What are you reading? – September 2020

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 14, 2020
library bookshelf
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James Rogers, DIAS assistant professor in war studies at the University of Southern Denmark, is reading P. W. Singer and August Cole’s Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020). “In our world of fake news and misinformation, fact and fiction blend together in a disturbingly seamless fashion. Where Singer and Cole’s book is different is that it harnesses real-life trends in technology and weaves them into a fictitious and fast-paced storyline to warn us about the perils of our future. If we think technology rules our lives now, then this book provides a stark warning of what could lie ahead. Described as a ‘crime thriller-cum-national security policy report’, Burn-In shows us how AI can both assist and overload law enforcement; how terrorists and rebels could manipulate facial recognition technologies; and how robots will transition into our militaries, our civilian workforce and our personal lives in a meaningful but not uncontroversial fashion. The future is high-tech, but also highly worrying.”

Susan Kinnear, director of the MA in global communication at Cardiff University, is reading Communicating Causes: Strategic Public Relations for the Non-Profit Sector, edited by Nicky Garsten and Ian Bruce (Routledge, 2018). “Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the context in which non-profit organisations operate. Never before has the sector been so dependent on the skills, knowledge, commitment and efficacy of its communications staff. Communicating Causes is a must-read for PR practitioners working or aspiring to work in the sector. It brings together leading practitioners and thinkers to establish NPOs as exemplars of civil society. It uses key concepts such as risk and reputation, strategic issues management and communications evaluation to analyse the broad international context. And it examines a wide range of third-sector environments, offering tips on corporate governance, digital communications strategies and charity branding as well as case studies from around the world. Ultimately, though, Communicating Causes is about trust – how to win it, how to nurture it and how to keep it through excellent communications.”

Peet Morris, former lecturer in statistics at the University of Oxford, is reading Brian Clegg’s What Do You Think You Are? The Science of What Makes You You (Icon, 2020) “Clegg starts with genealogy, noting that because of the way family trees double with each generation, they soon fail as a way to reveal what we are as individuals. After an explanation of how we’re all related to royalty, we’re taken on a tour of the atoms that make us up, the food that powers our bodies, the palaeontological evidence for the origins of humanity as a species and the nature of life. Perhaps the most interesting part is when the book explores what consciousness is (or, rather, highlights how little we know about it but still shows how much more there is to ‘us’ than the conscious part) and pulls apart the old nature versus nurture debate with some remarkable material on genetics and how the influence of our environment is mathematically chaotic.”

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