Clifford Stoll, the Frank Zappa of cyberculture, dances around and about information architecture in High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian. His friendly, just-folks style is accessible and entertaining, even for the painfully postmodern readers who most desperately need Stoll's quiet skepticism. The 23 short essays are split between education and more general computer-related topics, but each reflects a unique and consistent viewpoint that is marginalized, at best: computers might be neat, but they aren't revolutionary. He walks a narrow path, and eschews both the utopians' rosy, mirrored shades and the Luddites' monkey wrenches in favor of the least sexy accessory of all--critical thought. Why are we supposed to wire every classroom? Whose best interests are served by programs that offer "computer literacy?" Can we really meet people online? Stoll asks the reader to check assumptions and suspend judgments, while we determine what's really best for our children and our culture. His ideas aren't the stuff of which sound bites are made, although his writing has enough pith and charm to keep even the most rabid techno-partisan engaged. It must be a blast to infuriate the smug and unthinking punditocracy for a living; High-Tech Heretic lets us join the fun, stretch our eye-rolling muscles, and exercise our old-fashioned seawater brains. --Rob Lightner
The cry for and against computers in the classroom is a topic of concern to parents, educators, and communities everywhere. Now, from a Silicon Valley hero and bestselling technology writer comes a pointed critique of the hype surrounding computers and their real benefits, especially in education. In High-Tech Heretic, Clifford Stoll questions the relentless drumbeat for "computer literacy" by educators and the computer industry, particularly since most people just use computers for word processing and games--and computers become outmoded or obsolete much sooner than new textbooks or a good teacher.
As one who loves computers as much as he disdains the inflated promises made on their behalf, Stoll offers a commonsense look at how we can make a technological world better suited for people, instead of making people better suited to using machines.
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