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Connected or Disconnected: The Art of Operating in a Connected World.

Connected or Disconnected: The Art of Operating in a Connected World by Micke Darmell and Kapil Rampal, Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2018, Pages 158, Price Rs. 395/-

One of the very few things that may be predicted with certainty about the world in the coming decades is the hold of information technology on it. IT-enabled products and services has revolutionized the way humankind communicates, works, relaxes, or solves medical, political, legal, or educational problems. It has also left the generations grappling with rapid changes in the modus operandi of even the most mundane tasks of life. While the impact has been vastly beneficial in making the world as we know it today, technology, to the vast majority, has been a major time-guzzler, a distractor from important life activities, and a source for social anxieties and privacy risks previously unknown.

It is this negative effect of a connected world that Darmell and Rampal choose to focus on in their book described as an "insight into how the constant connected affects our culture, a culture where most people seem to suffer from lack of time" (p. 5). In the introductory chapters, the authors build a compelling case of how internet connectivity has led to a constant need for being connected, causing the circles on Instagram, Facebook, or other social networking sites to replace in importance the actual community of people immediately surrounding an individual. Connectivity causes people to ignore important relationships, leads to adverse impact on health by impairing physical fitness, sleep cycles, attention span, and anxiety levels, and leads to information overload for a person who is ill-equipped to put the information to good use. The authors share an interesting trivia-Swedish children, who overuse the tablet, reach developmental milestones late, owing to lack of physical activity in growing years. Again, the readers are told of the phenomena of 'Google Mind', a condition characterized by a low capacity and willingness to retain information, owing to the attitude that what is important may be googled anytime. The anecdotes, as well as the multi-faceted narrative--using general information sharing with contemplations and frequent grayscale snapshots--makes for interesting reading, and drives home the bleak point rather succinctly.

In the second movement of the book, the authors go for what the title promises: the art of operating in a connected world. The readers are taken through a mix of commonplace wisdom and life hacks, amounting to limiting social networking hours, removing auto tags, going for physical activities, and spending quality time with children. The authors draw on findings of researchers, as well as recommendations from life coaches and professionals, to leave the readers with a general understanding of how to remain detached in a connected world and not give the internet any more attention than is absolutely necessary.

Connected or Disconnected does a good job insofar as finding faults with the changing state of affairs and the banes of the internet age. It would end up resonating with those who are guilty as charged, of utilizing information technology as a distractor rather than as an enabler, with parents who are dissatisfied with their children's use of smart devices, or with employees frustrated with a demanding boss and office mails. But in doing so, the book manages to capture only half of the reality of the connected world. The book is conspicuous in the absence of any appreciation of the tremendous benefits that IT resources bring to the human world, not only in terms of efficiency and productivity, but also to improve human relations, ensure human rights, and create far more meaningful lives than before. Connectivity has been shown by research to dispel loneliness among geriatrics, create new professions, find platforms for new talents, and ensure that voices are heard, and people in position of power remain accountable to the stakeholders, through internet outrages and opinion-sharing. For instance, what one author describes as an instance of a Foreign Minister 'bullying' an MNC to remove offensive products (in this case, the national flag printed on doormats) from its online platform, is actually a powerful example of how voice of stakeholders are effective in making corporate giants comply with national and international laws and ethical standards. This opinionated focus is also prominent in the recommendations the authors provide for the readers, which turn out to be a sermon on how to insulate oneself from the changes, rather than on how to utilize the opportunities of the connected world to create enriched lives. Connectivity is here to stay, and the solution probably lies in utilizing it to the fullest, rather than shunning it in favour of regressive patterns that might have emotional or nostalgic value, but little proven social benefits. Also, to rid itself of the pop-psychology flavor the book would benefit from more references to actual research in the fields, and more footnotes mentioning sources for observations than it is having now. For instance, the concept of 'hereness' resemble mindfulness closely, but authors do not clarify the relation between the two, or the nature of this 'hereness' as a psychological construct. Much of the information shared is one-sided, and the solutions provided are rather too hashed to be insightful anymore.

Connected or Disconnected does well for a light-reading for a guilty soul taking time off from the screen, as an easy-to-grasp sermon touching only the surface of a deeply complicated issue. To interest those looking for a serious discourse on the issue, the book needs to be less streamlined and more open to alternative possibilities, just as the connected world is today.

Bishakha Majumdar

Assistant Professor, FORE School of Management, New Delhi.
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Author:Majumdar, Bishakha
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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