I was recently given a copy of The Influencing Machine for speaking at a NATO Multi-National Information Operations Experiment workshop and, boy, did I consume this one quickly. This book, written by Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld, is a visual and mental delight and should be mandatory reading for everyone. Full stop.

The Influencing Machine is a short, easy-to-read introduction to not just media, but  the information environment. The book deftly provides a history of information sharing through technological advances, while tackling some of the prevailing narratives about journalism. Digging deeper, though, Gladstone delves  into some of the individual cognitive challenges we face in consuming news and how these ultimately help shape and distort our perspectives. Far from the usual simplified argument blaming journalism or online platforms for our current information problems, Gladstone argues, we are all part of the “influencing machine” and our choices in consumption of information deliver us the media we deserve.

If this book isn’t in the curriculum for teaching students about media and the information environment it absolutely should be. This is by far one of the best introductions on the topic I have read.

The Influence Machine is available on Amazon.

Cover Image: Propaganda poster “Victory Waits On Your Fingers – Keep ‘Em Flying Miss U.S.A.” From Office for Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. (03/09/1943 – 09/15/1945)

About Author

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia is the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With a growing international multi-stakeholder community, the Partnership aims to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats within the information environment. Wanless is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College London exploring how the information environment can be studied in similar ways to the physical environment. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and was a tech advisor to Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Her work has been featured in Lawfare, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, and CBC.

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