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Book Review: Future Media, Edited by Dr. Rick Wilber

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Humanity’s interest in technology dates back to the first time tools were used; and most assuredly they were remarkable, life-altering affairs — a stick, the controlled use of fire, a miraculous, tumbling wheel. Yet, these seemingly simple implementations grew and enabled previously nomadic tribes to exercise a degree of control over their surroundings, building settlements, bustling cities, and nations in areas that were previously uninhabitable.

Future Media, edited by Dr. Rick Wilber, and released in July 2011, reminds readers of these miraculous, collective roots by exploring technology and the exchange of information. It engages one in an internal debate about the undeniable benefits and possible consequences from a growing dependency on technological use, and provides an array of sources to suggest where our global progress is headed. The presented resources and opinions vary, allowing the reader to reflect and critically think about the resulting questions outlined in the included texts. One would not be surprised to learn that Dr. Wilber is a journalism professor; his book is well-rounded and objective, which only helps one to read and reflect on the material, then reach conclusions without being coaxed in one direction or another.

The anthology wisely features juxtaposing works from some of the Western world’s most prolific and well-respected science fiction writers, performance artists, and technology gods (view the full list at Tachyon Publications). Essentially, it offers a thematic dialogue in a purposeful, juxtaposed order, and is bravely printed in a format that several articles within its covers openly defend or dismiss — the written word in paperback form. The selected works range from brief to somewhat lengthy in a chopped fashion catering to Generation Y’s shortened attention spans, and includes short stories, plays, and nonfiction articles with the hope to entertain, entice, and educate readers, primarily undergraduate students who major in media studies.

Its central theme explores the cognitive and social impacts of technological media: neurological pathway alterations, human relationships and sexual expression, gender, socioeconomic, and racial equality, the struggle of governmental powers, and consumerism. Future Media notes that today’s technological gains are markedly different from decades past. It is more outstanding because these advancements, human achievements, are chronicled and implemented at an increasingly rapid pace, compiled for future world movers and shakers to learn from and build on in a limitless record, for the betterment of mankind.

It’s so easy to immerse oneself in technological gadgets and gizmos without pausing to think about what the influence of ready access to information means or understanding where we come from and where we’re potentially going, but plenty of works exist to help remind us to momentarily stop. Future Media exposes us to a few of these in celebratory academia, prodding one awake from a WiFi induced slumber. It may encourage the reader to ask themself and others, “Does this tweet really matter? What are the social ramifications of playing hours of Zynga games every day? When do I call my closest loved ones over sending an e-mail or ‘liking’ their wall status? Is it really awesome that I don’t need to remember my best friend’s birthday anymore without a reminder? How can I get more followers and pingbacks? Do I really need another app without ads? What is Google really gaining from information I post on Google+? I’m looking for a date, but which online dating service would my ex be the least likely to use, so I can avoid an awkward virtual run-in? When was the last time I was able to successfully read and comprehend a book? Is this television show truly depicting reality?”

Future Media is a thought-provoking, worthwhile read that may cause similar feelings to reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Will you travel with me, slightly toward the light? I cannot admit to venturing outside fully because this review was published online (and the LCD optics were alluring, the shadows so convincing), but there was a beautiful glimmer in the near distance that grew brighter, more important and insistent, with every page I turned.

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