I’m starting up a Tech Book Club here in Boston.
I’m interested not only in talking about the subject matter covered in these books. I’m also interested in talking about the way we write about technology for popular audiences. What do these authors get right? How are we weaving together stories about the near future based on what we know today? What nuance is lost while writing for diverse audiences?
My interest is partly selfish: I’m writing a book with John Battelle about how data is changing our world and our society at large. I large part, I’m embarking on this project because I’ve been inspired by many tech books I’ve read in the past. Books like Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. These books helped me frame the way I think about technology, and I’ve been inspired to contribute to that public effort. So I’d love to continue talking about these kinds of books as I start writing one of my own.
In some way, shape, or form, I always seem to end up leading book clubs wherever I go. Our book club at the Research Board served as a space to come together as a cohort of analysts; it gave us a chance to think about one thing in a focused way together, when we were otherwise embedded in our own projects. And this last year during my masters, after noticing a few holes in an interdisciplinary syllabus and some mounting interest, I rounded up a few people to read some Heidegger and some Cyborg theory together. As I was taking a walk with Diana Kimball this summer, anticipating our respective moves and sharing excitement about those changes, she planted the seed that I might think about starting a Boston Tech Book Club. It made perfect sense that I ought to keep up my book club wrangling role as I get situated back in Boston.
I want to create a space where we can get together around a shared book, talk about what we learned, what got us thinking, what resonated with us, how we experienced reading the book. I’ve enjoyed participating in #24hourbookclub, which is a virtual distributed marathon format for this kind of shared reading, but I’d love to support an in-person network for interested readers here in Boston. Tech Book Club exists in some form in both San Francisco and New York, and runs on the passion and the networks of friends and acquaintances in those tech scenes. I’d like to tap into that network of passion and interest here in Cambridge and Boston and build our own community of tech book readers.
I really believe in the power of coming together to talk about a shared experience. I want to take notes, jot down impressions, and share them with friends who are reading the same things. And I like the accountability and purpose of having a reason and a purpose to read something - it’s the motivation to tackle that book that was waiting for me in my never ending Kindle sample list, or shuffling through the towering pile on the nightstand. It’s like a seminar, without the pressure.
What will we read? Books about policy like The Master Switch and Captive Audience. Books that are hyper-optimisitic like The New Digital Age or critically pessimistic like To Save Everything: Click Here. Books about the future, like The Singularity Is Near. Books about the past, like River of Shadows or The Victorian Internet. We’ll probably skew towards non-fiction, but that won’t stop us from reading things like The Bleeding Edge, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, These Days, or Super Sad True Love Story when the mood strikes. Some of these are books I’ve loved, others I’ve been meaning to get around to, but they give a good sense of the range of things I’d like to read with you.
Who is this Book Club for? It’s for entrepreneurs. It’s for voracious readers. It’s for science and technology writers. It’s for futurists, and maybe even for skeptical semi-luddites. It’s for anyone who wanted to read these books I’ve listed already and just needed an excuse. It’s for anyone who writes up reviews in Goodreads, or thinks about writing blog posts about what they are reading but stop short for wanting time, or an audience. I’d love for this to develop into a consistent community, where we can pick up on threads and conversations from month to month, but I also want it to be open as new people become interest in book choices.
The first book I’d like to take on is Jaron Lanier’s latest: Who Owns the Future? I really enjoyed You Are Not A Gadget (in fact, if falls into that list of highly influential books that inspired me to start writing more for public audiences). I often like what Lanier has to say, and I’ve wondered if some of his subtlety is often lost on the polarizing characterizations that put him into a contrarian camp. To that end, I think this book will be a great start for talking both about what Lanier is saying, and how he’s saying it.
If any of this piques your interest, send me an email [ saramariewatson at gmail ] and I’ll add you to the list. We’ll aim for sometime early October for our first get together. And if you’ve got any book suggestions or leads on spaces, also let me know!