Mindful use of digital media means thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time. Rheingold outlines five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or "crap detection"), and network smarts. He explains how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. He describes the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; he examines how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and he teaches us a lesson on networks and network building.
Rheingold points out that there is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our individual efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody.
From the effects of the graphic user interface (GUI) not only on how we work but how we think, to "technarchist" movements that presaged both the hacker mentality and the anarchist idealism of Burning Man today, to a ground-floor view of the very earliest of what Rheingold was the first to dub virtual communities, his Excursions run the gamut from the silly to the profound.
These essays remain fascinating, amusing, and relevant. "Most of my work in recent decades," Rheingold says, "has focused on the consequences of digital media and networked publics. Before the digital wave came along, I wrote about a more diverse range of subjects: What causes anger? What’s it like to be in a car crash? What’s insect sex like? Do invisible airborne chemicals affect behavior? Can we control our dreams? How will people get high in the future? Will money evolve into new forms? In the second decade of the twenty-first century, these short pieces re-present my explorations during my think about anything years to a wider public who may be familiar with my work on digital culture."