Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Book review: Texture (think what makes up the social fabric)

If we're drowning in email and past the point of keeping up with everyone we've reconnected with on Facebook, why are we flocking to Twitter? If we can't settle down to work because instant messages keep popping up on top of the document, why are we adding to the load by uploading videos to YouTube and answering questions on Quora?

Texture is a really interesting book that's full of facts and thoughts and ideas and references and I might still not be sure what I think of it. It's academic in approach (Baudrillard and Derrida by page 10, footnotes and references for every chapter), but very real world in what it says. It verges close to pseudery on occasion (click through to the full review on ZDNet for my favourite example as well as a lot more detail about what's in the book) but it lectures the scaremongers right back. I've not yet interviewed Richard Harper - I'd like to - but I have spoken twice to his research partner Abigail Sellen and I've been following their team's work for years, so I loved getting an inside view on projects like the Harry Potter clock (really that should be the Weasley clock). He's remarkably honest about whether some of the more ambitious MSR projects for dealing with information overload will ever come to fruition (including one I covered for the FT three years ago and and occasionally wonder about; it was delightful to sit in a meeting with Eric Horvitz and know that the only people who could interrupt us were his wife and Bill Gates, both of whom I'm happy to defer to). More than anything, Texture is thought provoking - and that's always a good thing in a book.
Tags: articles, book review, email overload, information, social networking, technology, writing, zdnet

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