Books to Read if You Liked “The Social Dilemma” (and want to learn more)

I’m glad to see The Social Dilemma spreading information about the information, economy, and designed outrage wrapped up in social media – but it’s also just a brief overview of a complex course of study. In this list, I pulled together books about the potential dystopia of technology (mainly ones I’ve read for classes) for anyone who might want to dip their feet in a little deeper:

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

My personal favorite. Grounded in media studies and sociology, presents more of a reframing than elimination approach.

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

More deeply about the data and it’s interpretations than about societal impact, and touches on ad auctions (the key to how the economics operates) too!

Twitter and Tear Gas by Zeynep Tufekci \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

About the good and bad of how social media has changed political movements and protest.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

How ‘black box’ “algorithms” detriment our society when used to make big decisions. Author was featured in the film.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

Introduces the term surveillance capitalism and how it affects our media and economies. Author was featured in the film.

American Kingpin by Nick Bilton \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

A narrative non-fiction story that I think uniquely highlights how tech leaders move towards money making, and how fringe ideologies spread online.

A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence by Kartik Hosanagar \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

I’ve only read excerpts from this, but it seems to do a good job of breaking down how these “algorithmic” systems work and how they can affect us beyond social media.

My Post-Finals Reading Plans

This last week has been a bit of a slog, working almost entirely on finishing up the last few things for my classes. Even though it has felt like my undergraduate career was over since we were told not to return from spring break, today was our last official day of classes, and finals start Friday.

I honestly have no love for the two classes I’ll be taking finals in, so I’m especially looking forward to the books I’ve been saving to tackle once I’m finished.

The Charisma Machine by Morgan G. Ames \ Goodreads \ Indiebound

This was a much buzzed about read early this year among the computing education researchers I follow, so I indulged myself by ordering it. The book follows the ‘One Laptop per Child’ project – which sought to improve education in the Global South through technology – chronicling its creation, ideology, and failure. Oddly enough, I remember interacting with one of these distinctive green-shelled laptops when I was younger: I believe a relative had it. I’m primarily interested in learning about the design process used in the project, and hopefully picking up some pitfalls to avoid as I start my own research career.

The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova \ Goodreads \ Indiebound

One of my reading goals for the year was to dive into more non-fiction that does not directly relate to my own fields of study. I stuck with this… briefly in January, reading Doing Good Better as a pre-assignment for my time at the Impact Labs Fellowship. I often find non-fiction unrelated to my projects difficult to stick to, as in the end I much prefer fictional stories or the immediately actionable knowledge I’ve picked up from my many tech-related reads. I’ve been recommended Maria Konnikova as an easily accessible non-fiction writer, and the con-artists topic matter of The Confidence Game appeals to me as a throw-back to my White Collar and Heist Society obsessive days and criminal-viewpoint book binges.

Little While Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes \ Goodreads \ Indiebound

Really soapy, mystery-related dramas have been pulling me in lately. One of the first things I read upon getting home was the Charlotte Holmes series, for the thrilling twists, teenage drama, and mystery; and I recently binge-watched the last few seasons of The Fosters. (the sequel TV series – Good Trouble – is still better, but it was entertaining) I’ve long had a few Barnes books on my TBR: namely The Fixer, and I thought this debutante-themed mystery might be a good place to start.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson \ Goodreads \ Indiebound

Despite everything, its still the start of summer, and when I think of summer books the top of my list is always Morgan Matson. It has been far too long since I read The Unexpected Everything as an advanced copy back in high school (!), so I decided to order up a used copy of the hardcover. (which seems to be out of print, and which has one of my absolutely favorite book covers) Definitely a good book to pick up if you’re looking for a beach read that does not feature beaches, but instead boasts dog-walking and complex familial relationships.