Book of the Day: How to Thrive Online

Book: Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. By Howard Rheingold.


Like it or not, knowing how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is an essential ingredient to personal success in the twenty-first century. But how can we use digital media so that they make us empowered participants rather than passive receivers, grounded, well-rounded people rather than multitasking basket cases? In Net Smart, cyberculture expert Howard Rheingold shows us how to use social media intelligently, humanely, and, above all, mindfully.

Mindful use of digital media means thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time. Rheingold outlines five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or “crap detection”), and network smarts. He explains how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. He describes the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; he examines how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and he teaches us a lesson on networks and network building.

Rheingold points out that there is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our individual efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody.


Henry Jenkins:

“a major contribution to the growing body of literature around New Media Literacies.

If you have not bought a copy yet, go online now and buy one. If you have not read your copy yet, stop right now and read it. Don’t worry, this blog interview will still be here when you get back.

Net Smart makes a strong case for what Rheingold sees as a set of core skills and competencies which we all need to acquire if we are going to make effective use of the communities and resources we encounter in our everyday lives online. He has talked to the experts, reviewed the literature, and thought through the implications of each skill, and he lays them out with his usual clarity and directness. Some in the past have accused Howard (not to mention myself) of being an uncritical utopianist. Here, you get a stronger sense of where the dust has settled for him as we have now lived for an extended period in relation to online platforms and practices. He certainly recognizes the risks and failures associated with the Web 2.0 era, but he also refuses to let them get in the way of what he sees as the more productive and meaningful ways of engaging with digital culture. He is a firm believer in the critical literacy skill he calls “crap detection.” Howard doesn’t take crap from anyone and he doesn’t serve up very much, if any, in this book.”

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