Skip to main content

Too Much Information - Dave Gorman ****

It might seem odd to feature a book by comedian Dave Gorman on a popular science site, but this is a book about information, information technology, media and its impact on us as people - so entirely deserves its place here.

Admittedly, the book can often seem like a specialist version of the TV show Grumpy Old Men on the topic of information, IT and the media - and there certainly are some funny parts to it - but just as the subtitle suggests that Gorman is trying to think in a deluge of often unwanted 'information', itself of dubious nature, so it gives the reader the chance to do the same.

What comes through, as is usually the case with Gorman, is an obsessive fascination with detail (which, if you're a geek like me, you will probably share). He picks up on a piece of information and pulls it apart to destruction. So, for instance, he riffs (there is really no other word for it) about the oddity of the band Scouting for Girls putting out a 'greatest hits' album in which clearly (and he has a chart to prove it) most of the tracks weren't hits at all.

Some of the content of Too Much Information is pure grumpiness, as in the plea for Twitter users to gain some perspective and stop thinking it's funny or clever to change words by prefacing them with 'tw' to make them special-to-Twitter. People, he assures us, remain people, not 'tweeple' or (shudder) 'tweeps'. Elsewhere he comes up with a fascinating analysis of why all HTC mobile phones show a particular time in adverts, uncovers the bizarre ways that celebrities are exploited by (and exploit) the media and ponders the social impact of the 'next customer' separators we use on supermarket conveyor belts.

The stories, as they effectively are, range in length from just one page to at least ten, and often hit the spot, though with 40 different, loosely collected topics, the book can feel too bitty and lacking cohesion as you read through it. Even so, I found many of the subjects fascinating, some informative and almost all of them enjoyable. 

If you've never taken the time to step back and think about what being in such a connected, information rich world does to us - and how people and companies try to manipulate us through that information - it really is time you did so. And Dave Gorman is here to be a grumpy guide to that voyage of discovery.

Paperback:  

Kindle:  

Audio download:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…