The Big Disconnect

The Big Disconnect

The Story of Technology and Loneliness

Book - 2012
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Tablets, smart phones, and social networks all promise better opportunities to connect and stay connected. Yet what they really do is replace face-to-face interactions and disguise our growing inability to trust others. According to recent surveys, at any given moment, sixty million Americans, 20 percent of the population, feel sufficiently isolated to report that loneliness is a major source of unhappiness. Have we arrived at a new kind of consciousness in which electronic interfaces receive most of our attention to the detriment of real interpersonal communication and empathy? In this book the author offers a bracing look at an America where intimacy with machines is increasingly replacing mutual human intimacy. In a sweeping overview that ranges from the late nineteenth century to the present, he reveals how consumer technologies changed from analgesic devices that ameliorated the loneliness of a newly urban generation in the Gilded Age to prosthetic machines that act as substitutes for companionship in contemporary America. Mining insights from neuroscience, the author delves deeply into the history of this transformation, showing why Americans use certain technologies to mediate their connections with other human beings instead of seeking out face-to-face contacts. In a final investigative section, he describes ways in which some people are bucking the trend by consciously including interpersonal strategies that build empathy, community, and mutual acceptance. This interdisciplinary synthesis provides many insights into our increasingly artificial relationships and a vision of how we can rediscover genuine community and human empathy.
Publisher: Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2012
Description: 306 p. ; 23 cm
ISBN: 9781616145958
Branch Call Number: 303.483 Sla


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Mar 04, 2013

I wanted to find this more interesting than I did. I was expecting more focus on the modern gadget obsessed culture, but the book is 95% survey of historical technologies, and the connections between those are only loosely made at best.

The writing style is quirky and somewhat disorganized. It kind of reads like a first draft to me.

That said, this is an important topic area, and the author offers some meaningful contributions.

Feb 19, 2013

For some reason, I found the details of this book difficult to retain and recall. (It may be Slade's writing style.) That said, the work melds the history of so-called "personal technologies" with the sociology of urbanization. Food for thought here on the ways we use devices to prevent interaction and the consequences of that disengagement.

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