Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think is about “how technology boosts our cognitive abilities - making us smarter, more productive, and more creative than ever before.”
At one level this idea (technology augments human capabilities) is old and obvious, but Thompson’s work as a journalist for Wired and The New York Times enables him to see it differently and bring it to life through examples of the present day.
Public thinking. “Once thinking is public, connections take over … Propelled by the hyperlink, the Internet is a connection-making machine.” Some of the world’s biggest breakthroughs in thought have happened simultaneously as people have connected-the-dots (Thompson’s examples: the discovery of oxygen, logarithms, the invention of the radio).
New literacies. New literacies and numeracies are emerging alongside the technologies, especially with data. Data sets and visualizations are now a mode of expression and analysis used everywhere. They are not limited to the realm of statisticians and data scientists.
Ambient awareness. Thompson observes this “type of ESP” and references social science around the “proximal co-presence” created by mobile devices. The takeaway is that new tools that help groups think together (“collaborative cognition”) have many many positive applications.
STYT is definitely recommendable to forward thinking people interested in technology, society, media and how we acquire and use information to inform our lives now and next.
A favorite book that I don’t take down from the shelf nearly often enough is Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
In it Tufte surveys the theory and practice of information graphics - points, lines, coordinate systems, numbers, symbols, words, shading, color, etc - through essays and examples.
He starts out …
"Excellence in statistical graphics consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency. Graphical displays should: show the data, induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than methodolog, avoid distorting what the data have to say…"
Ever the character, Tufte enjoys pointing out bad practices (or worse) which he calls “chartjunk” and invents a formula for comparing how misleading misleading charts are (the lie factor = size of effect in graphic / size of effect in data).
Googling yourself takes on a whole new meaning with Google Glass.
This excellent reportage by Clive Thompson give us an early view inside the Glass product experience.
Although people have used technology to “extend our physicality” for thousands of years, this time it feels different.
"Glancing" and voice commands "OK Glass do X" were settled on by the design team as the interaction controls.
Swedish industrial designer Isabelle Olsson may have saved the whole project. If people are going to wear this on their face “…we need to simplify this to the extreme. Whatever we can remove, we will remove.”
The article gives a nice nod to Steve Mann who hacked-up an early wearable camera as a student at MIT in the early 1990s.
Interesting mentions of some of the Glassware that is in the works or available now like Winky (app that senses when you wink and takes a picture) and “screencast mode” that let’s you display what you are looking at on your smartphone.
Thompson reports the experience faithfully, and particularly insightful bits are how he found the ‘midpoint’ - wearing Glass when it was useful to him but not when he thought it would cause unease for those around him.
An epic narrative tucked inside a magazine profile …
“In the last decade, Federer has become widely regarded as the finest player the sport has ever seen. He won 17 major titles, a record for men’s tennis. Federer also won the U.S. Open five consecutive times, from 2004 to 2008, but as he enters this year’s tournament, he finds himself in the strange position of being an underdog who must prove whether he can still contend for a major.”