Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus is a recent book from the best selling spokesman warning America about the perils of the Internet. Riddled with humour, Douglas Rushkoff also lays bare much of the false economics promised by the emerging software giants.
Incredibly, The Technological Society was written in 1954, foreseeing our manner of thinking and life today. Of course the author does not outline gadgetry. No, he unravels how our thinking begins to work like the machines we create.
Ellul went on to write The Technological Bluff as well, in 1988. His works are a tough read, but he could see the realities of society further into the future than most.
McLuhan was the father of media studies, and still important to read. His two books, The Gutenberg Galaxy, and Understanding Media, remain classics. He was among the first to elucidate what Churchill earlier said when he commented about architecture. "We shape our buildings, and after that, they shape us."
The Internet shapes our thinking in ways we do not yet fully grasp.
Jerry Mander, (an intriguing name!) takes up the cause of the North American Indians, especially in Canada. He relates how television unravelled Indian society. We love to point the finger for that one at battles such as the 1890 massacre of Indians at Wounded Knee in 1890. We gloss over the fact that there is a battle for hearts and minds in our twenty first century world, and the high ground is occupied by the technological elite. In the Absence of the Sacred is a great title, alerting us to the unfettered power we gain when we lose our sense of reverence.
The artistic world has taken up the challenge of pointing out our modern follies. Pawel Kuczynski is one of the best, covering more than just facebook, although this one alone tells a story we can all understand. Banksy and others dwell on similar themes. It has been noted more than once, that artists see the future well before political leaders, and certainly have a different view than media moguls or innovation labs.
The is the cover from a book by Neil Postman (again an interesting moniker). The book is entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death, written in 1986. It relays how television killed real discussion, and rendered us slaves to McLuhan's 'cool' media, one that was easier on the brain than the 'hot' media of books, which requires heat, or energy, to consume. Television does not call on us to think. When you come across a thoughtful line in a book, your brain often hits a 'pause and reflect' button. You put the book down to ponder. You can't do that with an advert embedded TV show. Your thinking has no chance to examine, to toss around, or even come back to easily, let alone bookmark.