February 2011

Elias Aboujaoude on our e-personalities’ offline effects

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Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and author based at Stanford University, discusses his new book, Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality. Aboujaoude says that the internet has positive effects, but he’s worried that most of our day-to-day online activities are negatively affecting us. He explains how, in his view, behaviors like compulsive online shopping and angry commenting on blogs is seeping into our offline lives, with profound negative effects. He also talks about why he thinks the internet is different from previous technologies that caused techno-fear, why he thinks it’s often difficult for online norms to develop, and what he thinks proper roles are for medicine, psychiatry, and government in the online sphere.

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Jaron Lanier on technology and humanity

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Jaron Lanier, pioneering computer scientist, musician, visual artist, and author, discusses his book, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. Lanier discusses effects of the web becoming “regularized” and dangers he sees with hive mind production, which he claims leads to “crummy design.” He also explains why he thinks advertising is a misnomer, contending that modern advertising is more about access to potential consumers than expressive or creative form. Lanier also advocates for more peer-to-peer rather than hub-and-spoke transactions, discusses why he’s worried about the disappearance of the middle class, claims that “free” isn’t really free, talks about libertarian ideals, and explains why he’s ultimately hopeful about the future.

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Susan Maushart on pulling the plug

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Susan Maushart, a columnist, author and social commentator, discusses her new book, The Winter of our Disconnect. Maushart talks about her experience unplugging herself, and her three teenagers, from most screen-based technologies for 6 months. She discusses how she got her kids to go along with the plan, how she found support in Thoreau’s Walden, what boredom is, and whether she found balance through the experience. Maushart also talks about limits to allowing your children the luxury of choice, commenting on Amy Chua’s Tiger Mother philosophy.

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Joseph Reagle on the culture of Wikipedia

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Joseph Reagle, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, discusses his recent book, Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. Reagle talks about early attempts to create online encyclopedias, the happy accident that preceded Wikipedia, and challenges that the venture has overcome. He also discusses the average Wikipedian, minority and gender gaps in contributors, Wikipedia’s three norms that allow for its success, and co-founder Jimmy Wales’ role with the organization.

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