindles, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 9% of those living in higher-income households own tablet computers such as iPads, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.

Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2009 (pdf) from the FCC discovered via CrunchGears article – FCC Says Two-Thirds Of Americans’ Broadband Isn’t Fast Enough To Be Considered Actual Broadband

The FCC has just released its latest report on the sate of broadband in the US of A (PDF alert), and the results are… less than encouraging, and for a number of reasons. The agency found that around two-thirds of Americans’ broadband connections don’t actually qualify as broadband under its definition. (Broadband to the FCC is 4 mbps down/1 mbps up.) What’s sorta odd is that this isn’t a result of the lack of infrastructure or anything, but a result of people choosing low speed plans.

Lighter Fare

A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy) – I read this last weekend

Rebel Angels (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy Book #2) – I’ll be reading this one next. 

I really need more time to read!

What are you reading?

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