The first time I had an internet experience that crossed cultural boundaries was when I was using a first gen music sharing site like Napster to find J-Pop. I just happened to notice that this particular pirate/curator liked a lot of the same music that I did from my first stint teaching ESL in Japan in 1994 so I reached out. I used my rudimentary Japanese to say “Hello! Nice music!” and they used their rudimentary Japanese to say “Thanks!” back. One thing led to another and we found out that neither of us was actually living in Japan and instead we were communicating from Canada to Brazil. I had a whole new cultural appreciation for the Japanese-Brazilian population and my hope for a better world swelled in my heart.
In re-reading danah boyd’s It’s Complicated in TVO’s TeachOntario book club, I’m reminded of those early hopes for the internet’s impact on cultural sharing. As boyd points out in her notes for Chapter 6, the world became more hopeful that social remedy would truly cross racism off the list in 2011, when Twitter became the chosen network for the Arab Spring movement. Why aren’t more internet interactions like this one? Why didn’t the internet become the remedy for inequality? Christian Rudder’s book Dataclysm is a fantastic read on the topic of the in herent racism that is demonstrated by online behaviour. I’m not sure what the answer is but I think it has more to do with human nature’s desire to post ridiculous pictures of cat memes. I’m disappointed that the internet has just amplified our microcosms rather than solving our macro social issues.
Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can already think of 12 people in my school who should read this book. That hasn’t happened to me since Danah Boyd‘s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. I will pass this on to the math teachers, the social science teachers and the teachers in charge of character education in our building. If you read no other popular non-fiction this year, choose Dataclysm. It’s not just filled with brave and insightful explanations of data, both in a physical sense and in the sense of what’s absent, it is a visual feast of well-formed graphs that are very accessible to the reader.
I will also recommend it to the students in my building who have questions about love, sex, race, identity and data. This is a very important book right here and right now.
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“….ideas that inspire passionate disagreement can lead to success” (Clive Veroni, Spin, p. 27)
At last I’ve found a common thread between three #BIT15Reads books (two books is easy). Veroni says that modern marketing has finally understood that being really disagreeable, can also make you memorable and he goes on to say that politicians have known this for years. Spin is such a great book to be reading at the same time as a national election is happening as it spins the motivation behind every political sentence right now.
The data in Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm agrees. Rudder is the co-founder of OkCupid, a major matchmaking site in the U.S., and his fascinating book explains what our data can tell us when we’re not looking. It also says that the most extreme answers often get the most attention either because they passionately disagree or maybe because they disagree passionately. I can certainly attest that the fact that a certain significant male in my life first drew my attention by NOT reading the required books in our common Canadian Children’s Literature class and then argued vehemently for issues that he had no basis for. (See? Still stirs me up.) According to Rudder, there are two polarizing questions to ask a potential mate:
- Do you like scary movies?
- Have you ever travelled alone to another country?
See what I mean? The answers to these questions move me immediately to that deal breaker clause…..or do they? Because what I most admire in other people is also what I am also looking to improve in myself.
So that’s the reason that I’m also currently reading (in audiobook) Nicholas Carr’s book The Glass Cage….because Carr makes me crazy. His hyperbolic style of using ancient history to prove a very modern point makes me feel nauseated and foolish. I say to myself: how could I not see this doomsday he speaks of coming? Our reliance on the machine has been centuries in the making. So despite my attraction for all things shiny and new, the archivist in me says: Yes, let’s slow down the automation and mindfully work to become more self-reliant. I hate Carr and his smug smile because his skepticism is irritatingly well-grounded and his arguments push back all of my knee-jerk impulses to forge blindly ahead.
On that note: please if you’re reading any one of the fabulous #BIT15Reads choices, it is time for us to whittle down our list by rating your reading. Please do so here in the long form version of “how many stars?” here: