Although accessibly written, the content is too broad and lacking in context to be useful.

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CYBER NATION

HOW THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION IS CHANGING SOCIETY

This compact, stand-alone title unsuccessfully attempts to explain how digital technologies have radically transformed all facets of society.

The content is organized into five chapters: The first examines how digital technologies are impacting individual communication and interaction, but the treatment of the subject is obvious and lacking in insight. The second chapter, discussing the rise and impact of the sharing economy, is equally lacking in edification. A chapter on information overload offers only cursory and perfunctory treatments of subjects like fake news and how search engines work. The fourth chapter examines privacy issues. The last chapter speculates on future developments and impacts of digital technologies. Hulick (Coral Reefs, 2018, etc.) uses quotes from people who have done important research on many of these subjects, such as Sherry Turkle, but the significance of their findings is not discussed. Critical voices like Jarod Lanier and Tim Wu are absent. Text boxes offer quotes on related topics as well as anecdotes about cyberspace (such as one in which online bullying contributed to the suicide of a young teen or an example of phishing). The book takes an evenhanded approach, highlighting some of the downsides of technology as well as describing the positives that have emerged, such as the increased ability for activists to organize worldwide.

Although accessibly written, the content is too broad and lacking in context to be useful. (photos, sources notes, resource list, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68282-469-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

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A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010).

EXOPLANETS

WORLDS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”

Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued.

A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0086-1

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available.

FAKE NEWS AND THE MANIPULATION OF PUBLIC OPINION

An abbreviated overview of a hotly debated issue.

“Fake news,” is defined here as “fabricated news or information that is meant to be perceived as factual,” a definition that carefully excludes unintended errors, biases, or satire. It’s hardly a new complaint, but this account examines few instances outside the 2016 U.S. elections and mostly ignores print and broadcast media. Technological innovations and widespread use of social media have dramatically increased disinformation’s reach and impact; focusing on online phenomena permits tangents on algorithms creating ideological bubbles, harvesting of personal data, precise targeting of audiences, and strategic releases of hacked information. Partisan politics, foreign (mostly Russian) interference, and greed for ad revenue are presented as the chief villains, allowing brief digressions to recent cases in France, Great Britain, Kenya, and India; the last is the only noted example with violent results despite similar incidents elsewhere (including the U.S.). Indeed, while the earnest, meandering, and repetitive text adopts an ominous tone, it offers little evidence for any concrete consequences beyond the erosion of public trust. Proposed solutions include hopeful predictions for artificial intelligence and vague assurances from tech companies, but the author leans heavily on individual responsibility to become educated and remain skeptical and vigilant. Appendices provide a useful rubric for evaluating information and list some reputable fact-checking sites; the index is scattershot and sloppy.

A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available. (source notes, appendices, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68282-539-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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