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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age » User review

A good addition to the conversation but not the final word

  • Oct 12, 2010
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I was going to simply say that I get much of the same message I found in "Hamlet's Blackberry" from several of the blogs I read, but maybe that could be seen as missing the point. If you need a book reference or two instead, how about Everett Bogue's The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living or Leo Babauta's forthcoming print and e-book "Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction." The point is that author William Powers' essential recommendation -- unplug! -- has been offered before, and in much less space.

What does set this book apart is the author's exploration of seven "philosophers of screens," men whose ideas and actions in eras of technological upheaval have, Powers argues, something worthwhile to teach us about the times we live in today. I think the argument makes sense, and Powers' profiles of Shakespeare, Thoreau, Franklin and others are interesting and his conclusions valid. Still, it did kind of strike me as a long way to go in order to get to the recommendation "Turn off your 'screens' and go live a life." "Hamlet's Blackberry" is a nice addition to the ongoing discussion of "how digital technology has turned the workplace into a war zone for the mind" (p. 158) and how we should adapt to, or change, that. But I think it's just that: an addition to the discussion, not a definitive answer to the underlying questions.

I do, however, love that there is a Kindle edition of "Hamlet's Blackberry."

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More Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practic... reviews
review by . May 09, 2011
For some of us, living our lives connected to the digital world is a normal occurrence. I can reach anyone at any time, and others can reach me. But is that healthy? Should I step back and take the time to be unplugged? These questions are explored in William Powers' book Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. I joke about the fact that I can leave the Internet any time I want... I just don't want to yet. But there's some good food …
review by . April 24, 2011
Everywhere you turn, you hear someone ask "How are you?" Usually, the response is some variation of "Busy, very busy." It is so prevalent that an anecdote in Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age is a real eye opener. A recent immigrant to the United States heard it so often, it was assumed to be a proper reply to the question. Living in the Digital Age, you are connected all the time; you have a screen in front of you nearly …
review by . May 29, 2010
How can we balance staying "in touch" without being overwhelmed by never being out of touch? Moving between the "alpha" of "less crowded, more focused" inner-directed concentration or "flow" in the moment, and the "omega" of being wired, linked, virtual, Powers surveys seven thinkers who dealt with their era's equivalents of "screens," our "connective digital devices" of the past two decades.    Plato writes down "Phaedrus," Socrates orally delivered dialogue addressing the new …
review by . July 29, 2010
William Powers believes that the billion or so of us who are networked via digital devices are so mindlessly addicted to the experience that we need a game plan for escape. He depicts us as so absorbed in our instant gratification that we have abandoned the depth of experience and relationships that give life meaning.    One can't avoid the impression that he must be the sort of person who compulsively answers the phone when it rings, responds to e-mails no matter how puerile, …
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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #363
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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Our discombobulated Internet Age could learn important new tricks from some very old thinkers, according to this incisive critique of online life and its discontents. Journalist Powers bemoans the reigning dogma of digital maximalism that requires us to divide our attention between ever more e-mails, text messages, cellphone calls, video streams, and blinking banners, resulting, he argues, in lowered productivity and a distracted life devoid of meaning and depth. In a nifty and refreshing turn, he looks to ideas of the past for remedies to this hyper-modern predicament: to Plato, who analyzed the transition from the ancient technology of talking to the cutting-edge gadgetry of written scrolls; to Shakespeare, who gave Hamlet the latest in Elizabethan information apps, an erasable notebook; to Thoreau, who carved out solitary spaces amid the press of telegraphs and railroads. The author sometimes lapses into mysticism—In solitude we meet not just ourselves but all other selves—and his solutions, like the weekend-long Internet Sabbaths he and his wife decreed for their family, are small-bore. But Powers deftly blends an appreciation of the advantages of information technology and a shrewd assessment of its pitfalls into a compelling call to disconnect.(July)
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Details

ISBN-10: 0061687162
ISBN-13: 978-0061687167
Author: William Powers
Genre: Computers & Internet, Science, Nonfiction
Publisher: Harper
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