The End of Absence

The End of Absence

Reclaiming What We've Lost in A World of Constant Connection

Book - 2014
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Winner of the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction!

Only one generation in history (ours) will experience life both with and without the Internet. For everyone who follows us, online life will simply be the air they breathe. Today, we revel in ubiquitous information and constant connection, rarely stopping to consider the implications for our logged-on lives.

Michael Harris chronicles this massive shift, exploring what we've gained-and lost-in the bargain. In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Harris argues that our greatest loss has been that of absence itself-of silence, wonder and solitude. It's a surprisingly precious commodity, and one we have less of every year. Drawing on a vast trove of research and scores of interviews with global experts, Harris explores this "loss of lack" in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. The book's message is urgent: once we've lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value.

Publisher: Toronto :, HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd,, [2014]
Edition: First Canadian edition
ISBN: 9781443426275
144342627X
Branch Call Number: 303.4833 HAR NVD
Characteristics: viii, 243 pages ; 24 cm

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danielestes
Mar 14, 2017

According to Michael Harris, human beings are in a period of existential transition. The End of Absence is his examination of what's being lost, this waning absence, as our civilization rockets toward a digitally interconnected future. Each chapter is a discussion, and often a meditation, on a particular aspect of living. We humans have been physically doing things a certain way since the dawn of civilization and are now wrestling with the transition to the new digital era. The struggles herein range from humorous to ridiculous to sorrowful.

Given the whole, my favorite has got to be the prologue. It's near perfect. The entire book is exceptional but the author's intro wins Best of Show.

t
thomqui
May 10, 2015

If you've read a concerns-about-technology book before, then there's nothing really new here. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes, especially about going off the grid for a month. i thought the last paragraph on the last page hit the nail on the head. you choose!

m
minnow67
Feb 12, 2015

Amazing book and well researched. Michael Harris has produced a truthful account of the internet today and now it effects all those who get hooked on mind changing technology. He's quite right - only those people over 60 will remember life before the internet.
Well recommended.

ksoles Sep 01, 2014

3.5 Stars...

Michael Harris identifies as a member of the last generation to have experienced adult life without the Internet (he identifies 1985 as the birth year separating digital natives from “digital immigrants”). Arguably, then, he sits in an authoritative position to discuss advantages and disadvantages of the online paradigm shift, perhaps the greatest of its kind since Gutenberg invented moveable type in the 15th century. "The End of Absence" asserts that moments of solitude, slowness and contemplation have disappeared from our lives at the hands of constant connection: emails, text messages, Instagram photos and YouTube videos.

In order to examine the detrimental effects of online surfing on concentration and memory, Harris takes a month-long sabbatical from the Internet. He provides a range of thought-provoking insights in attempting to reclaim control over his inner life and he refreshingly avoids the panicked, dominating tone that pervades the work of other digital dissenters. But his conclusion breaks no new ground: the Internet has become so essential that simply "opting out" is not an option, at least for the long term.

Harris analyzes how the online world invades and degrades our modern existence with intelligence and lucidity but readers can't help feeling dissatisfied with the author's limited treatment of the concept he refers to as "absence." Many digital immigrants find nothing more depressing than watching a group of people around a restaurant table, all of them feverishly engaged with their smartphones. Does this not constitute absence? Harris indeed acknowledges this paradoxical situation but doesn’t fully pursue its implications. In the end, readers wonder if mobile technology might create not a dearth of absence, but an overabundance of it.

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