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Archive for 'new books'

new book – ‘Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age’ by Sven Birkerts

October 6, 2015

Changing the Subject

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Trenchant, expansive essays on the cultural consequences of ongoing, all-permeating technological innovation

In 1994, Sven Birkerts published The Gutenberg Elegies, his celebrated rallying cry to resist the oncoming digital advances, especially those that might affect the way we read literature and experience art–the very cultural activities that make us human.
After two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life. He refuses to use a smartphone, but communicates via e-mail and spends some time reading online. In Changing the Subject, he examines the changes that he observes in himself and others–the distraction when reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of “hive” behaviors. “An unprecedented shift is underway,” he argues, and “this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.” He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and he brilliantly describes the countering energy available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are not conducive to creativity.
It is impossible to read Changing the Subject without coming away with a renewed sense of what is lost by our wholesale acceptance of digital innovation and what is regained when we immerse ourselves in a good book.

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Comments (0) - culture,new books,psychology,reading

new book – ‘The Brain’s Representational Power: On Consciousness and the Integration of Modalities’ by Cyriel M.A. Pennartz

September 26, 2015

Brain's Representational Power

The Brain’s Representational Power: On Consciousness and the Integration of Modalities by Cyriel M.A. Pennartz (MIT Press, 2015)


Book description from the publisher:

Although science has made considerable progress in discovering the neural basis of cognitive processes, how consciousness arises remains elusive. In this book, Cyriel Pennartz analyzes which aspects of conscious experience can be peeled away to access its core: the “hardest” aspect, the relationship between brain processes and the subjective, qualitative nature of consciousness. Pennartz traces the problem back to its historical roots in the foundations of neuroscience and connects early ideas on sensory processing to contemporary computational neuroscience.

What can we learn from neural network models, and where do they fall short in bridging the gap between neural processes and conscious experience? Do neural models of cognition resemble inanimate systems, and how can this help us define requirements for conscious processing in the brain? These questions underlie Pennartz’s examination of the brain’s anatomy and neurophysiology. The perspective of his account is not limited to visual perception but broadened to include other sensory modalities and their integration. Formulating a representational theory of the neural basis of consciousness, Pennartz outlines properties that complex structures must express to process information consciously. This theoretical framework is constructed using empirical findings from neuropsychology and neuroscience as well as such theoretical arguments as the Cuneiform Room and the Wall Street Banker. Positing that qualitative experience is a multimodal and multilevel phenomenon at its very roots, Pennartz places this body of theory in the wider context of mind-brain philosophy, examining implications for our thinking about animal and robot consciousness.

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new book – ‘Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain’ by Dana Suskind

September 23, 2015

Thirty Million Words

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dana Suskind (Dutton, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

The founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, Professor Dana Suskind, explains why the most important—and astoundingly simple—thing you can do for your child’s future success in life is to talk to him or her, reveals the recent science behind this truth, and outlines precisely how parents can best put it into practice.

The research is in: Academic achievement begins on the first day of life with the first word said by a cooing mother just after delivery.

A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.

Professor Dana Suskind, MD, learned of this thirty million word gap in the course of her work as a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Medical School and began a new research program along with her sister-in-law, Beth Suskind, to find the best ways to bridge that gap. The Thirty Million Word Initiative has developed programs for parents to show the kind of parent-child communication that enables optimal neural development and has tested the programs in and around Chicago across demographic groups. They boil down to getting parents to follow the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation. Parents are shown how to make the words they serve up more enriching. For example, instead of telling a child, “Put your shoes on,” one might say instead, “It is time to go out. What do we have to do?” The lab’s new five-year longitudinal research program has just received funding so they can further corroborate their results.

The neuroscience of brain plasticity is some of the most valuable and revolutionary medical science being done today. It enables us to think and do better. It is making a difference in the lives of both the old and young.  If you care for children, this landmark book is essential reading.

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Comments (0) - cognitive science,language,new books

new book – ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature’ by Alva Noë

September 22, 2015

Strange Tools

Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature by Alva Noë (Hill and Wang, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk),

Book description from the publisher:

A philosopher makes the case for thinking of works of art as tools for investigating ourselves

In his new book, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the philosopher and cognitive scientist Alva Noë raises a number of profound questions: What is art? Why do we value art as we do? What does art reveal about our nature? Drawing on philosophy, art history, and cognitive science, and making provocative use of examples from all three of these fields, Noë offers new answers to such questions. He also shows why recent efforts to frame questions about art in terms of neuroscience and evolutionary biology alone have been and will continue to be unsuccessful.

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See also: Author’s website

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new book – SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games’ by Jane McGonigal

September 17, 2015


SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal (Penguin, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

An innovative guide to living gamefully, based on the program that has already helped nearly half a million people achieve remarkable personal growth

In 2009, internationally renowned game designer Jane McGonigal suffered a severe concussion. Unable to think clearly or work or even get out of bed, she became anxious and depressed, even suicidal. But rather than let herself sink further, she decided to get better by doing what she does best: she turned her recovery process into a resilience-building game. What started as a simple motivational exercise quickly became a set of rules for “post-traumatic growth” that she shared on her blog. These rules led to a digital game and a major research study with the National Institutes of Health. Today nearly half a million people have played SuperBetter to get stronger, happier, and healthier.

But the life-changing ideas behind SuperBetter are much bigger than just one game. In this book, McGonigal reveals a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games—including videogames, sports, and puzzles—change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She explains how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more “gameful” mind-set. Being gameful means bringing the same psychological strengths we naturally display when we play games—such as optimism, creativity, courage, and determination—to real-world goals.
Drawing on hundreds of studies, McGonigal shows that getting superbetter is as simple as tapping into the three core psychological strengths that games help you build:

• Your ability to control your attention, and therefore your thoughts and feelings
• Your power to turn anyone into a potential ally, and to strengthen your existing relationships
• Your natural capacity to motivate yourself and super-charge your heroic qualities, like willpower, compassion, and determination

SuperBetter contains nearly 100 playful challenges anyone can undertake in order to build these gameful strengths. It includes stories and data from people who have used the SuperBetter method to get stronger in the face of illness, injury, and other major setbacks, as well as to achieve goals like losing weight, running a marathon, and finding a new job.

As inspiring as it is down to earth, and grounded in rigorous research, SuperBetter is a proven game plan for a better life. You’ll never say that something is “just a game” again.

Google Books preview:

See also: Book website

Comments (0) - new books,psychology