My current reading list

Between teaching five classes, writing a book proposal, working on my PhD, being a parent and Twittering, my poor blog has become an orphan. I intend to correct that in the near future. Meanwhile, to reignite the blogging habit I thought I’d share my current reading list.

The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a Changing World

Hands down this is the most practical book on sustainability education available. It consists of 32 short five page chapters with concise concepts and activities. Topics include (but not limited to) media literacy, culture, systems thinking, technology, ecocriticism, economics, commons, permaculture design, community gardening, ecological intelligence, materials awareness, complexity theory, and so-on. The book’s Website has additional downloadable chapters. If you were to get one book on sustainability literacy, I would get this one.

Mediactive

A very practical book for any media practitioner. It combines both useful advice for promoting alternative and independent journalism, and is an excellent primer for “crap detection,” or media literacy. You can download a PDF for free from the book’s Website. This is an accessible book that can be assigned to undergrads.

Greening through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability

I assigned chapters from this to my digital media culture class. It is clearly written and looks at IT from various perspectives. It is both critical and pro-active, with excellent conceptual tools for thinking about how to convert power-hungry IT to a greener future.

Making is Connecting

I admit that I haven’t read too much of this book yet, but based on blurbs and some of the videos from the book’s Website, this is very promising. In particular David Gauntlett connects DIY crafts activities with the Internet, featuring a lengthy chapter on Ivan Illich. I like the approach. As an old punk who got into media and online publishing from my experience of DIY, connecting the online and off-line worlds through the discussion of appropriate technology tools is a good way to connect the dots.

Language and Learning in the Digital Age

A new offering from James Paul Gee (co-authored with Elisabeth R. Hayes), this book is a very accessible discussion of the debates around language and digital literacy. In particular it argues that digital media are indeed examples of oral cultural expression. It also takes the perspective that literacy is a technology. I would recommend this as an excellent and accessible introduction to the highly contested debate about the impact of digital media on learning.

Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing

Although old in terms of Internet years (it was published in 2004), Digital Ground remains a truly prescient book. Written from the perspective of architecture and design, the book approaches the emergence of pervasive computing from outside the tech bubble. It has the best explanation for why humans ultimately rejected virtual reality, and challenges some naive assumptions about interactivity. I got the book on a tip from my friend and mentor Kathleen Tyner, who is one of the top media literacy scholars in the world. If she says this is her favorite book, then I take that as a five-star recommendation,

Design Literacies: Learning and Innovation in the Digital Age

Recommended by blog reader Davey, this has turned out to be a wonderful find. For me design is where it’s at in terms of really understanding why things are made to do the things they do. This book focuses largely on interactivity, and comprises interviews with some of the key innovators of Internet Web design (here we are not talking about the aesthetics of design, but rather the usability of it). The authors interview business people, artists, educators and techies. An excellent example of ethnographic research.

Films:

Objectified

I stumbled upon this while looking for a documentary about computer design for my digital media class. Though the film focuses mostly on industrial design, it does features interviews with people from the computer industry, including Apple. Made by the folks who brought us Helvetica, this film was a big hit with my students. It does a good job of going into the minds of designers and describing the kinds of decisions they make as they develop their projects. It even nods to sustainability.

Manufactured Landscapes (US Edition)

Based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, this documentary takes a troubling look at how our demand for consumer goods has transformed the Chinese landscape. The film impacted my students greatly, giving them a deeper sense of how our media gadgets directly impact the environment. Bonus: here is a link to a short video about Burtynsky’s latest project on oil.