These days, I don't seem to be reading fast enough to publish reviews every week.
Since that is such a popular service for so many – and you are always welcome to the book reviews archives – I thought I'd tell you which books I'm reading now, and why.
I became intrigued with the work of Genevieve Bell from reading some interviews when I was researching the post on the role of the participant-observer in organizations. Admittedly, the book she co-wrote with scientist Paul Dourish and published by MIT, is pretty geeky.
However, besides it providing a much needed and fascinating history and chronology of the movements behind the technology that is shaping our world, Diving a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (Amazon affiliate link), I like how it treats cultural, social, political, and economical implications of technology.
In exploring dominant narratives about ubiquitous computing, the authors touch upon some of the most pressing issues we're facing on infrastructure, mobility, privacy, and domesticity.
I was also intrigued to trace some of the current trends in product development and research:
- ambient intelligence
- pervasive computing (mobile, phone, pursued by IBM research lab)
- proactive computing (data learning, processing, pursued by Intel)
Their suggestions for future investigation will be fertile ground for my own work on business growth trends.
With technologies and tools (finally) fading more into the background, as Mark Weiser first wrote in a 1991 article for Scientific American, which then was quoted by many, and more recently by Clay Shirky, what bubbles up is the human need for being social.
His exact opening was:
The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.
Which means that even as technology has us more immersed in digital environments and contexts for longer, we still gravitate to stories to explain what is happening to us.
And the book Frank Rose wrote is a good corollary to the art of storytelling, The Art of Immersion: How the digital Generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories (Amazon affiliate link), with one word of caution – you won't find answers in it.
What you will find, is the inspiration for better questions. In fact, I would be shocked if Rose came out and told me what to expect from the future of media. Instead, I'm much more interested in seeing the patterns as they develop, because that's where the opportunity resides.
As it is the case with many other works, balancing the writer with the practitioner is what provides the most satisfying experience. I would already like to see more of the latter in this book.
Finally, and not least, is a consideration of how we make sense of things in digital environments. Where narrative provides shortcuts for our brains to hold and retain information, we are awash in data. So much so, that it has become more and more challenging to keep up.
The value of data depends very much on the query set.
Ask leading questions, or worse, miss the opportunity to explore better questions, and all no algorithm will save you from running the risk of being exactly wrong.
There are (still) no silver bullets when it comes to the query set – and it is tempting to keep solving the same problem over and over with slightly better tools at the moment.
There are, however, more effective ways of leveraging the current tools to gain a better view of the data you collect. Which is the reason why I like Marshall Sponder's book Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics (Amazon affiliate link).
It's no secret that if you're serious about monitoring and measurement you're likely using a number of tools to extract data for your dashboard. What tool should I use? Why is this better than that? Where do I find this kind of analysis? These are all questions covered in the book.
As I wrote in my blurb for the book:
The gap between data and usable information in social media measurement is still quite wide. Many listening platforms and tools attempt to cover that distance, yet come up short. In Social Media Analytics, industry veteran analyst Marshall Sponder effectively bridges that gap and provides useful material to build the skills and understanding you need to extract value and measure the results of your programs.
The query set is still your responsibility, because it depends on what you're looking to do.
I may revisit each book with a deeper review or an application that would be useful to you in coming weeks. For now, this is work in progress. Clearly, I prefer why-kind of books.
Which books are you reading? Do you gravitate more toward "how to" or why books?
[Disclosure: I received a copy of Social Media Analytics from Marshall Sponder, who I consider a friend and whose work I have followed and discussed for years. This review and recommendation is based upon the quality of the material — and not on how I obtained it.]