Book Review: Zilch

In January 2002 the thing I wanted most in the world was a “hold” button. But, hey, it was a disaster. I mean really a disaster: I was working for the American Red Cross Disaster Services, we were crazy busy, but I was sharing a phone with four other colleagues in a large, bare-bones office.

I’ve worked in non-profit organizations most of my career, and fortunately for me most of them have been large and well-funded, including the American Red Cross. But comparing my non-profit experience to my rare forays into for-profit work, it is impossible to imagine working in any for-profit corporation for six months without a hold button on my telephone. Never mind that the phone was on a plastic folding table, not a desk, so I didn’t have a desk drawer, either. The cultural divide isn’t always so extreme, but there are certain things that can happen in one world that are unimaginable in the other.

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Book: Being Virtual

Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a person by his or her online avatar.

When I placed a library hold on Being Virtual: Who You Really Are Online by Davey Winder, I expected advice on enhancing one’s online persona. Well, sort of…. True to its theme, this book is not what I expected, but much more interesting than a how-to.

Winder writes about the differences and similarities between who we are when we interact in cyberspace and who we are in person. He shares his own experience discovering virtual communities (back to the days of online bulletin boards and FidoNet) after suffering an attack of viral encephalitis that left his body largely paralyzed. “Getting online wasn’t easy, nor cheap, but it was all I had,” Winder writes of his explorations soon after being released from the hospital. His body was limited by paralysis and the physical barriers that impeded his wheelchair, but his mind roamed freely in cyberspace. Eventually improved technology and Winder’s hard-won experience led him to complex online worlds such as There.com and SecondLife.

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