Rosenberg suggests that blogging’s “outpouring of human expression” should “delight us.” This fair and fascinating account...

SAY EVERYTHING

HOW BLOGGING BEGAN, WHAT IT'S BECOMING, AND WHY IT MATTERS

Salon co-founder Rosenberg (Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software, 2007) offers an elegantly accessible history and defense of a now-ubiquitous Internet phenomenon—the blogosphere.

In 2003 there were 100,000 blogs worldwide; today there are approximately 184 million. Such phenomenal growth of blogging, which the author defines as “a hybrid of traditional publishing and casual electronic messaging,” was initially due to adventurous, and at times decidedly odd, men and women who both saw the potential in the totally free expression blogging allows and developed the software that made it simple and easy. Rosenberg energetically chronicles these ’90s pioneers, including Justin Hall, who obsessively posted a real-time archive of his life in the early ’90s; Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan, who developed a simple program—subsequently sold to Google—that made blogging accessible to anyone (Williams would later develop Twitter); Robert Scoble and others, who showed, for better or worse, that blogging could be profitable; and Josh Marshall, who made blogging a true journalistic endeavor. As more people have discovered the joys of blogging, what has been created, Rosenberg claims, is nothing less than “a new kind of public sphere, at once ephemeral and timeless, sharing the characteristics of conversation and deliberation.” Blogging allows for new possibilities in form and content and the blossoming of new talent; it’s also fun. Yet Rosenberg also acknowledges the critiques of such an unbridled flood of verbiage. With patient detail—and for the most part jargon-free language—he addresses the concern that the blogosphere is nothing more than a mindless morass of trivia—that it may be creating an “echo chamber effect” where we talk to only those who agree with us, and may lead to cultural disintegration as millions of monologues replace a common discourse. Though he never dismisses them out of hand, the author concludes that these complaints are mostly baseless or overwrought.

Rosenberg suggests that blogging’s “outpouring of human expression” should “delight us.” This fair and fascinating account should delight as well.

Pub Date: July 7, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-45136-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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