Friday, September 28, 2007

Featured books – “The Cult of the Amateur” and “Wikinomics”

Two books this week, highlighting the current debate surrounding “Web 2.0,” the rise in popularity of internet-based media collaborations between disparate, connected individuals, through uploading videos to YouTube, editing encyclopaedia entries on Wikipedia, creating alternative sources of news such as Indymedia, or engaging in political and social commentary and debates through the proliferation of blogs and their comment functions. Combined with the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, active individuals are able to use these services to disseminate free content to potentially enormous audiences, and create networks that can share information and act on it with great speed over long distances.

Andrew Keen
The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy
Nicholas Brealey, 2007, 303.4833 KEE

Previously recommended by Matthew Taylor himself
on his own blog, and the subject of the RSA lecture The Great Digital Seduction, The Cult of the Amateur sees Silicon Valley pundit Andrew Keen outline grave consequences as a result of this new digital media, decrying an avalanche of amateur content threatening our values, economy, and ultimately innovation and creativity itself. Highly topical, provocative and controversial, Keen warns that valued cultural institutions - our professional newspapers, magazines, music, and movies - are being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated, free content. In today's self-broadcasting culture, where amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion, however ill-informed, can participate, the distinction between trained expert and uninformed amateur becomes dangerously blurred.

Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Portfolio, 2006, 658.046 TAP

In the opposite corner, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ Wikinomics presents a similar argument to
James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds in demonstrating how, in just the last few years, traditional business collaboration – in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention center – has been superseded by collaborations on an astronomical scale. Today, encyclopedias, jetliners, operating systems, mutual funds, and many other items are being created by teams numbering in the thousands or even millions. Where Keens fears the heaving growth of these massive online communities, Wikinomics argues this fear is folly. Smart firms can harness collective capability and genius to spur innovation, growth, and success. A brilliant guide to one of the most profound changes of our time, it challenges our most deeply-rooted assumptions about business and will prove indispensable to anyone who wants to understand competitiveness in the twenty-first century. Based on a $9 million research project led by bestselling author Don Tapscott, Wikinomics shows how masses of people can participate in the economy like never before, and describes how the social networking tools created under the banner of “Web 2.0” can be used to host new working practises for groups and institutions to use to generate effective and innovative solutions to the problems they set themselves.

Read the Guardian’s reviews of
The Cult of the Amateur and Wikinomics, and get involved by editing Wikinomics’ own Wiki or commenting on Andrew Keen’s blog.

To borrow a copies of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy or Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, please contact the
RSA Library.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Featured Book - "The Triumph of the Political Class "

Peter Oborne
The Triumph of the Political Class
Simon & Schuster, 2007, 320.

Subject of a recent ThuRSdAy lunchtime lecture, Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne’s new book, The Triumph of the Political Class, draws on his experience as a political journalist to diagnose a class of politicians who have left behind the idea of going into politics for that quaintest of reasons: to serve the public Expanding further on previous books and columns, Oborne charges this elite with eroding Britain’s former socio-political divides by bridging the Left-Right gap in favour of presenting the same policies with different spins to an alienated public via a sensationalist media, and reducing politics to a source of personal gain.

Relating these new developments to the history of eighteenth century venality, Oborne asks if, in these allegedly enlightened times, should we not know better? Do we not deserve better from those who seek our electoral approval? Full of revealing and insightful stories and anecdotes to support his case, and with a passionate call for reform, The Triumph of the Political Class is destined to be a much-talked-about political book of 2007, and is supported by a companion documentary in the Dispatches strand, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” at 8PM, Monday 24th September on Channel 4.

To borrow a copy of The Triumph of the Political Class contact the RSA Library.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

RSA Library Update - September 2007

What follows is a complete list of RSA library acquisitions for the month of September 2007. Fellows are welcome to e-mail if they wish to borrow any of these items, or search the library catalogue for thousands of other titles....

000s – Generalities

Daniel Jackson & Martyn Thomas (eds.)
Software for Dependable Systems: Sufficient Evidence?
The National Academies Press, 2007, 005.3 JAC
Adopting a broad perspective towards the subject, Software for Dependable Systems seeks to answer key questions such as, how can software and the systems that rely on it be made dependable in a cost-effective manner, and how can one obtain assurance that dependability has been achieved?

100s – Philosophy & Psychology

Nicola Madge
Children These Days
Policy, 2006, 305.23 MAD
Children These Days draws on the accounts of over two thousand children, and five hundred adults, to examine the present day meaning of childhood and its implications for policy and practice. Key questions addressed by the study include: How is childhood perceived? What is it like to grow up and become an adult? What are the influences and controls on young people? Are young people protected or over-protected? How much do young people and adults respect and talk to each other? And, to what extent is Britain a child-friendly society? The book provides unique evidence on children's and adults' views of childhood, and draws conclusions on the attitudes and policies to be challenged and developed in the 21st century.

200s – Religion

300s – Social Sciences

John J. Macionis & Vincent N. Parrillo
Cities and Urban Life
Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, 307.76 MAC
Cities and Urban Life, authored by two of the best-known textbook writers in the field, provides a comprehensive introduction to urban sociology, urban anthropology, and urban studies. Primarily sociological in approach, this book incorporates historical, social, psychological, geographical, and anthropological insights. While strong in the classical urban sociology, it also gives extensive attention to the new political economy approach to urban studies.

John Gray
Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
Allen Lane, 2007, 320.55 GRA
During the last century global politics was shaped by utopian projects. Pursuing a dream of a world without evil, powerful states waged war and practised terror on an unprecedented scale. From Germany to Russia to China to Afghanistan entire societies were destroyed. Utopian ideologies rejected traditional faiths and claimed to be based in science. They were actually secular versions of the myth of Apocalypse - the belief in a world-changing event that brings history, with all its conflicts, to an end. The war in Iraq was the last of these secular utopias, promising a new era of democracy and producing blood-soaked anarchy and an emerging theocracy instead. Black Mass, John Gray's powerful and frightening new book, argues that the death of utopia does not mean peace. Instead it portends the resurgence of ancient myths, now in openly fundamentalist forms. Obscurely mixed with geopolitical struggles for the control of natural resources, apocalyptic religion has returned as a major force in global conflict.

Wyn Derbyshire
Money & Work: an Essential Guide
Spiramus Press, 2007, 332.024 DER
This guide to money and work seeks to demystify finance, starting with the operation of bank accounts, through to pensions, property-owning and how taxes are calculated. Aimed at young people but useful for all, this book provides all the necessary practical information and teaches many skills that our education system often fail to provide, including credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages and pensions.

Stephen Hall (ed.)
Sustainable Development indicators in your pocket 2007
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2007, 338.927 DEF
Published by Defra to provide an overview of the country’s progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues, Sustainable Development indicators in your pocket 2007 contains 68 indicators covering a wide range of topics of everyday concern such as health, housing, jobs, crime, education, and our environment.

Amitai Etzioni
Security First: for a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy
Yale University Press, 2007, 355.033 ETZ
'Rarely have more profound changes in American foreign policy been called for than today', begins Amitai Etzioni in the preface to this book. Yet Etzioni's concern is not to lay blame for past mistakes but to address the future. The author asserts that providing basic security must be the first priority in all foreign policy considerations, even ahead of efforts to democratize. He sets out essential guidelines for a foreign policy that makes sense in the real world, builds on moral principles, and creates the possibility of establishing positive relationships with Muslim nations and all others. Etzioni's conclusions fall into no neat categories, neither liberal nor conservative, for he is guided not by ideology but by empirical evidence and moral deliberation. His proposal rings with the sound of reason, and this important book belongs on the reading list of every concerned leader, policy maker, and voter in America.

Nick Bosanquet, Henry de Zoete & Emily Beuhler
The NHS in 2010: Reform or Bust
Reform Research Trust, 2005, 362.11 BOS
This study by independent think-tank Reform warns that by 2010, the NHS will cost up to £20 billion more than it should for its level of performance. The study finds that in coming years the NHS will deliver a better service and that the Government's waiting times targets will be met, but that overall a failure to introduce reform means that improvements will be bought at a huge and unnecessary cost.

400s – Language

500s – Natural Sciences & Mathematics

600s – Technology (Applied Sciences)

700s – The Arts

800s – Literature

900s – Geography & History

Monday, September 10, 2007

RSA Screens – "Murder Most Foul"

Sir Antony Sher & Jon Blair.

Thursday 20 September sees the return of RSA Screens - a series of events that pairs the screenings of new and acclaimed documentary films with live commentary and discussion from those involved in the making of the films.

‘Murder Most Foul’ is a documentary by Oscar winning South African filmmaker Jon Blair that asks potent questions and raises serious concerns about the levels of violence within South African society. The film features acclaimed South African born actor Sir Antony Sher and focuses on the murders of actor Brett Goldin and fashion designer Richard Bloom in April 2006.

First screened publicly in Cape Town in July 2007, ‘Murder Most Foul’ is being presented by RSA Screens in association with Channel 4, who will give the film it’s first UK airing on their More4 channel, five days after the RSA screening, as part of their ongoing “True Stories” documentary series.

Read articles about both Sir Antony Sher's involvement in ‘Murder Most Foul’ and the murders of Brett Goldin and Richard Bloom from Cape Town based newspaper, Cape Times.