Net Smart

Net Smart: How to Thrive Online

Howard Rheingold
drawings by Anthony Weeks
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Net Smart
    Book Description:

    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? InNet 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30149-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Why You Need Digital Know-How—Why We All Need It
    (pp. 1-33)

    The future of digital culture—yours, mine, and ours—depends on how well we learn to use the media that have infiltrated, amplified, distracted, enriched, and complicated our lives. How you employ a search engine, stream video from your phonecam, or update your Facebook status matters to you and everyone, because the ways people use new media in the first years of an emerging communication regime can influence the way those media end up being used and misused for decades to come.¹ Instead of confining my exploration to whether or not Google is making us stupid, Facebook is commoditizing our...

  5. 1 Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument
    (pp. 35-75)

    I’ve taken to opening the first class session of each semester with words that always seem to capture students’ attention: “Close your laptops.” My next words, “Turn off your phones,” come as no surprise at that point. Then I tell them to shut their eyes, which does seem to startle them. I ask them to take one minute to observe how attention leaps effortlessly from thought to thought, directing them to “note how you don’t have to work to make your mind wander. It does that all on its own.”

    By 2005, the year Facebook spread to most universities, the...

  6. 2 Crap Detection 101: How to Find What You Need to Know, and How to Decide If It’s True
    (pp. 77-109)

    Like attention, you learn crap detection by trying out a few techniques such as those I suggest in this chapter—and then putting them into practice. Then make them habitual. The danger of distraction or credulity is made possible by digital media, but the danger you and I can do something about is the bad habit of not controlling attention or failing to crap-detect rumors. If the rule of thumb for attention literacy is to pay attention to your intention, then the heuristic for crap detection is to make skepticism your default. Don’t refuse to believe; refuse to start out...

  7. 3 Participation Power
    (pp. 111-145)

    Consider how the power of digital participation grew during the first decade of the twenty-first century. On February 21, 2001, the attorneys for Warner Bros. surrendered to the group Defense against the Dark Arts, led by Heather Lawver, who had organized online a worldwide boycott to protest the corporation’s legal suppression of a Web newspaper created by fans of the Harry Potter books; Lawver, it turned out, was sixteen years old at the time.¹ On July 8, 2003, Bev Harris, a previously obscure U.S. activist, blogged about secret details of the voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, exposing security...

  8. 4 Social-Digital Know-How: The Arts and Sciences of Collective Intelligence
    (pp. 147-189)

    In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist at the European Particle Physics Laboratory, proposed “that a global hypertext space be created in which any network-accessible information could be referred to by a single ‘Universal Document Identifier.’”¹ Berners-Lee, since dubbed Sir Berners-Lee, refused to patent the arrangement, which came to be known as the World Wide Web. He didn’t want to own it. He wanted to use it. And he knew it would be most useful to him and other scientists if many more people used it.

    By 2011, the number of indexed Web pages had grown to sixteen billion pages.² Berners-Lee...

  9. 5 Social Has a Shape: Why Networks Matter
    (pp. 191-238)

    All the skills you’ve been learning through this book and your own practice, from infotention to collective intelligence, are deeply intertwined with human and technological networks. We have always lived in a world dominated by networks, from our brain cells to social ties, but we have only recently started to understand how our networked nature affects us. In the late 1990s, scientists began to connect the dots between network structures in physics, biology, sociology, and technical systems, discovering that:

    Networks have structures, and structures influence the way individuals and networks behave.

    Human social networks maintained through the medium of speech...

  10. 6 How (Using) the Web (Mindfully) Can Make You Smarter
    (pp. 239-254)

    In order to help digital citizens gain skills necessary to succeed online, I’ve touched on topics that deserve more than the cursory treatment I’ve been able to devote to them. A few words are essential here, before summarizing the literacies I’ve presented, about privacy, the public sphere, remix culture, and what parents ought to know about their children’s social media use.

    I’ve raised privacy concerns in relation to playbor (Do you know who is monetizing your clicks?) and Facebook (Are you sure you know who has access to your profile, pictures, and updates?), but the issue of privacy online far...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 255-288)
  12. Index
    (pp. 289-322)