Many of what we think of as Information Age tools and media --- computers, cell phones, the internet, encryption, and more --- evolved directly out of modern warfare. These tools started with World War I (which began not with arms, but with England cutting off underwater cables to Germany and isolating it), accelerated through World War II and the Cold War, and now play a center role in both declared and non-declared conflicts like election interference and cyberbattles.
We buy phones and smart speakers because they are new and unlock great potential. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa help us do our work and answer that one piece of trivia that bugs us. Yet these devices are data gatherers. They collect, repackage, and monetize our questions, purchases, photographs, web surfing to form a data industry now larger than the oil industry.
Well over 100 years ago the data industry put in place a business model that trades our attention for news and entertainment. That model has evolved into a complex art and science of message targeting and content ownership that has splintered communities while simultaneously concentrating media ownership to a few massive corporations.
Forged in War takes a critical look at the systems we use and how we ended up in a society that values data over personal liberty and commerce over the public good. It tells a compelling and previously story of how our ideas of information and knowledge reflect the century of war that has militarized our worldview.
Author David Lankes’s work has been funded by organizations such as The MacArthur Foundation, The Institute for Library and Museum Services, NASA, The U.S. Department of Education, The U.S. Department of Defense, The National Science Foundation, and The U.S. State Department. This, his latest book will help all of us learn how war has shaped our world and how to begin to create an agenda to stand down weaponized data and a media that seeks to own our personal, even intimate data like one owns a gold mine.
R. David Lankes is a professor and the director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science. Lankes has always been interested in combining theory and practice to create active research projects that make a difference. His work has been funded by organizations such as The MacArthur Foundation, The Institute for Library and Museum Services, NASA, The U.S. Department of Education, The U.S. Department of Defense, The National Science Foundation, The U.S. State Department, and The American Library Association.
Lankes is a passionate advocate for libraries and their essential role in today’s society, earning him the American Library Association’s Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship in 2016. He also seeks to understand how information approaches and technologies can be used to transform industries. In this capacity he has served on advisory boards and study teams in the fields of libraries, telecommunications, education, and transportation including at the National Academies. He has been a visiting fellow at the National Library of Canada, The Harvard School of Education, and was the first fellow of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. His book The Atlas of New Librarianship won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature.
Table of Contents
Introduction: From Alert to a Promise to the Reader
Chapter 1 Common Carriers: From Telegraphs to Internet Kill Switches
Chapter 2 Encryption: From Zimmerman to the Monetized Self
Chapter 3 Massive Scale Computing: From Depth Bombs to Deep Learning
Chapter 4 The Internet: From Hydrogen Bombs to 5G
Chapter 5 The World Wide Web: From CERN to Facial Recognition
Chapter 6 Dataism: From Reducing Noise to Reducing People
Chapter 7 Propaganda: From Influencing Minds to Manipulating Brains
Chapter 8 Memory Organizations: From Weaponized Librarianship to a Digital Dark Age
From Collecting Books to Collecting Intelligence
Chapter 9 Media Consolidation: From Steamboat Willie to Disney +
Chapter 10 Trust: From Walter Cronkite to Saul Alinsky
Chapter 11 Certainty: From Clockwork to Complexity
Chapter 12 Pandemic: From the Spanish Flu to COVID-19
Chapter 13 People: From Empty Campuses to Open Arms
Chapter 14 Technology: From Zoom Bombs to the Shin Bet
Chapter 15 Sources: From Swans in Venice to Floods in New Orleans
Chapter 16 Policy: From a Commodity to a Public Good
Chapter 17 A Choice: From Chemical Warfare to Healing the World
Excursus: On the Joys of Writing and How to Check My Facts
About the Author
With this latest book, Lankes tells the history of several high-level technologies that are popular in the 21st century. He writes that data and media were supposed to bring communities together, yet they have often does the opposite. In this wide-ranging account, the author reexamines the histories of mobile phones, the internet, data (and its collection), web standards such as HTML, and more. He sheds light on the downsides of the information world we live in now, such as data monetization, attacks on privacy, and erosion of widespread public trust in information sources. In a manner similar to previous works on the subject, Lankes clearly argues that technology, data, and information sharing have human bias and are not objective. After detailing the rise of misinformation and disinformation, as well as the history of public libraries in the 20th century, Lankes concludes his multifaceted, intelligent work with the comment that his book is itself a context-based effort. This most recent book by Lankes is ideal for readers seeking a more comprehensive look at information dissemination technology, its context, and its impact on the way in which we now live.
Lankes argues for more humanist values to redesign our knowledge of infrastructure: policies and systems that prioritize privacy and give users control of personal data, intellectual property rights that better serve the common good, and nuanced data analysis instead of algorithmic dataism. Lankes’ historical perspective is compelling and his arguments convincing.
With the rise of the 'data revolution, big data, gamification, fuzzy logic, and creative visualizations' this work provides a historical pathway on how information about we as a people is transformed into purposes for commodity, messaging, marketing, and personal truths. The book is a meditation on the informational landscape of the past & present that undoubtedly unfolds into a future based upon those foundations.
This extremely wide-ranging work calls attention to the problems of our newest information age.
7/16/21, Publishers Weekly: Read a Q&A with the author about war—and peace—in the information age.