I've scaled back the book reviews on my blog. Combination of being busy and just being less interested than in the past in doing so. That said, I intend to make a point of adding reviews for books I deem important, and danah boyd's book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
, is just such a book.
I've had the pleasure of meeting danah through mutual friends and she's one of those crazy smart people that would make you feel woefully inadequate, were she not so personable and engaging. It's Complicated represents the culmination of over a decade's worth of her research into American teens and how they use technology and social media. It is a groundbreaking, nuanced, thorough look at the topic and it's many facets.
The book opens with a discussion on 'networked publics', the virtual spaces created by online participation, and the ways in which these spaces overlap and collide with each other and the real world networks in which we live. It then goes on to discuss the many ways in which youth today use and participate in these networks as part of their participation in society and as part of their growing into adults.
From the closing passage of the book, boyd summarizes why I think the book is so important:
"Growing up in and being a part of networked publics is complicated. The realities that youth face to not fit neatly into utopian or dystopian frames, nor will eliminating technology solve the problems they encounter. Networked publics are here to stay. Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complications brought about by living in networked publics."
Ultimately, this is a book about modern teenage life in our society, how it differs from the actual and idealized world of their parents' teenage years, and the role that technology does and doesn't play in that difference. It's also about media literacy and how kids and parents are struggling to make use of, and sense of, a shifting landscape of technology that is reshaping how we view our relationships to one another.
I started reading the book as a technology guy looking to learn more about where things were heading. However, I think the side of me that is a father of three will-be-teens-before-you-know-it kids got the most out of it.
Strongly suggested reading for anyone in tech and anyone with kids.
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens