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Shenk, David 1966-

Shenk, David 1966-

PERSONAL:

Born 1966, in Cincinnati, OH; married Alexandra Beers (a teacher); children: two. Education: Brown University, B.A., 1988.

ADDRESSES:

Home—216 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, columnist, lecturer, radio commentator, and radio producer. President's Council on Bioethics, advisor. Worked as a producer for National Public Radio (NPR) and as contributor to the radio show All Things Considered.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Fellow, Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, 1995-96; Popular Medical Book Awards, first prize, British Medical Association, for The Forgetting; McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communication Policy finalist.

WRITINGS:

(With Steve Silberman) Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.

Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1999.

The Forgetting: Alzheimer's; Portrait of an Epidemic, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess; or, How Thirty-two Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to anthologies and collections, including the Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications. Contributor to periodicals, including Harper's, Feed, Salon.com, Wired, Hotwired, New Republic, Technology Review, Nation, Gourmet, American Scholar, Slate, National Geographic, New York Times, Spy, Washington Post, Washington Monthly, and Atlantic Unbound. Author of column, "Net Skeptic," Microsoft Network, c. 1997; author of column for Hotwired. Author's works have been translated into twenty languages.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Forgetting was adapted as a television special by PBS.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author and media critic David Shenk has written a number of books dealing with such varied subjects as information overload and the history of chess. In Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, he claims we all suffer from this malady, and he has statistics to back up his claims: Paper consumption per capita tripled between 1940 and 1980 and tripled again between 1980 and 1990. Third-class mail grew thirteen times faster than the population in the 1980s. Since 1971, advertising messages aimed at the average American grew in number from 560 to three thousand per day. Fax machines in North America expel forty billion pages a year. When Shenk finished writing Data Smog in the fall of 1996, there were twenty-two million Web pages on the Internet. By the time Data Smog was published in the spring of 1997, the number of Web pages had increased to 150 million, and by the fall of 1997, Wired magazine estimated that the number was close to a billion. If this whirlwind of figures is not convincing enough, consider that the daily New York Times carries more information than the average seventeenth-century Englishman was exposed to in a lifetime.

In Data Smog, Shenk argues that this constant onslaught of information is anxiety-inducing on the societal level and probably health-damaging on the individual level. He also posits that we are afflicted with a culturally induced form of attention deficit disorder. In an interview with David Gergen for Online NewsHour, Shenk said, "Generally speaking, technology does enhance our individual control over our lives, but with information overload, we end up getting so distracted that a lot of times a distracted consumer is a weakened consumer. It's a very vulnerable consumer and citizen, so we're open to manipulation." A Library Journal reviewer called Data Smog "sparkling, witty, and wry."

The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution is for the most part an expansion on the theme of Data Smog—an anthology of contributions to All Things Considered, Harper's, Feed, MSNBC, Salon, Wired, Hotwired, New Republic, Nation, Technology Review, and Atlantic Unbound, plus some thoughts on Japan and dialogues with Steve Silberman, Steven Johnson, Esther Dyson, Mitch Kapor, and Douglas Rushkoff.

In The Forgetting: Alzheimer's; Portrait of an Epidemic Shenk examines the nature of memory and of self and the ways Alzheimer's disease robs its victims of both. Through a wide range of examples from art history, literature, genetics, and neurobiology, Shenk illustrates how the gradual eradication of memory and of mind caused by Alzheimer's is ageless and affected such historical figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jonathan Swift, and Frederick Law Olmstead. He describes various tests developed to help identify sufferers and discusses the early, middle, and end stages of the disease, portraying Alzheimer's as a virtual demographic time bomb. Shenk examines current scientific research and expresses his belief in the possibility of a cure. Geoffrey Cowley of Newsweek described Shenk's text as "offer[ing] lucid primers on the mechanics of memory and dementia, along with vivid glimpses of how Alzheimer's affects patients and families and how it may soon transform whole societies."

Pam Rosenthal noted on Salon.com: "Shenk isn't afraid to be fascinated by his subject, to evince wonder at the mind's awesome complexity even while chronicling its deterioration. Like Jonathan Swift, he shuttles between the very small and very big: from the molecular level at which Alzheimer's research is done to the overwhelming consequences that threaten the industrialized nations if that research doesn't pan out." Los Angeles Times reviewer Robert Lee Hotz called The Forgetting "a remarkable addition to the literature of the science of the mind." Cowley praised the book, saying, "Shenk rises above the usual rhetoric of combat and cure, enabling us to confront Alzheimer's not as an alien pestilence but as part of the human condition." Library Journal reviewer Karen McNally Bensing concluded by stating that Shenk's "engrossing book … is filled with fascinating characters and first-rate explanations of the science behind the disease."

In The Immortal Game: A History of Chess; or, How Thirty-two Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain, Shenk looks carefully at the history, intellectual power, and social distinctions of chess. He "explores chess as metaphor, chess as addiction, chess as a window into the workings of the human brain, even chess as a hope for humankind," remarked Katie Hafner in the New York Times. As an intellectual pursuit, chess has few equals. "The complex structures and strategies of chess are profoundly related to the complexities of human thought and decision-making. It's a good training for life," commented Lawrence Klepp in the Weekly Standard. In his book, Shenk traces the origins and development of chess, from its earliest days as a war game in fifth-century India, to its refinement as a game called chatrang in sixth-century Persia, to its prominent place in Islamic culture in the seventh century. There, chess was learned by adults and children alike, and by members of all social and economic classes. Islamic players developed the first formal strategies of the game, and masters of the game emerged from this culture. From there, chess spread through Spain and into the medieval world, and continued to be played throughout the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and into modern times, when the game is sometimes expected to carry extensive political and social freight. Shenk discusses many notable players of the game, including Napoleon, Voltaire, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and even modern pop culture icons such as Madonna and Arnold Schwartzeneggar. He notes the lives and accomplishments of many of the masters, including Bobby Fisher and Garry Kasparov, and how the game appears to have contributed to psychological breakdowns in some of the players. Shenk also describes an 1851 match between two of the best players of the time, Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky. A short game of about an hour, almost casually played, Anderssen and Kieseritzky's match became known as the "Immortal Game," a demonstration of all of chess's best strategies, keenest plays, and riskiest gambits. Elsewhere in the book, Shenk analyzes a number of other landmark games and compelling strategies. Shenk "nimbly employs the various disciplines in history, anthropology and psychology to convey the importance and usefulness of the game" over its long and storied history, commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Rangy, anecdotal, and nontechnical, Shenk's is popular chess history at its most readable," stated Gilbert Taylor in Booklist.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Quarterly, March, 1999, Roy Rosenzweig, review of Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, p. 160.

Book, September, 2001, Mark Shea, review of The Forgetting: Alzheimer's; Portrait of an Epidemic, p. 83.

Booklist, August, 2001, William Beatty, review of The Forgetting, p. 2069; September 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Immortal Game: A History of Chess; or, How Thirty-two Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain, p. 49.

Book World, October 29, 2006, Michael Dirda, "From Ancient Persia to the Digital Age, People Have Sat across from Each Other and Said, ‘It's Your Move,’" review of The Immortal Game, p. 15.

Business Week, November 26, 2001, review of The Forgetting, p. 21.

Competitive Intelligence Review, winter, 1997, John McGonagle, review of Data Smog, p. 89.

Entertainment Weekly, September 15, 2006, Wook Kim, review of The Immortal Game, p. 81.

ETC, winter, 1997, Martin Levinson, review of Data Smog, p. 501.

Federal Lawyer, January 1, 2007, Jon M. Sands, review of The Immortal Game, p. 64.

Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, winter, 1999, Paul Gowter, review of Data Smog, p. 513.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1999, review of The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution, p. 1294; June 15, 2006, review of The Immortal Game, p. 626.

Library Journal, November 1, 1994, Tim LaBorie, review of Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads, p. 70; April 1, 1997, Geoff Rotunno, review of Data Smog, p. 115; January, 2000, review of The Forgetting, p. 52; September 15, 2001, Karen McNally Bensing, review of The Forgetting, p. 104.

Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2002, Robert Lee Hotz, "Mind over Matter," p. R5.

Naval War College Review, winter, 1999, review of Data Smog, p. 161.

New Scientist, February 23, 2002, James Kingsland, review of The Forgetting, p. 49.

New Statesman, January 2, 1998, Ziauddin Sardar, review of Data Smog, p. 48.

Newsweek, September 17, 2001, Geoffrey Cowley, "Alzheimer's: A Dignity in Dementia; An Elegant New Book Challenges Us to Make Peace with the Slow, Cruel Decline of the Aging Brain," p. 58.

New York Times, July 8, 1997, Michiko Kakutani, review of The Forgetting, p. B6; March 12, 1998, Katie Hafner, "Discussion with David Shenk and Others on the Effects of Technology," p. D3; April 2, 2002, Marion Roach, review of The Forgetting, p. F5.

New York Times Book Review, September 10, 2006, Katie Hafner, "Long Live the King," review of The Immortal Game, p. 35.

People, November 3, 1997, interview with David Shenk, p. 145; October 28, 2001, Gavin McNett, review of The Forgetting, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1999, review of The End of Patience, p. 73; July 2, 2001, review of The Forgetting, p. 59; August 13, 2001, "Epidemic Proportions," p. 190; June 19, 2006, review of The Immortal Game, p. 52.

Spectator, February 23, 2002, Nicholas Harman, review of The Forgetting, p. 39.

Strategic Finance, November, 1999, Michael Castelluccio, review of The End of Patience, p. 89.

Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2001, Diane Scharper, review of The Forgetting, p. W6.

Washington Monthly, September, 2001, Shannon Brownlee, review of The Forgetting, p. 56.

Washington Post, November 7, 2001, Robin Marantz Henig, review of The Forgetting, p. 56.

Weekly Standard, March 5, 2007, Lawrence Klepp, "The Age of Chess; and the Sport of Kings, Queens, Bishops, Etc.," review of The Immortal Game.

Whole Earth Review, winter, 1999, Howard Rheingold, review of The End of Patience, p. 98.

ONLINE

Amazon.com,http://www.amazon.com/ (August 10, 2007), interview with David Shenk.

David Shenk Home Page,http://www.davidshenk.com (August 10, 2007).

David Shenk Web log,http://geniusblog.davidshenk.com (August 10, 2007).

Online NewsHour,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (March 25, 1998), David Gergen, interview with David Shenk.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (August 29, 2001), Pam Rosenthal, review of The Forgetting.

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