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Issue 7.5


Book: Flickering Pixels

Issue: 7.5 (July/August 2009)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,759
Starting Page Number: 12
Article Number: 7507
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Reviewing a religious book may seem out of place in a tech magazine, but I feel this is a significant book for everyone who participates in technology. It's similar in some ways to E-mail at the Workplace (which I reviewed in issue 7.2) in that it explores how technology effects society, but with a much broader scope than just email.

Flickering Pixels is written by a pastor and assumes the reader is Christian, but the author offers his religious perspective in a low-key, non-invasive manner that I don't think will bother the non-religious. Shane Hipps is a former advertising executive and he uses his understanding of media to explore how media shapes us. Shane's perspective is that of a Christian wanting to evangelize the world, but the truths he uncovers are fascinating and beneficial to everyone.

The basic premise of the book is exploring how "the medium is the message." For example, he demonstrates how the invention of the printing press dramatically changed the way people thought: not only does printing encourage linear, left-brained thinking, but it also does unexpected things like separate children (who must learn to read) from the world of adults. Today's emphasis on visual media is changing our thinking process yet again.

By examining media, and not the content, Shane reveals the subtle side-effects of various types of communication: images reduce the need for imagination, the speed of the telegraph changed the value-proposition of information making timeliness more important than quality (Sound familiar, bloggers?), and cell phones, which supposedly shorten distances between people, often actually isolate us.

Basically, if you're wondering about the long-term impact of today's latest communication technologies -- from text messaging to Twitter -- you need to read this book.

Shane's writing style is terrifically entertaining: the book is all stories and examples, with important information and conclusions weaved throughout. His conclusion is positive: technologies lose their power over us if we know the dangers presented by them. (His clear illustration of this: a conversation not interrupted because the person refused to answer their cell phone right at that moment.) But his warning is that media, regardless of content, influences us in subtle ways; this book is an eye-opener to how technology can control the way you think.

End of article.