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The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us 

By Nora Young (McClelland & Stewart)

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Olympos If there is a genre for approachable, engaging and relevant non-fiction, The Virtual Self by Canadian journalist Nora Young definitely belongs in it. The book tracks our self-tracking, or online-reporting, habits, which have exploded along with websites like Facebook and Twitter. In accessible language, Young, the host of CBC Radio’s Spark, discusses the history of self-tracking (Benjamin Franklin did it!) as contemporary conversations with individuals like Nicholas Felton, who publicly releases Personal Annual Reports about his life. There is also a lot of interesting debate about the benefits and risks of self-tracking, especially regarding our privacy and ability to access and control the data we’re generating. Reading The Virtual Self means confronting your own self-tracking, and it definitely left me with concerns about how pervasive it is. Although occasionally a bit meandering, ultimately Young asks some important and thoughtful questions about the impact of self-tracking on both society and self-identity.

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