Readers of this disturbing but entirely convincing account need to remind themselves that the Internet is pretty useful, but...

VIRTUAL UNREALITY

JUST BECAUSE THE INTERNET TOLD YOU, HOW DO YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE?

An ingenious overview of a wildly unreliable Internet.

Seife (Journalism/New York Univ.; Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, 2010, etc.) recounts the story of a Scottish blogger who, frustrated when his opinions on the Middle East were ignored, reinvented himself as a lesbian Syrian activist in war-torn Damascus and became a media star. Constructing an alternative reality once required an entire totalitarian state. Now a single person can do it, as online information moves around the world with the speed of light. It can be stored in virtually no space, copied with perfect fidelity at little cost and altered just as easily. Photoshop has changed the face of fraud. In 1990, image manipulation made up 3 percent of scientific misconduct, but by 2008, it had risen to nearly 70 percent. Most of the trillion emails sent every few days are spam, and most of several hundred million blogs are unreadable. Experts wrote traditional encyclopedias, while Wikipedia is open to anyone regardless of expertise. It’s more comprehensive and easier to navigate but nagged by propaganda, vandalism and hoax articles that may persist for years since, in the relentlessly democratic ethos of the Internet, those who detect them have no more authority than the fakers. Intelligent thinking depends on our ability to tell good authorities from bad, writes the author, but the avalanche of free information at our fingertips is marginalizing gatekeepers of the truth (reporters, editors, scholars), who cost money and work slowly. Googling for expertise turns up too many opinionated sources that may not even be human. Seife seeks “not to rail against the Internet, but to act as a guide for the skeptic [with] a handbook for those who wish to understand how digital information is affecting us.”

Readers of this disturbing but entirely convincing account need to remind themselves that the Internet is pretty useful, but they will not deny that it teems with garbage.

Pub Date: June 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02608-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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