I came across the term weak ties in Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson. Weak ties are people within your network, social or physical real, who are not your close friends. Thompson says,”In a world of status updates, tangential, seemingly minor ties become part of your social fabric. And they can bring in some extremely useful information.”
Reading about this made me think about my trip to London this past summer. It was wonderful, btw, and I can’t wait for an opportunity to return, but a huge part of that is due in no small part to my connection with an associate who was studying abroad in London at the same time.
I posted on Facebook that I planned to make an impromptu trip to London at the end of my own study abroad trip to Ireland. My “weak tie,” a former teammate from undergrad saw the post and responded, saying that he would be in London at the same time I was planning to go there. It was to most serendipitous thing!
It was extremely important to me that I acquired some serious design skills while earning my masters. It also happens that two design courses are required for my degree. I took them both and at some point each of them focused on typography. That was a year ago. I thought I was done.
Now, suddenly, almost a year later, my head is full of typography. I think it was prompted by the project I did for my class, which I also blogged about here, and also by my desire to design my own logo, but I notice it everywhere. I’m always trying to explain Gestalt principles to people, mostly my mom, who really doesn’t care.
It’s bad… Like this meme. LOL!
My life has turned into typography. I can’t get it out of my head.
Since I can’t get it out of my head I’ve decided I only have one option… read books about it!
I’m going to start by rereading the text book for my class Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton (@EllenLupton). I’ll do some research for more in the coming weeks. Just don’t be surprised by the sudden influx of typography themed posts here. I’m just trying to get this out of my system. Please bear with me!
My last post about new media and culture, RE: Mockingjay Part I, was well received, so I thought I’d do another one concerning my favorite subject ever… Books!
I read Super Sad True Love Story last year. It is so obviously a satire of our current situation as a nation that it’s more uncomfortable than funny.
Everyone carries around these devices, äppäräts, the ultimate smart phone. They even can aggregate all the data produced by and about you, compare it to those around you, and spit out “hotness” and “compatibility” scores. The apparat then projects these scores constantly to all the apparats around you at all times. Imagine that your Klout score was taped to your forehead. Eek! If you haven’t calculated your Klout score… Don’t.
Needless to say this was another example of a possible path advanced tech can take that also freaks me out. The tech of itself seems fine i.e., not a weapon, but the characters dependence upon devices to determine other characters worth and value was terrifying! I was reminded of Sheryl Turkle’s Alone Together.
Reading this book, just like watching Mockingjay, made me wonder if society as a whole is really thinking about where technology is headed and if that’s a place we actually want to go. It’s the passive acceptance attitude of the characters in these works and in the real world that is just a little unnerving.
The reason I thought I should share my love for this book on my blog is because the characters, like many of my peers, are steeped up to their eye balls in new media. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is about a young man, Clay, who gets a job at a 24-hour bookstore, only the store is just a front for a secret society. His attempt to update the bookstore’s online presence and stir up more clientele sweeps Clay into a mystery as old as the printing press, with the bookstore and its proprietor at the center. Clay’s boss, Mr. Penumbra goes missing and Clay seems to be the only one who notices or cares. In his search for Mr. Penumbra, Clay discovers that the bookstores he works in is really a front for a secret society that has been working on the world’s oldest brain teaser. Clay, his best friend, and his girlfriend, Kat, who works at Google — that’s a awesome enough reason to read it right there– take some serious risks to figure it out.
Here are three reasons I think it’s a great read:
- The cover GLOWS!! It freaked me out at first but after a while, it is really really cool.
The cover of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
- It’s like 007 for nerds and I’m a self- embracing nerd so I don’t mean that badly. Amazon calls it a “technothriller.” I think that’s a very appropriate description. Designers, hackers and engineers all get to be the hero in this story. It’s refreshing. Clay’s character is endearing. He is clearly still trying to find his way and life and is struggling with the idea that he is not as traditionally successful as some of his peers. This investigation of his boss’ disappearance seems to really be a journey for Clay to find himself. It’s interesting to see him grow up. I learned some things about myself along the way.
- Robin Sloan offers a behind-the-scenes look at Google. Like I said above, read it for just that. Kat offers to assist Clay on his quest by offering Google’s book scanner. So Clay goes to visit Google’s campus in Silicon Valley, CA. I was amazed. I’m not sure if Sloan’s description of Google is accurate but I’m certainly curious to find out now.
This book has a lot of technical jargon but don’t give up. It is also full of mysteries, twists, romance, and happy endings. It is so worth it in the end.