Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

by William Powers

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061687174
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/09/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 418,717
Product dimensions: 7.78(w) x 5.42(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Award-winning media critic William Powers has written for the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and McSweeney's, among other publications. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, the author Martha Sherrill, and their son.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Room xi

Introduction 1

Part I What Larks?: The Conundrum of the Connected Life

1 Busy, Very Busy: In a Digital World, Where's the Depth? 9

2 Hello, Mother: The Magic of Screens 21

3 Gone Overboard: Falling Out with the Connected Life 37

4 Solutions That Aren't: The Trouble with Not Really Meaning It 67

Part II Beyond the Crowd: Teachings of the Seven Philosophers of Screens

5 Walking to Heaven: Plato Discovers Distance 83

6 The Spa of the Mind: Seneca on Inner Space 101

7 Little Mirrors: Gutenberg and the Business of Inwardness 121

8 Hamlet's BlackBerry: Shakespeare on the Beauty of Old Tools 137

9 Inventing Your Life: Ben Franklin on Positive Rituals 157

10 The Walden Zone: Thoreau on Making the Home a Refuge 175

11 A Cooler Self: McLuhan and the Thermostat of Happiness 193

Part III In Search of Depth: Ideas in Practice

12 Not So Busy: Practical Philosophies for Every Day 209

13 Disconnectopia: The Internet Sabbath 223

Afterword: Back to the Room 235

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 245

Further Reading 263

What People are Saying About This

Laurie Winer

“[An] elegant meditation on our obsessive connectivity and its effect on our brains and our very way of life.”

Bob Woodward

“A brilliant and thoughtful handbook for the Internet age—why we have this screen addiction, its many perils, and some surprising remedies that can make your life better.”

Barry Schwartz

“Always connected. Anytime. Anyplace. We know it’s a blessing, but we’re starting to notice that it’s also a curse. In Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers helps us understand what being ‘connected’ disconnects us from, and offers wise advice about what we can do about it…. A thoughtful, elegant, and moving book.”

Walter Isaacson

“Benjamin Franklin would love this book. He knew the power of being connected, but also how this must be balanced by moments of reflection. William Powers offers a practical guide to Socrates’ path to the good life in which our outward and inward selves are at one.”

Maryanne Wolf

“In this delightfully accessible book, Powers asks the questions we all need to ask in this digitally driven time. And teaches us to answer them for ourselves.”

Heller McAlpin

“Powers mounts a passionate but reasoned argument for ‘a happy balance’. . . . [He] is a lively, personable writer who seeks applicable lessons from great thinkers of the past. . . . Lucid, engaging prose and [a] thoughtful take on the joys of disconnectivity.”

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Hamlet's BlackBerry 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
TIE3rd More than 1 year ago
C'mon, do you??? A well written, carefully thought out plan to lessen your daily digital workload. And truly, do you really need all that info? I thought so too. until I read Powers book. An eyeopener!!! A calming piece of gentle guidance in this overburdened digital world we now live in. Get a copy.
peakbagger06 More than 1 year ago
This is the book I have been looking for. It gives you permission to live life deeply away from the constant hum of the internet, email, twittering, blogging etc. Well written, well-researched look at technology through the ages. Who'd have thought that Ben Franklin, Socrates, Shakespeare struggled with over-connectedness with the technologies of their day. Powers tells us how they "pulled the plug" and got in touch with their inner selves to reflect, think deeply and be serene. A practical book, Powers gives some concrete examples of how to manage the gadgets of the 21st century so that you run them, they don't run us. Bravo, Mr. Powers.
catalogthis on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I'm not usually a fan of What-Ails-Society-and-How-to-Fix-It books, so Hamlet's BlackBerry was a pleasant surprise. Granted, the first two chapters weren't very promising. It took a while before he made a point that really resonated with me, and that point was this: our degree of connectedness (ranging from perfect solitude to complete immersion the crowd) is up to us to decide, for ourselves, at any given moment. It seems like a "well, duh" kind of point, until you think about how often we become the tools of our tools. For example, I know I don't need to check my e-mail 18 times a day. But every time that little envelope icon appears on my smartphone, I tap in and check it. (Sidebar: it's usually ALA spam.) Furthermore, when reading e-mail this way, I rarely pause to take the time to compose a thoughtful response. The phone has enabled me to be more connected, more often, but the price for that connectedness has been a decline in reflection and thoughtful engagement. One particular comment leaped off the page at me:"The question now is how truly individual -- as in bold, original, unique -- you can be if you never step back from the crowd. When we think and write from within our busyness, surrounded by countless other voices, too often the result is reactive, derivative, short-shelf-life stuff."Highly, highly recommended for anyone who feels like they're spending too much time glued to screens.
lisahistory on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Wonderful in its use of history to explain how we've been here before.
anndar on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This is a great read! Taking examples from philosophers from the past like Plato, Socrates, and Thoreau the author shows how they dealt with the new technologies of their time and the busyness it created. I was looking for some insight on how to better manage the screens in my life since I am surrounded by them in my work and pulled by their never ending tug in my personal life as well. The main idea is that for the most part we can control how and when we choose to use technology in our lives and he gives great insight on the philosophies of disconnecting and going inward when we desire.
reannon on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I started this book rather in the mood of a sullen child told to put away her toys, for that is to some degree the message of the author. His thesis is that our now current state of constant connectedness via computer and mobile phones leads to shallowness of thought, an inability to focus and concentrate. The author gradually won me over by his arguments, however, as it is a sensible argument hard to refute. I especially enjoy the last half of the book where he discusses seven philosophers or technologists who have wrestled with the problem of a world too much with us and how to provide one's self with time free of distraction and able to ..."strike a healthy balance between connected and disconnected, crowd and self, the outward life and the inward one". (p. 210) Powers also talks about the experience of his own family in going disconnected on the weekends and how it has deepened what they do together. He is concerned that we be aware of the need for balance now, before the habit of times devoted to such balance is lost. A book worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought this was to be about building a library on ones e book sibce i have about 400 archieved and 79 available plus an extra without a light with 300 plus thiught a general suggestion kist of complete works of would be given and what to be avoided as awful formating
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a somewhat breezily written book with lots of lessons from the author's life. Read Alone Together by Sherry Turkle for a much more profound discussion of this issue
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I don't normally read nonfiction, but this book really made me think about our culture and my own individual choices. It's refreshing to think that societies in the past have also had to adjust to new technologies and made it through unscathed! I'm passing this book around to everyone I know.
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