REVIEW: NET CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS
J.A. Hitchcock. Net Crimes & Misdemeanors: Outmaneuvering the Spammers, Swindlers, and Stalkers Wo Are Targeting YouOnline. Information Today, 2002. 0-910965-57-9. $24.95. Reviewed by Marylaine Block.
I like a good horror story, but I prefer it to be fictional, and about somebody else. Ms. Hitchcock, who became involved with the issue when she herself was being stalked and defamed online, and discovered that there were, as yet, no laws against that, makes it clear that anyone of us may become the victim of a real-life horror story. There are villains and monsters in cyberspace, and anyone who goes online is at risk.
Through the real experiences of victims she explains all the currently known types of online crimes and scams, shows you ways to defend yourself against them, and tells you about the government agencies and organizations that can assist victims. Indeed, the web site for this book http://netcrimes.net/, which provides helpful (and regularly updated) links for each chapter, is one you'll want to bookmark for permanent reference.
There are a number of privacy issues that she deals with in detail, including the fact of routine management surveillance of employees' computer use, the ways companies and universities are protecting the privacy of their network users, how to keep your online banking and shopping safe from theft of your private financial records and credit card numbers, what to do if you're victimized by fraud in online auctions, and how to defend yourself against identity theft.
She offers useful tips for parents on keeping their children safe in cyberspace. While she discusses filters, she does not fall into the trap of believing that machines alone can solve a problem that requires human judgment and parents' knowledge of their own children's vulnerabilities, strengths, and moral understanding. She urges parents to monitor their children's activity online, to talk to them about their experiences and monitor their online friendships as closely as they'd monitor their kids' real world friends. Her advice on netiquette is helpful for anyone, but particularly valuable for children, since it clarifies what is unacceptable behavior and helps them recognize why some behaviors in chat rooms make them uncomfortable.
Hitchcock also tells you how to defend your computer against marauding viruses and worms. The fact that she explains everything in clear, non-technical language that can be understood by even technological doofuses (doofi?) adds greatly to the book's value. This is a good addition to both a library collection and to your own professional reading.
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REVIEW: THE FUTURE OF THE PAST
by Alexander Stille. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002. 0-374-15977-7. $25. Reviewed by Marylaine Block
In a series of intriguing true stories, Stille explains the fundamental paradox of our times: that we have unearthed and discovered so much of the world's history and knowledge just in time to face the possibility -- even likelihood -- of its disappearance.
Egypt struggles to restore and/or protect its antiquities as they are steadily assaulted by smog, relentless urban expansion, and the moisture and carbon dioxide from the breath of tourists who want to view the treasures.
In Madagascar, the people who wish to protect the rain forest and its endangered inhabitants threaten the survival of the equally endangered poverty-stricken people who are no longer allowed to seek food in the forests.
In Rome, a truly great teacher convinces students that Latin is neither dead nor boring, that it was -- and still can be -- a living, breathing language in which people complained, made love, worshiped, and told dirty jokes.
On the island of Kitawa in New Guinea, the only man who now remembers the ancient rituals of the tribe -- the dances, the chants, the carving of the ceremonial canoes -- is the anthropologist who came to study their ways 30 years ago. An oral culture is a fragile thing. It can vanish swiftly if there is no younger people who care to learn it from the elders before they die.
Unless, as in Somalia, a thriving culture of political commentary and protest by poetry, far from being destroyed by the competing attractions of a media culture, is actually passed on by it, through cassette recordings, endlessly duplicated and spread from hand to hand.
Without question the chapters that will be of greatest interest to librarians are the ones on the rebuilding of the Great Library of Alexandria (done, apparently, without consulting, um, librarians) and the struggle of the National Archives and Records Administration to catalog and preserve the overwhelming number of documents it's responsible for (including every e-mail from White House offices).
With half of its budget going just for storage, NARA has precious little money left over for cataloging material in an astounding number of technological and digital formats, many of them already obsolete -- did you know that NARA, in order to play back material stored on 8-track tapes, 5 1/4 inch floppies, movies using any of the 28 different sound tracking systems in use before standardization, operates a kind of museum of obsolete technology? This chapter must inevitably make us think long and hard about what is, and is not, worth preserving.
Above all, this book invites us to consider the kinds of cultures created by oral memory, by print, and by multimedia, and to reflect on whether our six hundred years of book culture may be nothing but a temporary fluke in the long sweep of history. This is a fascinating, thought-provoking and disturbing book.
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While literacy has , at times, been used as a bar to exclude the illiterate from exercising power, reading and writing have generally been a form of empowerment. There are good reasons why the slaveholders in the United States made it a crime to teach slaves to read. Frederick Douglass, who went to great lengths to learn to read -- despite his master's strict prohibition -- saw it as an essential step in his eventual liberation. In fact, in very broad terms, the expansion of literacy has gone hand in hand with the enfranchisement of wider and wider spheres of society. And the sense of historical context that comes with literacy is a part of the feeling of enfranchisement; knowing where you have come from is important to forming an idea of where you want to go.
Alexander Stille. The Future of the Past. 2002
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