Five Outstanding Titles on Information Science and Technology

Big data, streaming video, and data viz were among some of the best-reviewed titles in Choice in 2022.

figure of a person reading a large book about information and science technology

For those of you who are new to Choice because of your specific interest in LibTech Insights, this is your helpful tip that we do much more than provide coverage of library technology. Whether we’re posting about DEIA in higher education, publishing research reports, or amassing huge collections of amazing webinars and podcast episodes, we’re also doing what we’re most famous for: providing critical reviews of several hundred scholarly titles every month.

In December we gather the top reviewed books and digital resources of the year into our highly anticipated Outstanding Academic Titles list. These are the titles that, based on reviewers’ evaluations, have made a significant impact on their specific area of study. One of our regular subject areas is Information & Computer Science and we thought it would be fun to present a short list of works that made it into last year’s collection of Outstanding Academic Titles. Beach reading? Perhaps not. But who doesn’t love a good list of recommended books?

Thinking with maps: understanding the world through spatialization
Bruce, Bertram C., Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

What value do maps have in the age of ubiquitous geographic information delivered digitally on mobile devices? Bruce (emer., Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) directly addresses this question in eight conceptual chapters highlighting the importance of maps for developing thinking and learning in a variety of educational contexts. A computer scientist who taught in the UIUC Department of Information Science, Bruce demonstrates breadth of knowledge in teaching and learning through brief snapshots focused on educational applications of, e.g., maps, globes, global positioning system (GPS) technologies, and the freely available OpenStreetMap database. Although the examples presented include several familiar to most geographers, including Dr. John Snow’s London well (cholera spread) and geologist William Smith’s strata (biozones), Bruce also includes several unique illustrations of map use, e.g., Parisian street signs, humanitarian aid mapping in Nepal. He adopts a primarily theoretical perspective on maps as used for understanding the world, influenced by distinguished historical educators (Lucy Sprague Mitchell and John Dewey). Each chapter includes multiple illustrations of maps used as “thinking tools,” reinforcing the general importance of spatial thinking alongside literacy and numeracy. View on Amazon

How things work: the computer science edition
By Charles F. Bowman, Chapman & Hall, Routledge, 2021

Software architect Bowman offers a general primer on broad swaths of computer science that sheds light on the deep inner workings of the computers people interact with every day. Beginning with a fascinating history of computing, the narrative winds through subjects that “build” the modern computer, component by component, from hardware and networking to operating systems and software. In the technical sections of the book, readers are offered real-life illustrations of architecture diagrams, operating system functions, and even programming codes/methods. These illustrations can help readers understand technical concepts they never understood before at a deep level. Bowman avoids long, monotonous, technical descriptions by interpolating historical time lines and highly relevant applied examples throughout. The final chapter offers details on security and privacy and an important section that answers readers’ likely question: how can I protect myself from hacking exploits? This book could be instructive for all who depend on computers to do their jobs and are curious about how the devices work on more-technical levels. View on Amazon

Interactive visual data analysis
By Christian Tominski and Heidrun Schumann, CRC Press, 2020

Visual data analysis is a fundamental topic in modern computer science and beyond. The last decade brought exponential growth in data volume and progress in machine learning and data mining. To cope with big data, data analysis methods had to evolve. The addition of interactivity enables iterative analysis and incremental comprehension, two fundamental aspects of human comprehension. Tominski and Schumann (both, Univ. of Rostock) offer a thorough introduction to the field and a wealth of information essential for students, with enough depth to appeal to practitioners and researchers. Chapter 1 begins with basic principles (e.g., visualization as a “method of computing,” the “Five W’s of Interactive Data Analysis,”) but soon delves into current visualization methods and techniques (code for a graph of 77 nodes and 254 edges with their attributes, followed by different visual renderings). Subsequent chapters explain the fundamentals of interactivity and the methods that use it; provide examples of automatic analysis to simplify, focus, group, or transform complex data sets; and explore more-advanced concepts for interactive data learning and multi-display presentations. Abundant visual examples complement the text perfectly. View on Amazon

Big data applications in industry 4.0
Ed. by P. Kaliraj and T. Devi, Routledge, 2022

A major problem for college graduates is learning to use classroom-earned knowledge to solve real-world problems. Kaliraj and Devi (both, Bharathiar Univ., Tamil Nadu, India) elegantly tackle this problem by integrating chapters on data science use cases from industry, education, and medicine with foundational chapters on deeply technical topics and toolsets including, for example, PySpark, robust statistical procedures, and text analytics methods. The applied chapters form the heart of the book and include quick lists of several real-world applications. These chapters are likely to inspire readers’ imaginations toward thinking of new and exciting uses for data science. Chapters on such technical topics as text analytics and robust statistics focus on the technical history and common algorithms before shifting to their application in manipulating data sets from social media, health care records, and e-mail spam use cases. Chapter 15 on implementing a data lake covers the architecture of big data, explaining the storage and accession of data—a good foundation for the use cases in the rest of the book. Readers will become more adept at considering a broad range of data science methods, techniques, and use cases. View on Amazon

The technology, business, and economics of streaming video: the next generation of media emerges
By Eli M. Noam, E. Elgar, 2021

In this companion to The Content, Impact, and Regulation of Streaming Video (CH, Jun’22, 59-2760), media economist Noam (Columbia Univ.) draws attention to the “bones” of streaming video services, such as the evolution of the hardware and software that has allowed the platform to grow since the earliest days of terrestrial television broadcasting. Many are familiar with Moore’s Law (related to the processing power of devices), but Noam focuses on what he calls “Sarnoff’s rate” as an homage to early media pioneer David Sarnoff and, more important, refocuses on the speed and volume of sending information, the “bit rates” of transmission. Although some introductory information and early chapters (such as chapter 2) include material from the companion volume (noted above), from chapter 3 on, the importance of IT and the “death of distance” take center stage. The book is well-cited and includes critical reference information—one sure to be dog-eared is Table 3.1, illustrating the ever-decreasing “cost of information storage per gigabyte.”  Noam reminds readers where technologies have come from and where they are likely going, suggesting that video clouds are the latest representation of the effort to send more information for less cost. View on Amazon

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