Monday, March 5, 2012

I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted

by Nick Bilton

The author, a technology reporter for the New York Times, shows the ways in which media have changed due to technology and how in turn this change shapes consumers’ expectations of how media are consumed. He argues against the Luddite claims that short-form, rapid-fire media “bytes” are destroying our brains (though he allows that our brains are changing due to how we use technology). He also argues that despite the radical nature of recent change, and the ability to acquire vast amounts of specialized and personalized information free, consumers still value the same things they always have – quality and a good experience – and are willing to pay for them.

The book is hardly awe-inspiring prescience, just a solid grounding in the tech world and an eagerness to accept innovation. In fact, Bilton’s a bit of a na├»ve Polyanna on some issues, saying for example that “Facebook was trying to create a better experience for its users” in sharing users’ information (not, you know, trying to generate revenue?); or in defending video games, saying that consumers “will most likely play games as much as they read” – uh, no, certainly not. In fact, the very real issue is not that video games are somehow warping our brains by their very existence, but that they replace more in-depth and active mental stimulation such as reading and debating. Bilton makes good points about the editor’s job being the same whether it’s curating a broadsheet, a newspaper, or a blog, and the emerging role of the consumer as co-creator of the media, who values a specialized experience more than plain content. This information is useful and provides clues as to how the next generation of media might be used. But throughout the book, Bilton sidesteps his ideological opponents’ actual claims, by dismissing studies of violence and video games as “preconceived notions,” and more or less ignoring the speed, ubiquity and depth of change in consumers’ attention spans, which are the real points of concern. In short, yes, Bilton’s world, in which everyone games, tweets, blogs, chats, and reads weighty tomes with equal abandon, is a tech utopia – but it’s not the real world.

three stars

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