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Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection [Hardcover]

Ethan Zuckerman
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

12 July 2013
In an age of connection supercharged by the Internet, we often assume that more people online means a smaller, more cosmopolitan world. In reality, it is easier to ship bottles of water from Fiji to Atlanta than it is to get news from Tokyo to New York. In Rewire Ethan Zuckerman draws on contemporary research in psychology, sociology and his own work on how humans "flock together" to explain why the technological ability to reach someone does not inevitably lead to increased connection. For those who seek a wider picture - a picture now critical for global success - Zuckerman highlights the challenges and the headway already made by attempts to bridge cultures through translation, cross-cultural inspiration and the search for new, serendipitous experience. Rewire offers a map of the innovations needed to more tightly connect the world

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (12 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393082830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393082838
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A compelling account of an intertwined global world, Ethan Zuckerman's Rewire makes you fall in love with a wide range of cultural practices and peoples. As he explains the importance of understanding not just how information flows but also how people connect, he lays a foundation for rethinking what global citizenship can and should be. Rewire offers a desperately needed dose of inspiration for those who want to make the world a better place." ----Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research

"Ethan Zuckerman's book provides a welcome antidote to the current narrative of technological determinism." ----John Naughton, The Guardian

About the Author

One of Foreign Policy's top 100 Global Thinkers, Ethan Zuckerman is a media scholar, Internet activist and blogger. He is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media. Author blog: Twitter: @ethanz

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars HALF-WIRED 29 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a disappointing book on an interesting and important subject. One might have assumed (most did) that the internet would vastly enhance the store of global knowledge. How could it not create a worldwide public of those - there are many of us - who wish to be informed and can't think of an unjoined up, uncosmopolitan world. In reality internet users tend to use the medium in order to shire up their prejudices when they are not communicating with school friends. The consequences of mass public ignorance are a rich subject, but Zuckerman doesn't really ever face up to them. He ran a website from Cambridge Mass., that assembled blogs from all over the world. It didn't take off but Zuckerman thinks that such efforts are probably the answer. He doesn't approve of 'mainstream media', and he may be =right in suggesting that the old outlets have had their day. But is solutions are, for the most part, feeble; and the book is spoilt by poor, hasty writing. I'm sure that Zuckerman's heart is in the right place, but I don't feel we'll become educated cosmopolitans by reading books such as these. It would be good, too, to feel the new media seers had any regard for the the notion that truth is inseparable from good writing, and that cliches get us nowhere. I wish, though, that someone will come up with some real solutions. Must the internet - the greatest invention since the printing press - necessarily result in vicious, moronic controversy and consciously willed ignorance. I want someone to tell me that things can be better. Maybe Ethan can do that - he could try writing another book on the subject.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important question, sober response, delightfully told 1 July 2013
By David Weinberger - Published on
Disclosure: I've known Ethan Zuckerman for ten years, and am happy to count him as a friend. I have tremendous respect, as well as affection, for him.

You are likely to read the first few chapters of this important book trying to dodge the conclusion Zuckerman inexorably leads you to: despite the fact that the world is now one click away, when it comes to encountering other cultures, we have tended to be more insular and isolated than ever. Through cogent argument backed by evidence and data, Zuckerman makes his case, step by step.

But because he believes that we are not powerless in the face of our technology, Zuckerman spends the rest of the book exploring ways we can begin to take advantage of the multicultural riches the Internet offers. He is particularly interested in the structural changes we can make.

He explains all this through a set of stories, each illuminating a point that is backed up not just by anecdotes but by research, as well as by Zuckerman's extensive experience building sites and systems.

Ethan Zuckerman is a remarkable person, and it's not just his friends who think so. From Harvard to MIT to Foreign Affairs to TED, he's recognized as a remarkably well-informed researcher and activist, with an understanding that stretches from the system level down to the granular facts. His is a rare intellect. Plus he is a superb communicator. (Google for some of his presentations.)

This book sets out a crucial question, and suggests promising roads to solutions, or at least improvements. It's exceedingly well told. I hope it's widely read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An informative read! 23 Jun 2013
By divified - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved how Ethan took the current technologically connected and wired culture into perspective. Unlike many books that criticize current trends and habits with relation to technology, Ethan analyzes the reasoning behind our behavior and posits ways in which we can re-orientate and make full use of the technology that is at our finger tips. The examples that he peppers through the book from personal experiences and through his research brought light to and thoroughly supported his arguments. This was definitely a refreshing and insightful read on tech and culture and the need to change habits to harness the possibilities of a better connected future.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful appraisal of what it means to be cosmopolitan now & in the future 17 Jun 2013
By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection offers a realistic appraisal of how technological innovation, especially related to communication, has changed how people interact alongside a vision that future developments will enable a new form of cosmopolitanism accessible to an ever increasing share of the global population. Zuckerman's own high level leadership experiences combine with significant interaction with scholarly material from multiple disciplines to form a hopeful volume that will educate a broad readership, encourage those tasked with crafting innovations that enable a more connected future, and inspire many to be more intentional in the quest to live as digital cosmopolitans.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Source for people Interested in the Dynamics of Media Attention 15 Aug 2013
By PhantomReviewer - Published on
Has the internet increased or decreased our diversity of media consumption? While in principle, technology has increased our ability to access news from anywhere, the reality is that we live in a world that is now more insular than before. Ethan Zuckerman shows an interesting paradox of our connected age. The paradox is that, although reading about Japan, India or Nigeria, has never been easier, it is now less common than 30 years ago. In the past, editors spoon fed us international news, but in our modern globalized world news consumption is becoming increasingly more local.

In this book Ethan Zuckerman describes the statistics of news consumptions and the dynamics of viral spreading through a number of well researched stories from around the globe. Zuckerman is a news buff, so if you are looking to get a better picture of how news have changed during the last decades you should add this book to your mind.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Designed to inspire 16 Dec 2013
By George - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of hearing Zuckerman present at a conference earlier this year to an audience that didn't work in his particular field (Zuckerman is the Director of Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab and focuses on the distribution of attention in mainstream and new/social media). While not his typical constituency, Zuckerman expertly drew the connections from his research and knowledge of global trends around media and individual engagement that clearly resonated with our broad-based group. I found myself wanting to learn more about his work and came to "Rewire."

"Rewire" is a fascinating read that coalesces Zuckerman's passions, including Africa and the developing world, the attention paid to and consumption of media focused on global issues, the expansion of individual voice through social media, among others. His purpose in writing the book is to elevate the importance of living dual lives, as citizens of nations and citizens of the world. His belief is that those with a practical, literate understanding of global issues and cultures ("cosmopolitans") will yield, to keep it simple, a better world. In a tightly organized but highly readable fashion, he advocates for an alternative mindset around media consumption and engagement to solve a core problem of our "connected age", a paradox: that while it is easier than ever to share information from across the world, the manifold lenses through we which we access and view the world - Twitter, newspapers, television, people - have become narrower. Similarly, we are less open to "serendipitous" encounters that may foster new learnings and cross-cultural understanding. It's terribly interesting.

While Zuckerman's argument is interspersed with stories of other's research, case studies, and examples, at times they seem self-aggrandizing. In many cases, he knows the individuals involved and worked with them at some point in his life (the introduction of the book invites the reader to join he and his friends in realizing a "rewired" world). He clearly values their insights, but on occasion the names become muddled. On the whole, they support his argument if they have not outright informed his argument.

As a newcomer to books such as these, I'm sure there are more thoughtful counter-arguments to what Zuckerman proposes. For myself, the core question I have is whether or not he overstates the importance of the examples he presents. He argues that people have a tendency to care more about what's immediate to them and around them. Additionally, what's already like them (homophily). I spend quite a bit of my time working in a severely disinvested city where many of its residents are experiencing extreme poverty and isolation, lack of safety, and other social pathologies. I can't help but think that the issues experienced individually in neighborhoods like what I've described have more pressing matters to attend to, if they have adequate resources and access to the "connectors", those who can provide guidance and curation to other cultures and information. At what level is participation possible as opposed to trickle-down beneficiary of a more caring world? Of course, the book arcs at a high-level, so more practical-oriented questions aren't addressed.

Overall, as a call to engage, the book is inspiring and enjoyable. Sure, there are holes to poke but at its core the book is fundamentally about one thing: the possibility of a better connected world and better outcomes for people across the globe. If that also interests you, you will enjoy Zuckerman's idealism.
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