Read The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben Online


“Highly personal and original . . . McKibben goes beyond Marshall McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message.”——The New York Times Imagine watching an entire day’s worth of television on every single channel. Acclaimed environmental writer and culture critic Bill McKibben subjected himself to this sensory overload in an experiment to verify whether we are truly better“Highly personal and original . . . McKibben goes beyond Marshall McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message.”——The New York Times Imagine watching an entire day’s worth of television on every single channel. Acclaimed environmental writer and culture critic Bill McKibben subjected himself to this sensory overload in an experiment to verify whether we are truly better informed than previous generations. Bombarded with newscasts and fluff pieces, game shows and talk shows, ads and infomercials, televangelist pleas and Brady Bunch episodes, McKibben processed twenty-four hours of programming on all ninety-three Fairfax, Virginia, cable stations. Then, as a counterpoint, he spent a day atop a quiet and remote mountain in the Adirondacks, exploring the unmediated man and making small yet vital discoveries about himself and the world around him. As relevant now as it was when originally written in 1992–and with new material from the author on the impact of the Internet age–this witty and astute book is certain to change the way you look at television and perceive media as a whole.“By turns humorous, wise, and troubling . . . a penetrating critique of technological society.”–Cleveland Plain Dealer“Masterful . . . a unique, bizarre portrait of our life and times.”–Los Angeles Times“Do yourself a favor: Put down the remote and pick up this book.”–Houston Chronicle...

Title : The Age of Missing Information
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780812976076
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Age of Missing Information Reviews

  • Austin Ledger
    2019-01-20 18:00

    Very boring and drags on. Many 90s references that are hard to relate to.

  • Andrew Bourne
    2018-12-30 19:06

    What is most radical about this book is the experiment itself, it's personal, bodily, i guess almost self-flagellating, akin to the film Super Size Me. McKibben watched one day of cable television, all 100 channels, 24 hours a piece; that is, he gorged on about 2400 hours total of America's TV output from a single day in the early 1990s. It took months to view, and included shopping networks, infomercials, and televangelism. Torturous.Despite this, he manages to make a quaint little book--a quality I DO NOT appreciate. It has all the mass media trimmings, sugar-coatings. I despise sugar-coatings. ...And his oft-invoked Christian sensibilities, brushed on there and here--Unpardonable, sorry.Then there is a rather weak device he employs as a counterpoint to all the TV consumption: He goes camping. It's again sugary, even in its more Luddite and supposedly harsher moments. Both his environmental concerns, his technological inquiries, and personal reflections become just quaint paragraphs mauled under by the ongoing litany of familiar programming of years past. Even if his intentions are to criticize the media and to dish on us (the readers) some of the familiar media glut, what results is that the very inclusion of so many titles and celebrities eats away at his approach.Further, it seems dated now. Yet further, the internet boom must have his eyes rolling like slot-machines. But, to his credit, he is clever, and I actually do agree with most of his assessments. That we are awash in the information age, but that the quality of that information is contestable. That we have disturbingly forgot how to make basic things, grow food, and gainfully live with the Earth. That suburbia is an unsustainable and ridiculous endeavor born of privilege, destined to falter, producing citizens with skills attuned to nothing but itself. The lamentation of the apprentice system. The lamentation of agriculture. The lamentation of empathy.But I'm afraid he thought this stuff was too apocalyptic, bad for sales, or bad for his own estimation of humankind. So he it framed up in a rather soft quaint way, thus it reads too soft for my liking.

  • Magdelanye
    2019-01-10 11:57

    Reading this book was rather like listening to a symphony composed in different keys,an elegaic bflat minor interspersed with bursts of jangling gsharp major,drawing on techniques of different centuies and conducted by the 3 stooges,all of them,at the same time. This metaphor is flawed,and maybe it would be more accurate to say it was like listening to a symphony with the radio on to the news,except for that that the medium under the spotlight is television,and the whole scope of its programming.The idea that I am trying to express is what I believe the author is intending to convey with this account of the dissonence and fragmentation that dominates modern life. For this is not a simpllistic denunciation of the evils of modern civilization,tv in particular;nor is it a naive ealtation of times gone by. Yes,the point is strongly made that with all our tecnological advances we are not actually better off than our ancestors and that in fact we have lost something essential, but McKibben is no prophet of doom. Indeed,he is somewhat of a poor prophet who fails here to take into account the insidious and pervasive rise f the computer,claiming that "they have made surprisingly little difference to daily life outside the office. If people use them at home,they are either toys or efficient typewriters" p11 One gets the idea that he wrote this by hand,probably in pencil.To be fair,this book was published in the early 90's,and who could have forseen the world wide obbsession with computer technology or predicated the craze which has turned into a dependece on the phone? McKibbens assertion that most of the major changes in the modern lifestyle occured in the first half of the last century and that all further advances are mere refinements,has now also been proved wrong,but that does not take away the power of his main point,that for all the so called improvements in the mainstream standard of living,we are missing something vital that was available with a simpler way of life.Indeed,it may be that McKibbens obvious love/hate relationship with tv gives him a more balanced perspective than someone who is utterly convinced(as I have been) that tv is right up there on the list of modern evils that would best be altogether put aside. He grew up with the box after all, and retains a certain fondness for the medium,somewhat like the nostalgia one might feel for kindergarden chums. In fact,somewhat ironically to me,he places cultural relevance on the fictional characters that are easily referenced by those that grew up with the tv on.So what would we be missing if we skipped this book? Perhaps I can present my cas that this is an imprtant book by quoting him directly.But first, a break for station identification.The cover of my hardback Random House edition is brilliant. A sheep is curled up in front of a couple of lions,a goat,a wolf perhaps an emu, and some kind of large colourful bird,gathered together in a night clearing.They all have a bewildered look as they raptly gaze at a small portable tv placed on a rock/TV,and the culture it anchors,masks and drowns out the subtle and vital information contact with the real once provided. There are small lessons,enormous lessons...that may be crucial to the planets persistence as a green and diverse place and also to the happiness of it's inhabitants-that nature teachs and TV can't. p23The great push is always away from individual skill and engagement-a horse took all sorts of infirmation and insight to handle, and a model T a little,and a Honda Accord virtually none. p34If we're ever to recapture these fundamental kinds of information,it's necessary to start by remembering just how divorced from the physical world many of us have become. 26...if we could block out the assumption that economic expansion will fill our lives with sunshine_then perhaps we could begin to talk realistically about our predicament.Because it is a predicament-on the one and continued economic growth threatens the environmental stability of the planet,but on the other hand the system...rigged up requires constant acceleration or else it produces unemployment,misery,want. p118The question is,does it make sense for us any longer-is it automatically cheerful news that the American economy is busily expanding? p108... a society obsessed with the linear passage of time....Viewed linearly,the rat race makes perfect sense-if there is a destination,you might as well get there first.But if,instead,you've internalized the seasons to the point where you realize that you're on a whell,you might slow down a little-might decide you're going nowhere impressively fast. If you're on a wheel...speed is an illusion. p148Music and dance,at their beginnings and throughout most of their history,were drenched with content. p132Dance and music ordered time;they passed down the stories that bound civilizations together. 133..we've managed to strip away meaning and information...p132The question "What time is it?" has a different answer on the mountai and in front of the TV.And the answers,far from being frivolous,have great environmental,social,oersonal meaning-the mountain and the television aren't somuch in different time zones as in different dimensions. p140It rarely occurs to us how much intelligence about the world light erases.p222The spread of artificial light,and the ability to continue all activity round the clock,erododed this sense much more radically...p142We say "information"reverently,as if it meant "understanding" or "wisom",but it doesn't. Sometimes it even gets in the way. p167...tolerance by itself can be a cover for moral laziness.In a world with real and pressing problems,tolerance is merely a precondition for politics....p182It's true we don't need all the old "traditional" values-but as a society we desperately need values. p183Human beings-any one of us,and our species as a whole-are not allimportant,not at t he centre of the world....if we insist on dominating everything ,we'll create for ourself an unlivable world....pp228/9...the real real world,one that was here before us. p229That's why TV makes us feel so guilty sometimes. It's a time-out from life. p200world once provided.

  • Mark
    2019-01-23 11:54

    We have been told multiple times that we live in the age of information, that we are living through an information revolution, that we are taking in more information than any other culture at any other time in the history of the planet. True enough, says McKibben. But what information is it? Is it valuable, sustaining, enriching information or is it something else? The answer would be “something else.” Published in 1992, the Age of Missing information is McKibben’s exploration of the information that we are receiving in massive quantities and compares that to the information we are no longer collecting as a culture. The experiment consisted of videotaping 24 hours worth of video tape from each of Fairfax, Virginia’s nearly 100 cable television channels. McKibben then sat and watched all 2400 hours of television, every rerun, every infomercial, every sporting event and every music video. In contrast, he spent 24 hours hiking, camping, swimming atop a mountain near his home. The mountain provided information about limits, completeness, community, sustainability, and fundamental, ongoing happiness while TV provided information about insecurity (the goal of every advertisement is to make you feel insecure), individualism, and consumption as the route to happiness.

  • Callsign222
    2018-12-23 17:03

    This book is a little dated, as it chronicles TV from the 90's (only 100 stations), but other than that it's basic premise holds true... That we have little to no attention span, our collective memory has been truncated to what TV can show us, and we're all a bunch of suckers. The rest of the world, however, holds lessons and information far above and beyond anything else. I loved this book when I read it way back, and I still love it now.

  • Rachel Bayles
    2018-12-26 14:02

    If you need encouragement to turn off the TV, this is the book to read. Being reminded of all these jingles and useless tidbits of information floating around in my head was a nice illustration of the absurd.

  • James
    2019-01-18 12:03

    This book has been on my TBR list for a long time, but I only now picked it up. McKibben, an environmental writer who grew up with television, examines what "information" television truly provides us, and what it does not. The book owes a debt to Marshall McLuhan whose phrase "the medium is the message" brings a lot of McKibben's points home. TV narrows our focus, placing us as consumers in the center of everything, which is contributing to our environmental destruction. The book was written in the early 90's and some of its references are dated (although it's amazing how often Trump comes up), but its message is vital and interesting.

  • Rick
    2019-01-10 13:03

    When it comes to providing information electronic media is best at reductionism, isn't it? Wonderful and timeless truths are reduced to soundbites for easy digestion. McKibben's book explores this concept mostly through the medium of TV. (The book is dated, that is, published in 1992, and so internet and cell phone culture is absent from his analysis.) We must find a way to get away from media and seek meaning and real information. Get back to nature? Maybe. Thoreau would agree.

  • Mike
    2019-01-04 17:58

    I kind of gathered what the author was going to say when he laid out his strategy toward the beginning of the book. After plowing through all of the TV examples, sprinkled with tid bits of outside beauty journals, the only conclusion I had in mind is what he led us to. So TV blindly misuses its power to deliver information by sending us mediocre, subpar, and damaging information, instead of useful information. If I had to sit through over 1000 hours of TV first and then spend 24 hours camping, I would hate TV too.The endless cycle of the TV that spits up and pukes in our sensory receptors everyday almost compare to the endless cycle of bad TV examples followed by the tranquil romance of camping outdoor McKibben writes in this book. Right around noon time, I could guess what the whole day will entail. I really had to force myself through the book. McKibben's lecture, talking-down-to-you voice made it even harder. My suggestion for others who want to read this book is to start with the first 3 and then skip to about Midnight.That said, thinking about the book outside of the experiment's constraints leads me to a different conclusion. The experiment pitted how the way things were versus where it is and/or it's going. It seems like McKibben struggles with the vast influx of information and "The Age of Missing Information" was his way to deal with it. Older generations, as they move on, have a hard time dealing with youth and the eventual ceremonious torch passing of control. This book sounds like the rebellious retort to the process. For me, I couldn't help but hear my Dad saying things like 'the world is coming to an end' after an unsuccessful attempt the get 'the email' and get on 'the internets.'

  • Joanna Weissen
    2019-01-19 16:19

    This book is amazingly bad. While the premise of the experiment is interesting and the author does have a few points about the nature of television I found thought provoking, most of the book is just the author espousing his views about nature, environmentalism, and sustainability. I did find the fact that these buzzwords have been in constant use for over 20 years both fascinating and depressing all at the same time. The author seems to have made choices in his life that he wishes we would all choose, and therefore decided to set them out for us to look at in this book. The result is a romantic view of living with less and a time when farmers farmed and we were all closer to nature. The problem is he ignores how technology has made our lives better by giving us more time that is not directly spent figuring out how to acquire food and shelter, which used to be hard. Very hard. Separate from this is how TV affects us and society, but he author has jumbled it all together in one giant evil. This book was published at the height of "the sky is falling" terror of global warming, which is not looking to be the catastrophe that the author is making it out to be. While reading this book, the feeling I had more than any other was the feeling I wanted to throw up from the way the author's lifestyle was pushed so hard. Bottom line: if you agree with the author, you'll like this book because it will make you feel good about what you already think. If you don't, you'll realize that this is a horrible book full of logical holes.

  • Ken
    2018-12-28 17:00

    The book is a long essay contrasting and analyzing a day relaxing in the wilds of the Virginia Adirondacks with the experience of absorbing one single day of 100 channels broadcasting on the local TV network. McKibben invited over one hundred of his friends and family to tape all of the programming on May 3, 1990, and he took a few weeks to watch it all, and he contrasts this experience with one day that he spent in the 'Great Outdoors'. It's clever and insightful, and I thought it most interesting how the two experiences treat 'Time'. Obviously, television is lightening fast and does an excellent job describing reality about what is happening in the present moment. 'Chaos' and 'Disaster' are the bread and butter of the television experience, while the worst disasters, such as global warming, the consequences of poverty, or the degradation of the environment, move slowly, and the TV cameras don't see them. So the dedicated TV viewer is oblivious to these grave and catastrophic issues.The book is filled with facts and observations on our Consumer Society, and McKibben makes the case that television has become the most important element in World Culture. The book is well-written, it won't require a lot of your time, but it will make you think.

  • Karen
    2019-01-05 18:05

    I found the premise of this book interesting: the author recorded a day's worth of TV on over 100 channels, watched it all over the course of the next year, and pondered what we could learn about modern American society from it. It had some funny bits and some insightful moments about useless products, lack of community, distancing ourselves from nature even while watching nature documentaries, etc. Overall though I found it suffered from two major flaws: 1) It was published in 1993 and the author felt that future technology held no prospect of meaningfully changing people's lives. Given the internet revolution (and future changes I can't imagine now but that I feel sure will happen in the coming decades and centuries), I think that was a gross miscalculation on par with scientists who in the 19th century thought that there was little left to discover.2) At various times I found the author annoying, repetitive, and preachy and this made even his interesting ideas sometimes difficult to get through.Overall I would recommend the book, but it wasn't great for me.

  • Sue
    2018-12-29 18:59

    I bought this book in 1993 and sat on it for 20 years…so reading it now with the rise of the Internet makes the message even more poignant. If you can get over much of the almost antiquated TV information, the message McKibben teaches is still pertinent. Even though most of us will not sit an entire day surrounded by nature, we have to also come to grips with the fact that there is NO WAY anyone can keep on top of or abreast of news/current events/trends/what's occurring around the world. Trying is a recipe for disaster because you will miss the life the you should be living with the people you interact with.We have to learn to let go, sip from the mad whirlwind of modern life, and be at peace knowing we will never be able to fully grasp knowledge because it is always expanding. As well as we should more often step outside, take a few deep restorative breaths, and actually choose to experience something first-hand.

  • Mark Valentine
    2019-01-21 16:53

    This book was a catalyst for me, a springboard, it launched me. I had read Henry David Thoreau's Walden before, so I knew at heart what McKebben addressed in this book, but I had never thought of making a "thought experiment" like he did. McKibben's approach and analysis is scathing and it makes it embarrassing to be a part of the TV generation. Now the the internet is here, I wonder if it has only accelerated things (I state, as I write this on the Internet). The best part of this book was the final section in which he spends his 24 hourse out in the woods. His writing, his insights, his conclusions make this a very important book. It was the first book to turn me on to McKibben and now I am in his corner all the way.A companion book for this particular McKibben book is Jerry Mander's, In the Absence of Sacred.

  • Becky Fowler
    2019-01-11 19:16

    Written 20 years ago, this book still strikes a strong chord. I have a love-hate with television myself and know if I find myself in a rut, killing my TV seems to bring instant and (surprisingly?) only fleetingly painful change. McKibbon's conclusion is that having information constantly streamed at us actually makes us less informed because (1) there's no time to reflect and internalize information and (2) it's hard to separate the important from the banal. Additionally, we isolate ourselves away from the natural world, which offers a wealth of information vital to the success of our species. He only had 93 channels when he wrote it; I wonder if my viewing habits over the last 20 years would be different if I'd read it during college. No time like the present!

  • Nick Mather
    2018-12-27 17:00

    Although the book is a bit dated, I think McKibben's argument is still valid - that television has the effect of creating a false reality where the individual viewer is the center of a universe that is completely disconnected from our neighbors and nature. Originally written in 1992 it suffers by not considering the massive changes to media since then, including a narrowing of ownership, the plethora of "reality" shows (he does mention this briefly in anew afterword) and most importantly the Internet and social networks. Still, a quick and rewarding read that should offer everyone some food for thought.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-01 18:54

    Written in the early 90s, it's a bit out of touch with modern technology or the even wider divide that computers and the internet have created, but much of what he has to say is overall still the same and perhaps in some ways even more relevant. It was interesting to read about some of the television shows and remembering when I watched them. The parallels of television and our disinterest in the greater world and nature is even more an issue now, and if people can get past the dated references, then it's still a good book to read.

  • Leslie
    2019-01-07 13:07

    We're told we live in the information age. Do we? What kind of information? What kind is left out? What do we do with it? Is it worth having, and does it replace information that would be better worth having? Some of this is dated (the book was published in 1992), but most of the changes (cell phones, the ubiquitousness of personal computers, social networking, ipods, wireless computing, blackberries and text messaging, and so forth--all more recent inventions than we usually remember) don't invalidate his argument; most often they strengthen it.

  • Paul
    2019-01-02 12:20

    I first read this twenty years ago as an incoming college freshman. Whoops. Wait. First-year. In some ways the book is date (Internet...what's the internet) but the concept remains solid. What have we given up in return for the information that is now so readily at our fingertips. It makes me rethink my media consumption and my time spent out of doors....he writes in an online book review.

  • Patrick M.
    2019-01-12 17:10

    Just brilliant.The only problem is the huge amount of late Eighties/early Nineties cultural references. Given the premise of the book, they're unavoidable, but it can give the book a retro feel at times. Or maybe I'm just ashamed that I caught about 90% of the references, and like McKibben, a disturbingly high percentage of my childhood memories have to do with TV - in my case, the Eighties. Now I've got the Growing Pains theme song stuck in my head. Grrrr.

  • Caitlin EVHS Ng
    2019-01-03 14:20

    Although I am mostly a fan of fictional novels, I do feel that this book was an interesting read. Not only is it helpful for my research paper about technology/social media, but it also stresses why turning off the TV is a pretty good idea. This book offers much insight about how we,as a society, are actually shorting ourselves of opportunity. If you disagree with this statement, I would recommend reading this book; or even if you agree, read what McKibben has to share.

  • Benja
    2018-12-24 18:00

    In a surprisingly balanced and truthful experiment this book blends description, analysis and understanding of televised and natural information. Rethinking what we learn and what we miss. 2232 hours (93 days) of TV broadcast during 1 day is watched over months and contrasted with 1 day in the woods. But TV and the woods are only the foreground of this exploration of how experience and expression interact.

  • Julian Abagond
    2019-01-07 15:20

    Walden updated. McKibben watched all the television aired on May 3rd 1990 on the Fairfax, Virginia cable system. Then he spent a day on a mountaintop in upstate New York, on the same day, it turned out, that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. McKibben compares the two experiences, pointing out what television leaves out and how it shapes our outlook. The book was written before the Internet age, but much of what he says about television also applies to the Internet.

  • Juli
    2018-12-27 14:19

    From a colleague, March 2014:Just attended a talk at the GEO conference on "Master Narratives: The Stories that Move Americans", where Andy Goodman argued that "if you're in the changing-the-world business, then you're in the changing-stories business", and that "if you're telling stories to change minds, then you have to know what stories are already in those minds." He also suggested 4 great books that describe the narratives that dominate the American 'psyche.'This is book 2 of 4.

  • Montana
    2018-12-24 17:21

    i loved this book because it said bold things about the cluttered nature of television in our lives and the power of simple observation. I am unsure if I can live the kind of spartan life and mckibben seems to have. But I admire it because it seems paced better than the average haggard 21st century life. I guess mostly I admired this book because it wanted to discuss that contradiction and that seems a better solution than tuning in and out constantly.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-01-16 17:15

    I have to be honest, my review is based on what I remember from being forced to read it for freshman orientation at central Michigan university in 1996. I didn't care for it. Was even more annoyed when I found out that there was no real requirement to read out, at least, no accountability. I should probably give it a reread as an adult.

  • katie
    2018-12-24 18:18

    I ILL'ed this book as it came highly recommended to me by a friend, but, when I began reading it, I found it incredibly belabored and fairly dry. I felt like I'd read many books that argued the same thing, and McKibben's outlook did not add much to the knowledge/opinions I'd already developed. I ended up not reading past the third chapter. Too bad, as the premise is intriguing.

  • Marjorie Gray
    2019-01-03 12:11

    McKibben's books are ageless, timeless. Sadly, this one published in '92 is all the more timely today. Insightful personal, national and global reflections shine in each chapter based on times of day over a 24 hour period. Poetic and down-to-earth, persuasive essays awaken hope: "What you do every day forms your mind." It's never too late for renewal.

  • David
    2019-01-16 12:56

    Bill McKibben makes a case for the idea that time spent alone in the wild actually provides better information than time in front of the tube—information about our bodies, the worth of nature, the passage of time, our own smallness. His claim that television shields and distracts us from some of the information that is most important for us is surprisingly convincing.

  • Peter Szabo
    2019-01-14 15:17

    Really enjoyed this early McKibben work. Asked my teenage son read it recently, and he liked it. So while it is based on McKibben's juxtaposition of a day's worth of television and a day spent on a mountain just observing, it is perhaps even more relevant in today's social media/smart phone world. The lessons and insights continue to resonate.