The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us
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The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us

3.13 of 5 stars 3.13  ·  rating details  ·  61 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The host of CBC Radio's Spark explores the very real impact of the virtual information we generate about ourselves -- on our own lives, our communities, and our government.

We generate enormous amounts of online data about our habits: where we go, what we do, and how we feel. Some of that is stuff we choose to report; some of it is the offhand data trails we leave behind. T...more
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Published April 10th 2012 by McClelland & Stewart (first published October 4th 2011)
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Barbara McVeigh
If you are reading this review via Twitter or Goodreads, you may understand what it feels like to be at least a little bit addicted to the virtual world. Existing without a physical place means ideas can be exchanged at the speed of light and participation is democratic.

We are compelled to compulsively record ourselves online. Nora Young comments that the “pattern of our data seems to carry an explanatory power, a sense that life isn’t random...that, over time, the trivial acts of our mundane da...more
Alexis
This was a fast and easy read. Basically, I read it in a few hours. The author is coming to Litfest in Edmonton this year, and I wanted to read the book before the festival.

This book is about how our online lives are impacting our offline ones. It's about how we network, self-track (which I'm doing right now with this review) and the kind of data that we share and how it can be used. This book would only appeal to people who are already using things like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. The author...more
Shireen
Jun 20, 2012 Shireen marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I took this out of the library, and it expired when I was about halfway through. There's a long hold list for it, and no wonder. Hopefully, I won't have completely forgotten what I've read by the time I can check it out again ... but I suspect I'll have to start from the beginning again. That may be a good thing.

I had trouble getting into it at first. It wasn't the writing -- Nora Young writes as she talks on her CBC radio show Spark. It's engaging and colloquial. Perhaps it was because I wasn't...more
Nick

I was a bit disappointed by this relatively boring and fluffy book. Nora does a good job at describing her main foci: self-tracking, digital selves, digital activism and so on, and there are some fascinating chunks of text, but she tends to repeat herself chapter-to-chapter and put in enough filler that the book could have easily been a large essay instead -- a non-fiction/academic quality which irks and fatigues me. I liked: learning about self-tracking habits, such as Benjamin Franklin and mod...more
Liam Cline
The examples were a little bit ho-hum, no where near as flashy as Malcolm Gladwell...but the straightforwardness allowed for a surprisingly concise account of why little people like you and I should be concerned about rights to personal data. It's a commodity, and should be treated as such. Complete mind bender for me, definitely recommended!
Josh
There is a build-up to the final chapter on 'Becoming a Data Activist'. Issues with tracking and self-tracking and big-data are explained. Also provided are a a few historical explanations of how technology and record-keeping affect culture (and big business).
bossy
Very insightful. Throughly researched. There were services I didn't even know were available, that I was able to find out about through this book. The tone is casual and the humor is appreciated. I enjoyed learning from it, but I think that it can be a difficult book to read if you are not familiar with the topic or some of the terms used.
I would recommend it to people that are active users of smartphones and the internet and want to learn how can they improve something about themselves or lear...more
Tracey
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It was OK. Lots of thought-provoking ideas, but the structure didn't work for me. There were several times when I felt like it was really going somewhere interesting, but then it didn't really dig very deep. For anyone that is already aware of the issues raised (like pretty much anyone that is already is a fan of the author from her radio show), there isn't a lot new here.
Clare
I thought this was fantastic, and reading it at the cottage with no internet access caused me to have some insights I might not have done had I been scrambling to connect to all of Young's examples while I was reading. Full review to follow (it's currently in longhand in a journal). Too lazy to type it, I have now done an audio review here:http://clarehitchens.posterous.com/po...
Miranda Marcy
The title sounded far more interesting than the book actually was. I felt like, as the book went on, the author was rehashing the previous chapters. By the end, I was glad it was over.

The questions raised in this book, and the discussion of digital data, privacy and connectedness are all important discussion points, but unfortunately the author brought up the questions without offering much else.
Sharon Stoneman
Ms Young raises a lot of really interesting issues in this book. If you are interested in ideas around how we are creating virtual versions of ourselves - both deliberately and by default - the time to read this is now. Technology and attitudes are changing so fast that this book may out of date sooner than you'd think!
Anita Griffin
I attended Third Tuesday in Toronto in June 2012 and Nora Young was the guest speaker. Generously, they gave all attendees of the event a copy of her new book. I love listening to Nora's show Spark on CBC Radio 1. I'll look forward to reading this book soon.
Jada Roche
if you're online and relatively intelligent, then nothing in this book will be a shock. I would have enjoyed a deeper dive into the data side of things, since that drives the "copy" of us in the interwebs. mostly boring, which was disappointing.
Angie
Started the book for a class but finished it just because I really enjoyed the author's points. Loved the historical comparisons for self improvement and quantifying our selves. Definitely recommending to several people.
Don


Very readable with a conversational tone, this book does offer some fascinating insights regarding the impact of the virtual world on us and the way it changes how we record ourselves.
Janet Hamilton-davies
Pretty pedestrian. Not much new.
Caroline Gray
Good and interesting read.
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