2021 Outstanding Academic Titles: Information & Computer Science

Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles information science and computer science selections.

Five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we share a selection of Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles about information science & computer science.

1. After the digital tornado: networks, algorithms, humanity
by Kevin Werbach Cambridge, 2020
After the Digital Tornado Book Cover, a Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

This volume, introduced and edited by Werbach (Univ. of Pennsylvania), is a collection of articles representing multiple perspectives that together present a sophisticated picture of the contemporary digital world. The book’s title references a 1997 FCC white paper that foretold an “endless spiral of connectivity” in the future. The book’s three parts (“Networks,” “Algorithms,” and “Humanity”) each include three papers. Networks (the channels carrying huge quantities of data around the world) are discussed mainly in terms of internet law and governance. Algorithms are examined, for example, as combining interactions of mathematics, data, and people to form “algorithmic social systems.” Papers in the final section discuss the role of humans in this increasingly digital world of massive data, networked machines, and algorithms. Most interesting to this reviewer (who teaches computer science) was the final essay discussing the “next wave” to surge through the digital world, authored by Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School. In “The Siren Song: Algorithmic Governance by Blockchain,” he predicts that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies will create societal transformations and massive disruption of industries. View on Amazon

2. B C, before computers: on information technology from writing to the age of digital data
Robertson, S. E. Open Book Publishers, 2020
B C , before Computers Book Cover, a Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

The title of this work, with its dichotomous structure, summarizes the theme of the book: the computer revolution, generally regarded as having begun in the second half of the 20th century, actually has roots going a long way back. Robertson (emer., University College London) summarizes this in his prologue: “in many significant ways, the information technology (IT) world not only draws on the past but is rooted in it.” He illustrates this in 12 chapters showing how the invention of writing and the development of alphabets, eventually leading to the invention of printing and later to communications by post, telegraph, and telephone, and even the development of cryptography, were all steps on the path to the modern use of computers as the primary tool of information technology. Notably, chapter 11 traces the origins of the modern concept of data to the 19th-century invention of punched cards by Herman Hollerith, addressing the US Census Office’s need for a tabulation technology. This reviewer found the book an absorbing read, arguably a good supplementary resource for students of IT and library science as well as undergraduates not majoring in any aspect of computer or information science. View on Amazon

3. Global social media design
Sun, Huatong. Oxford, 2020
Global Social Media Design Book Cover, a Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

Social media applications are probably among the most critical software systems in today’s economy. A book that discusses design issues in the context of global, cultural, philosophical, and scientific utility could be worth reading in depth. Sun (Univ. of Washington, Tacoma) offers an intense discussion about the dynamic structure of factors that influence application design. She includes extensive bibliographical references on the many schools of thought and design scholarship that have influenced the human-computer interaction community for decades. As diverse and often conflicting as design frameworks may be, it is challenging to find a holistic perspective that can be applicable for different cultures, demographics, and geographic locations. Sun’s book will confirm readers’ intuitive feeling that successful design is hard in the environment where everything is “global.” Successful applications are notoriously difficult to replicate to serve different tasks or contexts. The research community that has developed around this problem has created sophisticated statistical models to capture intricate relationships among multiple required characteristics. The interconnectedness of the multiplicity of factors that constitute the design problem is this book’s central premise and strength. View on Amazon

4. Introduction to web mapping
Dorman, Michael. CRC Press, 2020
Introduction to Web Mapping Book Cover, a Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

Web GIS developers are in high demand owing to their unique skill set, which encompasses programming, web design, and integrating spatial databases with web applications. The languages used for developing online mapping applications are HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL. Dorman (Ben-Gurion Univ. of the Negev) deftly addresses this combination of proficiencies by focusing on the most relevant aspect of each for web mapping in particular. Based on course materials developed at BGU, the text is organized in 13 chapters, including sample exercises with solutions. Following brief introductions to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and JSON, Dorman employs plant data examples to illustrate development of web GIS applications using Leaflet (an open source JavaScript library) and database query implementation using CARTO (a specialized cloud computing platform). Such content will be welcomed by GIS students and professionals in need of guidance, especially for working with Leaflet and integrating PostGIS into web applications. Exercises require no previous GIS experience, a significant feature for programmer learners acquiring web mapping development skills for the first time. View on Amazon.

5. Myths and realities of cyber warfare: conflict in the digital realm
Sambaluk, Nicholas Michael. Praeger, 2020
Myths and Realities of Cyber Warfare Book Cover, a Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

This book makes a simple yet compelling point: cyber warfare envelops us all. It is impossible for the innocent and unsuspecting to escape the deleterious effects of the new cyber technologies. Juxtaposing myths about this new domain against facts, military historian Sambaluk (The Other Space Race, CH, Aug’16, 53-5379) devotes the first four chapters to providing the reader with usable information. For example, deploying malware is not always an inexpensive way to attack nation-states. The Stuxnet worm or virus said to have brought down Iran’s centrifuges was half a megabyte in size and cost millions to develop. Furthermore, unraveling the source of cyber attacks doesn’t help much. Malevolent states employ “patriotic hackers” living abroad to create mischief. Chapters 5 and 6, devoted to social media, constitute an original and innovative contribution to the cyber literature, effectively arguing that Facebook and Twitter are successfully militarized platforms. Terrorists use these platforms not only to communicate with each other but to identify and trace prospective victims. Gone are the days when civilians could bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the spectacle of a major battle. Cyber technology draws unsuspecting spectators into the battle. View on Amazon.

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