Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Book Review: Context by Cory Doctorow

I decided I was going to read a book a week for a year, here's a quick review of this weeks book.  You can see the ongoing list here.

Basic Info

Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow 

Note: you can download the book for free here

Why I bought it

I was literally in the Ottawa airport en route to Chicago for the weekend and needed some reading material for the plane.  I stopped in the book store, had a look through the titles and was about to walk away empty handed when I spotted this on another shelf by the cash register.

I first saw Doctorow on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin a couple of years back and have been loosely paying attention to his work since.

How it connects to the public sector

The essays in the book deal largely with technology, security, and copyright providing context (hence the title) around these issues in a practical and accessible way.  Case in point on IT security:

"Users will always prioritise getting their job done over honouring your network policy, and who can blame them?  If networks policy breaches aren't followed up with safe solutions to user' demonstrated needs, they'll keep on happening, no matter how much security you put between your users and their duties." -- Cory Doctorow, Like Teenagers, Computers are Built to Hook Up

What I got out of reading it

Context was a really easy read. Since it's just a collection of essays (on a host of related issues) it's hard to nail down a single take away.  That said, over the course of the book Doctorow repeatedly shows how out of touch incumbent businesses are, how the regulatory responses they are lobbying for (to protect their incumbency) are flawed, and how much better off we would be if we simply thought through these issues with a bit more of a critical lens.  

Much of the book has to do with copyright, so if you aren't interested in the subject matter you may want to skip this one.  However, I'd encourage you to watch to the interview below before you make your decision.  If nothing else, Doctorow is thoughtful and articulate, which makes him incredibly easy to listen to.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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