Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers

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It was probably the title that inspired me to read Hamlet’s Blackberry – it begs the obvious question, doesn’t it?  I read the book a few months back and then, this past Sunday I heard the book’s author, William Powers, speak at the Cohasset Public Library. Hamlet’s Blackberry is a thoughtful analysis of how communication devices have been used for longer than we (or at least I) knew – even Hamlet had some kind of “tablet’ to help him keep track of his life. During his presentation, Powers spoke about how people tend to view technology as either good or bad, when in fact, the answer is far more interesting than that.  The question he asked was a good one: how do we make sure that this new world is going to make us whole and happy – especially when our attention spans get shorter every day?

Before he was a techology writer, Powers worked as a researcher for Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and a media critic for The Washington Post. He said he knew the ground was shifting when he began focusing less on the content of the news – and more on how it was delivered.  As the gadgets in his pockets started multiplying, Powers began thinking about the ideas that led to this meditation on our over-connected lives. Hamlet’s Blackberry asks us to think about how we keep our “inner autonomy” in the midst of so much noise. For Powers, it’s taking a break from his cell phone during the weekend.  Not all of us have the luxury of doing that, but Powers encouraged the audience to take control of their devices – before the devices get the mistaken idea that they are in charge!

Here’s a link to Powers’ July 2010 interview with NPR:



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