Like it or not, knowing how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is an essential ingredient to personal success in the twenty-first century. But how can we use digital media so that they make us empowered participants rather than passive receivers, grounded, well-rounded people rather than multitasking basket cases? In Net Smart, cyberculture expert Howard Rheingold shows us how to use social media intelligently, humanely, and, above all, mindfully.
Mindful use of digital media means thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time. Rheingold outlines five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or "crap detection"), and network smarts. He explains how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. He describes the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; he examines how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and he teaches us a lesson on networks and network building.
Rheingold points out that there is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our individual efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody.
About the Author
Howard Rheingold, an influential writer and thinker on social media, is the author of Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (both published by the MIT Press), and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.
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“That Rheingold has written a smart and enjoyable guide is unsurprising....Rheingold does us an important service by offering a number of insights into, and strategies for, the 'net smarts' we need to function more efficiently in our increasingly online world.”—James Hendler, Science
“Here, I'd point to the work of my friend Howard Rheingold and his new book Net Smart, which is an excellent guide for how to be a digitally fluent user of all the technologies we have available to us now. It's an excellent book and I think the FCC should include it in their plan for training the digital educators going into schools!”—Christopher Mims, Technology Review
“If you are going to purchase one book about using social media, this is the one to read. It’s for people who want to go deeper and get practical know how, improved productivity, and integrate physical and virtual lives.”—Beth Kantor
“The social media landscape changes quicker than you can say 'future shock.' As soon as you think you've mastered one network, another pops up, demanding its share of time and attention. Thank goodness, then, for Howard Rheingold. He has identified the skills—simultaneously old-fashioned and cutting-edge—that not only will help you thrive in this tumultuous world, but also help you shape social media into a force for good. Net Smart is a lifeboat for people who want to participate in new technologies without drowning in the flood.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“A desperately needed and wonderfully written guide to being literate in today’s digital, always-on world. This book is not just descriptive. It articulates a comprehensive set of social norms, practices and protocols that help us unleash the collective power of networked intelligence. And, yes, using the web mindfully can indeed make us smarter, as this book will illustrate. A must read for anyone wanting to thrive in today’s increasingly connected world.”
—John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corp and Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center; co-author of A New Culture of Learning
“Once again, Howard Rheingold has found a way of journeying into the future and coming back with gold. The questions he tackles here could not be more pertinent. Whether you're thrilled at the amazing potential for online collaboration, or just stressed by your email in-box, his insights on how to achieve a new form of digital literacy deserve wide adoption.”
—Chris Anderson, Curator of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)
“Education today is woefully inadequate. It's about teaching people information and skills as if we're alone and disconnected, stocking knowledge and tools in our brains. Today, it is important to learn how to find information and how to collaborate. Written in the traditionally smart and fun-to-read Rheingoldian style, Net Smart is the guide on how to think, learn, survive and thrive in the post-internet era. An essential guide and a must-read!”
—Joichi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab