Friday, December 7, 2012

12 Days of Book Lists, #2

A World Connecting takes place between 1870-1945, years when "advances in communication and transportation simultaneously expanded and shrank the world," and a loathsome, two-faced killer was on the loose! No? Same author? Hmm. A World Connecting then is not a story, but a series of five essays about, well, global warming, in a word, by historians Emily S. Rosenberg, Charles S. Maier, Tony Ballantyne, Antoinette Burton, Dirk Hoerder, Steven C. Topik, and Allen Wells, who apparently needed a lot of help on his. As technology turned time and space between ideas, egos, and things into an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a simple fact of life, it simultaneously led to human and environmental conflict on a scale theretofore unimaginable, the repercussions and realizations of which are just as much a part of our interconnected world today, and ways of life we take for granted. Like our ability to text friends that we're "Almost there!" or "Running late!" or "Coming down with something but, if not tonight, this weekend!" or "In the process of scolding my hand in a pot of boiling water! Ahhh!" or, better yet, "Breaking both my arms, there's nothing to be done." Depending on your friends, of course. I like "There's nothing to be done" the best. No explanation necessary: "Not tonight, there's nothing to be done"; "I do love bachelor parties, especially in downtown Minneapolis, on a Saturday, but can't tonight, there's nothing to be done"; "My foot's asleep, what the hell do you want from me?" and so on. I mean, I like spending time with people. Friends and what not. Most.

Ironically, one thing that we seem to take for granted, in spite of every gadget, pad, and touchscreen we can get our hands on, ostensibly to stay connected, is each other. Sherry Turkle's timely book Alone Together calls into question and makes sense of why we get so easily turned on by technology and things and... NO, not those things! I get that they come with batteries, but I meant "turned on" as in buttons! It's a pun, for heaven's sake! Let me rewind the old thought process here... turned on or attracted to or stimulated by or, oh, to hell with it, I give up, I really do... and why, to some extent, we ought to be forgiven. In chapters dedicated to robotic turtles, text messages, and our continued fascination with all things undead, Turkle takes a long, hard, and critical look at what's left of our humanity in the backlit face of isolation, stumbling upon as much to celebrate as fix. Yes, I know that I wrote long and hard. Let's move on to something short.

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