A note about the book Net Smart by Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold has been writing about the impact of the Internet and other types of social networks on society for over 30 years.  Earlier this year, he finished his most recent book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online.

The introduction (PDF) notes what the intended audience is, and why he wrote the book.  Concerning collaboration, the most relevant section is Chapter Four, in which the discussion:

Moves from the personal and interpersonal to the cybersocial. The know-how at the core of this literacy is about the magic of several different flavors of collaboration made possible by networked media. The realms of collaboration are broad and deep, so this chapter offers both a high-altitude map of the territory of online collaboration and close-up conversations with the people who have created famously successful collaborative enterprises.

While I personally find that he uses the term “crap detection” a little too often for my tastes, I suppose it is a good way to get the point across to your average undergraduate student.

From the publisher blurb about the book:

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.

Here are some other blurbs about the book.

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