The iPad. The Kindle. Twitter. When "The Best Technology Series" was inaugurated in 2005, these technologies did not exist. Today, they not only make headlines: they define our twenty-first-century lives. In his introduction to "The Best Technology Writing 2010", Julian Dibbell addresses the collective fascination with all things digital: 'More than other technology, the digital is us. Yet for that reason, the digital is also something more, a lightening rod for our feelings about technology in general'. This deep fascination reverberates throughout this collection: Sam Anderson's giddy but troubled defence of online distractions; David Carr's full-throated elegy to the dying world of predigital publishing; Steven Johnson's warm appreciation of Twitter's bite-sized contributions to collective human intelligence; Vanessa Grigoriadis' probing assessments of Facebook's growing role in our personal lives; and, Evan Ratliff's fascinating monthlong quest to disappear without a digital trace - each reflects our intimate and complicated relationship to digital media.
Yet, as Dibbell notes, the essays collected here also remind us that some of the most disruptive technologies come from beyond the digital world. Whether it is Jill Lepore writing on the politics of breastfeeding gadgetry, Steve Silberman investigating the placebo effect in pharmaceutical testing, Burkhard Bilger tracking efforts to build a better cook stove for the developing world, Javier Marias' writely cure for fear of flying, or Tad Friend's profile of electric-car developer Elon Musk's efforts to head off environmental catastrophe, we are made to marvel here, too, at how many aspects of human experience have not been transformed or remain unchanged by digital technology.
Julian Dibbell is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine and the author of the books Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot and My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World.