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The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
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The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,334 Ratings  ·  406 Reviews
Nearly one million weekly listeners trust NPR's Brooke Gladstone to guide them through the distortions and complexities of the modern media. This brilliant radio personality now bursts onto the page as an illustrated character in vivid comics drawn by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld. The cartoon of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history-from the newspape ...more
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published May 23rd 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, media, comics
Everything I've been reading lately is a reaction to November's presidential election — I'm either trying to understand what happened, or I'm trying to escape from reality. This book falls under trying to understand.

I am deeply disturbed by the role that fake news played in America's election, and I was glad I found Brooke Gladstone's book at the library. The Influencing Machine is a history of the media and how its impact has evolved over time. Published in 2011, the book is highly relevant and
This is a book about Rhetoric, which gets such short shrift these days that I don't have a shelf for it. It was an assigned text for Veronica, and I see something catching lying around, I have to snake it from other family members, otherwise they wouldn't know where to look for it. If you're unfamiliar with rhetoric, this makes a fabulous introduction, and if you already know about it, you'll enjoy how everything is tied to modern media. The graphic novel format makes it feel lighter than it wou ...more
James Payne
Disappointing. This book is not "visionary," nor is it particularly "opinionated"as it has been billed; it is certainly not a "manifesto" as that implies the book is articulating some idea outside of normal liberal-establishment orthodoxy. And man, you need some outsized blinders on to consider that orthodoxy coherent.

Gladstone starts the book by saying there is nothing "conspiratorial" about mainstream media - a remark I can only imagine is an unnamed naming of Manufacturing Consent, which, wh
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Stven by: The New Yorker
A lively and informative book on the history of public media. I have a few quibbles along the way, but I'm willing to ignore them because I'm learning some interesting history, competently arranged to get me from points A and B to points U and V with the dots nicely connected. The trouble is that I totally reject the conclusion Gladstone presents, that "We get the media we deserve."

That's bogus. We the people don't control journalism -- despite the nice point she makes that journalism does spend
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fumetti, attualità
Il medium fumetto è da sempre un mezzo di comunicazione molto più versatile e potente di quanto un "non iniziato" possa pensare.
Accanto a storie supereroistiche, a letteratura per immagini quale Sandman, a capolavori dell'umorismo come Peanuts o Calvin e Hobbes, esistono anche fumetti che usano l'immagine esclusivamente come parziale supporto visivo alle parole.
Ecco quindi un capolavoro come Maus, che visivamente è ridotto all'osso, ma ecco anche un saggio (non saprei definirlo altrimenti) come
Jun 06, 2011 added it
Engaging and entertaining, but I disagree with the central claim of the book that "We get the media we deserve." Who are "we" and what does it mean for us to "deserve" our media? What is missing is any kind of sustained examination of the specifically economic (as opposed to technological) frameworks within which the media operate and the way those frameworks affect their performance.
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book offers a robust opinion on the state of the media and explains why there is still a lot of work to do but no reason to despair. A lot of insight is gleaned from the history of journalism but also from technology experts like Clay Shirky or Cass Sunstein. The author is also the co-host of On The Media. Here are my lecture notes.

# The Influencing Machine

The influencing machine is a typical invention of the mind that is trying to explain in a somewhat paranoiac way how ideas are spreading
Shannon Appelcline
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of a weird little medium of books that I quite like: non-fiction books illustrated as comic strips. Scott McCloud's trilogy of books about comics are perhaps the best example nowadays, and pretty close in style to The Influencing Machine, as Gladstone takes a similar fourth-wall-breaking style of talking. It's quite well done and I liked the art (two-toned artwork, colored blue and black by Josh Neufeld) enough that I immediately ordered a book from the library that the artist had do ...more
This was book 8 for the YALSA Best Books challenge. And yet again it has taken me awhile to write what I thought about it. I think this book has so much information and so many ideas, it just takes time to thoroughly think through everything and digest it all.

So this is a book about media and how it influences (thus the name of the book) the world. It starts from the very basic history about how people learned "news" clear back in the day when ancient civilizations "wrote" things down. Then it
Dan Phillips
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I had high hopes for this "media manifesto in comic book form," as it seemed to be very similar in style (both graphically and narratively) to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. McCloud's book maximized the potential of "sequential art" to explain complex issues in an immediate, simple way. And there are some very clever visual choices in The Influencing Machine that manage the same trick.

But ultimately, I ended up feeling the same way about this book as I do about Brooke Gladstone's better-k
Carol Storm
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
A lot of reviewers found this book frustrating and disappointing, and I can certainly see why. The jaunty comic book style drawings and the irreverent tone make it look like it's going to be an all out Michael Moore style attack on the status quo and the mainstream media, but the more you read the less you can figure out where the author really stands on anything.

While giving the history of journalism and censorship in an entertaining way, ideologically Brooke Gladstone is inconsistent, erratic
Yvonne Powderly
Gladstone is both narrator and visual tour guide, popping up throughout Neufeld's comic panels as both her contemporary self and camouflaged alongside historical figures.

The comic book format permitted me to read and learn about a subject I would not have attempted in a formal book format; the graphic format makes sense as a way to ease the "pain".

Beginning with the Incas, Herodotus, and the Acta Diurna of the Roman Senate, she wends her way to the present. The history’s always interesting, and
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comix
I am grateful to Facebook using which I stumbled upon this book. This was an excellent read. Brooke Gladstone almost writes a thesis on the media, its evolution, its historical war with governments and leaders, its transformation into several forms and how we interact with it. She unapologetically says that the media is plural. It is us and somewhere in its fogged and cracked mirrors are a reflection of you and me. This is very true given the situation today where people believe media is a consp ...more
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Newspapers (now broadened to "the media") influence public opinion and the course of political affairs. This deft little book tells the story of media and influence, historically and technologically, and manages to be not just readable but also extremely difficult to put down. I read it in one sitting and got a lot from it. It is easy to read because it is both well-written and well-illustrated--most of the book is in the form of a comic: panels, pictures, captions. The potentially dry topics ar ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a terrific primer on media history and one reporter’s take on how average citizens can promote a free, open news environment. Aided by Josh Neufeld’s clever illustrations, Brooke Gladstone takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through media history’s most tenuous moments, setting her sights on the perennial conflict between authoritarian power, which has traditionally sought to suppress non-propagandist news, and the heroic but flawed individuals and organizations who have fought the l ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of "On the Media," Scott McCloud, Jon Stewart, and Rush Limbaugh (just to piss him off)
Inspired by Scott McCloud, Brooke Gladstone was brimming with ideas about the history of journalism and the impact, evolution, and continuing relevance of the media. So she called up Josh Neufeld out of the blue (with help from her agents) and asked him to help her unburden herself. What resulted was this excellent manifesto. I just picked this off the library shelves out of curiosity and then we got this week's Muse magazine, which coincidentally includes an excerpt from the book. So then I had ...more
"The more people participate in the media, the more they hate the media. The greater the participation, the greater the paranoia that the media are in control."

Fascinating read from Brooke Gladstone, the radio journalist, and Josh Neufeld, the illustrator (who worked with me briefly back in the 1990s! cool guy!). Not only do they discuss bias, war, and technology, they also get into the idea of what makes us truly human and where technology can lead us. Of course, there's only so much they can g
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Not entirely sure what to think of this one just yet. I love the premise but I'm not convinced it was entirely well-written. Having said that, I don't typically read graphic novels or non-fiction so the format took some getting used to and it's possible that was my real challenge.

I laughed when Gladstone cited Douglas Adams' comment that "Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between
Agile Kindergarten
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gladstone used graphic non-fiction to deftly communicate the historical, psychological and sociological truths of the media's influence in society. From Caesar's Acta Diurna, the first daily news which pressured the Roman Senators to be accountable (and reminiscent of the Daily Stand-Up Meeting) to the digitally borne diseases stemming from the homophily echo chamber (where people only consume media "facts" that substantiate their entrenched belief systems resulting in polarization), our relatio ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Brooke Gladstone is wonderful. And Josh Neufield is an able illustrator/ comic artist. If each could be judged apart from one another, I would rate them both much more highly on their individual merits.

Unfortunately, I think Gladstone should have just written a proper book. The writing achieves its aim of balancing the light and entertaining with the heavy and intellectual but when rendered as a comic it starts to feel super heavy and dense. (A woman next to me at a coffee shop, who clearly rea
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I learned about this book from the same ALA "Best Graphic Nonfiction" list that yielded Harvey Pekar's forgettable Beat history. In this case, fortunately, the praise was warranted. The Influencing Machine (Gladstone's central metaphor for the media is to equate it with the mechanical mind-control engines that feature in the delusional fantasies of some famous 19th-century paranoids) is a smart and funny graphic history of journalism and a meditation on the roles and responsibilities of journali ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Graphic novel about media bias and information seeking behavior written by NPR correspondent - pretty much my ideal nonfiction book, but somehow I didn't enjoy this very much.

Perhaps because Gladstone is new to the medium, I found the book suffered greatly from a lack of narrative and structural cohesion. Her apparent thesis in the introduction - that consumers and advertisers cause media bias - did not seem to be the guiding thesis of her discussion, which spanned history, psychology, and perso
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Boring. I had to skim through a lot of it. I agree with reviewers who wondered who the audience was for this. No reason for it to be a graphic novel. The pictures added nothing, and there were way too many words, to be honest. I'm saying this as somebody who also reads a variety of things, including regular non-fiction and 1000 page fantasy epics, so it's not necessarily that I have a short attention span... It's just that I was expecting something more engaging from a graphic novel, I guess, an ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine is a graphic novel that is crammed with so much useful information while remaining a pleasure to read the entire time due to its format. If the book was written strictly in text, the reader might be bored, but due to the entertaining comics, it manages to hold the reader’s attention and educate at the same time. Gladstone’s purpose with The Influencing Machine is to explain why the media is the way is it and how it got that way. She teaches
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Brooke Gladstone gave us all a lot to think about in this book, but I don't think that I agree with her thesis that the media is influenced by public opinion. Yes, there are thousands of blogs and websites but they don't have the power that TV has. As they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words - especially when you keep seeing it over and over again. I think to a large extent, the established media decides what events are important for us to think about by what they decide to talk about. ...more
Emily Geldmeier
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Told through the medium of the graphic novel, Brooke Gladstone gave a sweepingly even handed look at the history of the media and its effect on us, its consumers. I don't know if it is because I am eyeball deep in lesson planning for the Intro to Journalism class I am currently teaching, but I found Gladstone's recap of the history of Journalism intriguing and illuminating. In a time where media seems to induce mild panic across the board, Gladstone's book asked important questions and gave a re ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Adorable" is not usually word you use for media criticism. This book, though, is adorable. Gladstone uses the graphic novel format to present an excellent introduction to media literacy, including the history of the press and a very clear and concise review of media and reader biases.

It's particularly refreshing to find a critic who is equally scathing about biased reporting from the Right and the Left. Most folks who write about media bias are pushing one agenda or the other, but Gladstone do
Jonathan Hiskes
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A lucid, visual tour of media history and bias. Thesis: We get the media we deserve; mass media reflects its society; the things we don't like about the media are the things we don't like about society at large. Also, most things we loathe about the American media (biases, corruption, sensationalism, vapidity, TV anchors' hair) were present at the nation's founding. The illustrated format works well. If I ever taught high school civics or college communications, I'd use this.
Erin Hartshorn
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book covers media from the invention of the alphabet to neurological implants and the singularity, discussing topics such as the difference between objectivity and transparency and the history of war-time reporting, creating a highly engaging narrative. I definitely recommend it to everyone who consumes the news (even if -- or perhaps especially if -- they're not fans of NPR).
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic
I enjoyed this book which describes our relationship to the media as well as takes to task reporters and news outlets for what they choose to report. Government censorship of the media is also discussed as well as the pros and cons of embedded reporters with military units. This book helps one think...always a good thing...and hopefully will cause reporters to think as well.
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Brooke Gladstone is cohost of NPR's On the Media and a former senior editor at Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
More about Brooke Gladstone...
“Objectivity works to repel the attacks of critics, like a kind of ethical pepper spray.” 2 likes
“Speech itself, inevitable and unrelenting is the wind. It can dance like a zephyr. It can roar or shriek or wail. But it cant be stopped. Everything we hate about the media today was present at its creation; its corrupt or craven practitioners, its easy manipulation by the powerful, its capacity for propagating lies, its penchant for amplifying rage.
Also present was everything we admire: factual information, penetrating analysis, probing investigation, truth spoken to power. Same as it ever was.”
More quotes…