Really, I don't mind. In fact, I encourage you to steal my book. The way I figure it--and I'm stealing the idea from Cory Doctorow, proving piracy of ideas is pretty common--anyone who steals my book wasn't going to pay for it in the first place.
What am I talking about? Well, I discovered (through the magic of Google Alerts...if you are an author and don't have one set to your name do it now) The Bottom Feeders is available through a file sharing site. Another site has it available for $1.99. Ha! Good luck selling it, folks. I'm not doing so hot at $.99. (5 sold in January so far...)
But I digress. Please, feel free to trade my book "illegally". Any of my books, actually. If it means more people read the books--awesome. The problem, see, is that most book pirates probably don't read all those files. Pirates pirate because they can--I'd say some are addicted to file downloading. I want to meet readers who are addicted to reading. So steal my book. Steal it all over the place. Just leave my name on it, okay, because not to do so would be the real theft.
Speaking of free things and reading, you can sign up for a free preview of The House Eaters. Just fill in the appropriate info off to the left. The book is coming. Soon.
In fact, it goes to print tonight...barring any major problems.
Let's see -- spoke at Maddy's school yesterday, to about a hundred 13 and 14 year olds. Survived. The pear tree and the cherry trees are coming into blossom too. Tomorrow, without the glorious leadership of Bee Boss Sharon Stiteler, I get to inspect the Kitty hive and go and see how the queen is doing...
I'm currently spending most of the time in the gazebo at the bottom of the garden, alternately writing a sort of outline for something and proofreading The Graveyard Book. This is the US edition of The Graveyard Book, and now I'm taking all the corrections and fixes I did to the UK manuscript when I was in Australia and transferring 90% of them over to the US version (only 90% because I'm letting a few Americanisms that my UK editor had problems with stand -- particularly the ones my otherwise wonderful UK copy editor and I butted heads over. )(There's me at two in the morning on Skype muttering, "Look freak out can't just be a newfangled Americanism -- it's in Fanny Hill, for heaven's sake...") [For the curious, http://fiction.eserver.org/novels/fanny_hill/09.html five lines from the bottom.]
If you're on the upper East Coast and sad that you won't get to see me at MIT as all the tickets have sold out, you could -- and should -- down your sorrows in Cory Doctorow. As you will learn over at http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000357.shtml you can learn all about it....
What: Cory Doctorow Benefit Reading For CBLDF
When: Sunday, May 25 at 5 PM; VIP After Party at 7 PM
Where: Comix, 353 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014
General Admission: $20/advance $25/day of show;
VIP Admission: $100/advance only, includes preferred seating, copy of the book, & After Party with open beer/wine/soda bar
General Admission tickets available at
VIP Admission available at
You should go.
I know that David Tennant's Hamlet isn't till next year. And lots of people are going to be doing Dr Who in Hamlet jokes, so this is just me getting it out of the way early, to avoid the rush...
"To be, or not to be, that is the question. Weeelll.... More of A question
really. Not THE question. Because, well, I mean, there are billions and
billions of questions out there, and well, when I say billions, I mean, when you
add in the answers, not just the questions, weeelll, you're looking at numbers that are positively astronomical and... for that matter the other question is what you lot are doing on this planet in the first place, and er, here, did anyone try just pushing this little red button?"
There. Thanks. Sorry about that.
This came in from Laurel Krahn -- I've already mentioned Fourth Street Fantasy on this blog, one of my very very first American conventions, the one at which I first discovered the joy of talking to Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden (amongst others) and failing to argue with Steve Brust:Any chance you could mention the return of Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in your journal/blog thing? We've extended the pre-registration date from May 15th to May 31st to give us all more time to plug the convention, it also gives those who haven’t registered yet a bit more time to gather the funds together to do so.
June 20 - 22, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Guest of Honor Elizabeth Bear.
More details at http://www.4thstreetfantasy.com/
My friend Lillian Edwards pointed me at the TechnoLlama blog, where over This
and finally this post
the entire matter of Dr Who knitting patterns is discussed to within an inch of its life.I crochet, and I'm a Doctor Who fan, so I've been following the thing with the knitted pattern a little. I've always had a set of Lil' Endless on my mental list of things to eventually crochet, but now that you've mentioned that DC is a bit strict about things I think I might just keep them to myself instead of writing up a (free, not to be sold) pattern. What would your feelings be about crochet/knitting patterns of your characters? It's not just The Endless I have in mind, I've done a seven legged spider before, and there are several other characters or concepts that I think would make neat projects.
As long as things aren't being sold in quantity, DC Comics is incredibly unlikely to grumble about it.
I don't mind at all, as long as it's not commercial. I don't mind anything that's creative, and I especially don't mind if people ask nicely first.
(I mind, very much, things like people selling on ebay CDs with PDFs of the complete Sandman
books on them.)
(Nobody is going to complain if a fan turns a Barbie into a Death -- although I heard that DC said no to one of those appearing in a book of photos of interesting Barbie dolls. Nobody is going to grumble if a fan puts up a "how to make Barbie into Death" guide online. If someone put up a how to guide, and then one day hundreds of Death Barbies turned up on eBay, I can see Warners lawyers trying to close it down...)
Had a conversation with Paul Levitz the other day about Gaiman's Law of Superhero Movies, which is: the closer the film is to the look and feel of what people like about the comic, the more successful it is (which is something that Warners tends singularly to miss, and Marvel tends singularly to get right) and the conversation went over to Watchmen
, which had Paul explaining to me that the film is obsessive about how close it is to the comic, and me going "But they've changed the costumes. What about Nite Owl?
" It'll be interesting to see whether it works or not...
Read the rest of this post
Little Brother is the most entertaining instruction manual I have ever read.
Yes, it is a novel, but "novel" just means some sort of extended narrative fiction, and that doesn't give enough of a sense of what the book is up to. This is an unambiguously and unapologetically didactic novel, a novel that not only wants to teach its readers, but wants to inspire them to view the world through a particular lens and to act according to that view. It is a book with a very clear message, but more than just communicating a message, it seeks to give its readers a sense of how to spread the gospel and have fun while doing so.
Doctorow gets away with such open didacticism by pitching the book toward teens. Sympathetic adults will want to give it to kids because it's a pleasurable way to learn about some of the political and social issues likely to be present in their lives, and kids who encounter the book are likely to find it fascinating because of its anti-authoritarian stance -- yeah, it's trying to teach you stuff, but what it's trying to teach you is all the stuff adults don't want you to know!
The story is an exciting one of kids figuring out ways to undermine a police state -- as the title alludes, this is 1984 gone wireless and viral. A terrorist attack on San Francisco causes the Department of Homeland Security to institute draconian surveillance throughout the city and to detain and torture anybody they decide might be doing something remotely related to something that could in some possible way perhaps connect to something connected to terrorism. Thus, our narrator, Marcus, a teenage hacker who happens to be in a relatively wrong place at a very wrong time, spends some days in an undisclosed location where he is brutalized by federal agents. After his release, and after he discovers one of his friends was not released and might be dead, Marcus starts a rebellion via X-Box, a tool he's able to hack to create a secure underground internet. He and his friends and allies share knowledge and ideas, risks and bandwidth. They wreak havoc on the plodding tyrants who are out to destroy life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all open source projects. (Ultimately, the kids do need some help from adults and dead-tree tech, but that's after they've done enough on their own to be causing concern at the White House.)
The story, characters, and prose are nothing particularly special -- if they were, they'd be a distraction from what really matters. This is a functional book, not an artistic one. The plot is fast-paced and surprising enough to keep us wanting to find out what happens, the characters are familiar enough middle-class urban American heterosexual teens to be appealing to the book's target demographic, and Doctorow writes Marcus's voice in an inoffensive approximation of that demographic's argot. There's even some romance and sex, but those elements are about as generic as it's possible for them to be, and they are by far the least convincing or interesting parts of the novel. (If you want to see Doctorow do the traditional elements of a novel better, see Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.)
To focus on traditional novelistic elements in Little Brother would be to miss the network for a few wireless routers. The tradition this book is a part of is less the tradition of 1984 than the tradition of Hugo Gernsback's scientifiction, and in many ways it lives up to Gernsback's vision of what science fiction should be better than any other book I can think of (at the moment). It tells a rousing story and teaches us stuff about science, both the science of now and the science of maybe-tomorrow. It even ships with two afterwords (one by security expert Bruce Schneier, one by hacker Andrew "bunnie" Huang) and a five-page narrative bibliography, all of which will help readers move from the world of the book to the world of the moment. In fact, Doctorow isn't content just to teach readers about tech -- he also wants us to learn some history, so he has Marcus discourse on how cool Jack Kerouac is, what you can find at the City Lights Bookstore, and the nature and purpose of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book.
Some readers have complained that Little Brother is too full of coincidences, that the evil government is made out to be much too stupid, and that not all of the tech stuff makes sense. I'm ambivalent about these criticisms. On one hand, they're almost undeniable. On the other, they're irrelevant. A more realistic book would have made a better instruction manual, yes, but it also would have been less exciting for a general audience. More importantly, it would have been less inspiring.
Because when I call Little Brother an instruction manual, I don't mean to suggest it will give you everything you need to know to turn an X-Box into a tool of revolution. Give up on that idea now, all ye who enter! The information about the Beats and Yippies is what gives it away. This is a book that aspires to be a manual for rewiring your brain. The story doesn't have to be probable or even believable, it just has to suck you in and provide a scaffolding for the information. The information doesn't have to be exact, it just has to be intriguing. The whole doesn't have to be a finely tuned item of aesthetic bliss, it just has to make readers say, "Oh cool! I wonder if..."
And then perhaps you'll do like me, and halfway through the book punch some stuff into Google to check out whether it exists. (ParanoidLinux? Not exactly. But close.) Or start thinking of people to give the book to -- I'm telling some of my high school students about it as well as a friend studying computer science. Because it's a great novel? No. Because it's great propaganda, both entertaining and thought-provoking, more modern and less clunky than The Jungle or Ralph 124C 41+, its ancestors. The strongest memory I have kept of my reading of Little Brother is not a memory of the characters or situations or style, but of the desire to join in fighting the powers that be, the desire to change the world. A naive desire, indeed, one the accumulated cynicism of my oh-so-many years seldom allows, but Little Brother broke through that cynicism with its passionate charm, which makes me think that for the kids who are its intended audience, it could be a wordful amphetamine, a jolt of ideas and possibilities, a manual of instructions for how to dream big.
does anyone care if their library records are being tracked? should they?
ALA OIF has received a grant from the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundation to explore the issue of privacy in the digital age
Panelists: Dan Roth (Wired), Cory Doctorow (CrapHound), and Beth Givens (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse)
no one ever talks about privacy in his world unless he asks the questions
the only time it has ever come up that he can remember was in 2005 when a company lost 600,000 employees’ info (Time Warner) - happened to his parent org
he talked to corporate communications, who hadn’t told anyone; they had lost the info a month before
they said “we’ve only lost tapes 4 times this year”
everyone at work was upset for days
no one ever talked about it again & people stopped talking about it
and these were journalists
how can your reach the public if journalists don’t care?
little incentive for consumers to care about privacy - not sure why they should care (except for the people in this room)
beyond just the question of will a company get spanked for losing information, will consumers use it as a criterion for which companies they will deal with?
some companies have said we have better privacy policies than google - you should trust us
ask.com decided last year that privacy rights would set them apart
- offered askeraser, where users could configure what was stored by the company
but this wasn’t meaningful, and ask is still 4th or 5th in the market
if you use the google toolbar, it’s collecting information about you - steve ballmer tried to make a big deal about it, but consumers didn’t care
cited a survey in which 75% of privacy execs said they don’t share data
however, marketers share the info (some even share SSNs), so the CEOs don’t know their companies are doing this
the idea of the free economy - free as a business model
you get something great in return for info about you
they all count on ads being served up to you
thinks there will be an arms race to offer more info about users, which means more collecting and more sharing
this will build up to a point where we’re all completely findable online
phorm - ad survey company that teams up with ISPs; tracks their users as soon as they log in until they turn off their computers and serve up ads the whole time
there is no real way to opt out of it
it will be very popular and is being tested in the US by Charter
it’s time to decide where we stand on this
if we don’t want to get stuff for free in exchange for data, we need to figure out some way to tell business that we do care about it and how we want to handle it
it all looks hopeless, because it looks like americans don’t care
but think about 7 years ago, when only a dedicated group cared about the environment
now more people care, and the same could happen with privacy
hopefully we won’t have to wait a decade to find out
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse was established in 1992
two types of privacy - informational privacy and constitutional privacy
they concentrate on the former (ACLU and EFF concentrate on the latter)
lines are blurred in reality, but there are too few of us all the way around
provide practical information about how people can protect their identity in credit offers, medical privacy, government records, debt collection, etc. and from identity theft
librarians can turn to the PRC for help with questions such as “how do I get rid of all of those credit card offers I get in the mail?”
a few years ago, Sun CEO Scott McNealy said “you have no privacy, get over it already”
he said visa knows what I bought, someone has my medical records, someone has my dental records, etc.
1967 definition of privacy - when someone can decide what information about them is transmitted to others
Canada & EU do a much better job than US; they have privacy commissioners and we don’t have that (no comprehensive data privacy law)
instead, we have the sectoral approach - a law for this industry, another one for that industry, etc.
HIPAA isn’t a privacy law, it’s a disclosure law
it’s a swiss cheese approach and there are lots of holes
Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted in 1970 - wouldn’t make it out of congress today with the shape congress is in these days
gives you a right of access to your credit report
only creditors, employers, and landlords can access your credit report - if others access it, you can sue
Fair Information Practices - FIPs
when she analyzes an information bill, she has a mental checklist of these things (usage, collection, access, etc.) for evaluating it
most privacy policies are not really privacy policies at all - they’re disclosure policies because there’s no omnibus privacy bill on the books
usually in legalese it’s difficult to understand
throwing up your hands and declaring you have no privacy is not a valid option
instead, we need to take every opportunity to opt out - they have a guide on their website
take control of uses of your personal information
that way, lobbyists can’t say to legislators that we don’t need privacy legislation because only a few people opt out
in fact, let legislators know this is important to enact
librarians are the pioneers - use the PRC resources
we can all do a better job of making sure our privacy is more protected, rather than less protected
put books like Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother - as well as nonfiction - prominently on your shelves and help guide people to resources
encourage users to visit the nonprofit advocacy group websites
when we say do we need to care about the privacy of our patrons in light of the fact they’re already giving away their information on social networking sites, at least sn users are deciding when to give out their personal information
how can you say info is private if other people know it?
well, we have private but secret acts (going to the bathroom, having sex) - this is no different
the further up the ladder you go and the higher up you are, the more power you have to selectively reveal information
the lower you go, the less power you have to hide your info
is this because of bureaucrats or our technology?
why do we enter the skinner box? go online and give away our information?
the system architects create the system, but others create the norms for us just giving away the info without thinking about it
london is ground zero in the privacy wars
wanted to use rfid passes instead of paper tickets - convert everyone over
gave discounts to new rfid users by tripling the cost of paper tickets
same thing with grocery loyalty cards
aimed at people with the least choice
thinks there are businesses who have manipulated the field
this has raised a generation where this is now par for the course and this happens all day long, and not just in commercial settings
it’s become the norm because you have to know what you’re doing to turn off the logging
rfids are set up so that users have no ability to configure, read, or block them
vendors say this would raise the cost of rfid, which is true - the same way seatbelts, brakes, etc. raise the cost (a company couldn’t offer a car today without those things)
it wouldn’t be a market correction when that company went out of business - regulators would take care of it
creates a climate where we have less respect for our own privacy
also where malicious people can read your data and decide what to do with it
libraries are the last bastion of DRM - they’re not treated as first-class citizens
DRM - consumption of material - a word-by-word capacity to track what people are reading
we should be deeply skeptical of these technologies
libraries have a moral imperative to block technologies that expose user data (embodies a snitch)
an information economy based on accessing information isn’t viable
it’s a business model that no one wants
no one woke up this morning asking to do less with their music
at the end of the day, this surveillance undermines our personal security and our national security
surveillance societies are ones where people don’t trust each other
they undermine our security because it makes our haystacks bigger without making it easier to find the needles
our information officials had everything they needed to know about 9/11
the mad response since then has been to make the haystacks bigger
we collect the information to fill the government databases to make it harder for the government to find the critical info
can’t spot the important stuff in the unimportant stuff we’ve collected
in the remote rail stations, we’ve replaced the guards with cameras, which are only forensic
when you have that many cameras, no one watches them
they don’t prevent crimes - they only help you solve them afterwards
cctv is not a means to securing society
crack addicts who mug and kill you for your cell phone don’t have long-term plans and cctvs don’t help with those scenarios
these systems that we build that provide access to this information will determine the societies we build in the future
our decisions as information professionals will determine whether our descendents curse us or praise us
Q: what is at stake here overall?
Beth: there’s a huge amount at stake. if we don’t somehow succeed in getting our message across about speaking out and protecting our privacy, we’ll lose it. so much data is gathered about us, and profiles are being built now; the movie “Minority Report” is a great example of ads being tailored to you. worries the most about when all of these cameras are outfitted with biometric readers that identify the shape of our face, which hooks into the drivers license database - this is very possible and is high on her list to worry about. worried we’re heading in that direction without asking the questions and putting up the barriers
Dan: we’ve seen some of this already - what happens when our health records can be read by insurers and employers? what happens when you apply for a job and they can read those things? when you can’t get a drivers license because of what they know? when you can’t get married? once all of this info is out there, and if we don’t care, what happens when we develop into a nation of niches? you’re the kind of guy that shops for this one thing? as we move away from mass culture to atomization, how does having this private information out there affect us?
Cory: one of the important things to recognzie about this data acquisition is that it’s like uranium. you can buy it on amazon for your science project, and it’s perfectly legal. but you can refine it into plutonium and this is a problem. a little of your private information is one thing, but you can quickly amass a lot of private information in the public domain without even knowing it. the internet will never unlearn what paris hilton’s genitals look like. these things never go back in the bottle. you will never be able to not look up what CEOs of companies were posting on usenet in the 90s. as we confront the potential of our society in 20 years, all of this info will be like smog and we won’t be able to destroy it
dan: we’re in a golden age right now where most companies don’t know what to do with all of this info they have. they just keep collecting it, but at some point they’ll figure it out. if something is going to happen, it has to happen now
cory: or it’s like the breakup of the soviet union, where you could buy the plutonium easily. cited a situation where selling blade servers came with the info on it. you’re loading the gun and handing it to successors forever
beth: recommends the “Dig Dirt” report/survey about how employers are using social network sites and other information as a hiring tool (more than 50%) and making value judgments about individuals and keeping this to themselves. doesn’t apply to privacy or employment laws. old laws are inadequate for covering this kind of thing. let young people know, even though it might not do any good because they may not listen
Q (Jessamyn): these databases exist - we know that. at what point do we either have to say the horse is out of the barn or that there are assurances about things happening? if we’re just waiting for the processors to hit the point where they can use the data, do we need a new strategy about serious top-down legislation? is there any purpose to doing something other than top-level stuff
cory: calls it “turning forward the clock,” not “turning back the clock.” we’re going to regulate how this is used and teach people how to use it. respecting the awesome power of information and regulating this activity. could trivially build a skinner box that rewarded people for protecting their privacy and in fact justin hall is working on this with pmog - the passively multiplayer online gaming (http://pmog.com/)
dan: looking for the transparency side. if we care about this as a society, we have to keep at this and find ways to make it happen. use game theory to your advantage to encourage people to do this. consumers don’t have any idea why they should care about this and you have to teach them why they do
beth: very few people take advantage of the opportunity to view their credit reports. try to get the right of access into law now, because it doesn’t exist. PRC tried to do this last year but failed in california because of the information and credit industries. couldn’t get past the committee hearings. have to keep trying. counting on a “data valdez” doesn’t work because we’ve had one after another (their website keeps track of these security breaches - a running tally). when more people realize that the decision made about them (job, insurance, etc.) was caused by personal information that is out of their control, it will help energize them, but it’s difficult. california is a trendsetter in terms of legislation, but the information broker industry is fighting & blocking this legislation
cory: other tips and tricks that make it easier to game the system - skipxxip (sp?) generates fake logins for registration sites. every time he gets a postal solicitation, he writes “deceased” on it and sends it back
Q kate sheehan (blogger): about 8-9 years ago, Wired ran an article about how to be invisible online. is it even feasible anymore? is it even a good idea to try to make yourself invisible or to manage it? how do you buy a house then?
beth: “how to be invisible” book. can’t be invisible because then someone else has to manage your mail. that’s why she’s a public activist. remember the unabomber? he owned the cabin so records showed that and even he couldn’t be invisible
cory: thinks it’s just bad tactics; shift over the last few years is that “green can be glorious” - doesn’t involve suffering or eating food that tastes bad; being green can actually help us personally - there’s an imaginative opportunity to come up with cool ways to make privacy luxurious
dan: would like to see a point where you can figure out what is being trapped and what you’re giving away. try to read the privacy policies of a lot of websites and they’re incomprehensible
beth: that’s why the right of access would be very valuable - to see what is held about us
dan: the one story he did about privacy, he talked to HP’s chief privacy officer. she described the amount of work HP does to keep user data private in the EU, but not in the US because we don’t require it. wasn’t a no-brainer to just do it here since they were already doing it there
cory: defaults matter. if a router came with logging off by default (or apache) and you had to explicitly turn it on, we’d have a very different world. push legislation and best practices. firefox could do more to surface what information about you is being given away. linux could expose info. the open source world in particular could help with this by setting the defaults to off. there’s a really good inflection/leverage point there by just talking to some geeks in the right way
Q: as librarians, people come into our institutions, how do we convince our users that privacy is important in the age of facebook? what do we do?
cory: friend of his is a hacker who built the “hackerbot” - a robot sat on the floor on the ground with a router on it and it would sniff the area networks and grab unencrypted passwords. it would roll up to your feet and show you all of the passwords you just transmitted; a library that had over the door a printer that showed all of the info you disclosed would be very powerful. having slider bars that show red/green for amount of disclosure
beth: described a game that could be used in libraries. it’s a town square where you’re challenged about privacy data and questions you can answer. can come up with creative ways to educate and inform people; use the library as a launching pad
cory: in a few years, teachers will be able to datamine info about their students as a very instructive lesson
dan: require that everyone check out cory’s books
Q kate sheehan: we’re very concerned about privacy, so we don’t let users see everything they’ve ever checked out. we’re protecting their privacy, but they want to access that info. her library has the ability for the user to turn this on so they see it and staff don’t, but most libraries don’t have that. how do we balance this?
cory: demand of vendors ways they collect information for only the user to access. maybe the data resides only on their library card and not on your server. stuff can live on the edges - doesn’t have to live in the middle, and it can be encrypted. it’s utterly conceivable that if there was demand for it, vendors would produce the solutions
cory made an explicit statement that all of his remarks are in the public domain!
q: how do we argue for this when privacy protections cost money?
beth: could try scare tactics. the more you collect, the more the risk it can get breached. larry ponemon (sp?) has calculated the cost of data breaches ($100-200 cost per name per data breach). the lesson many of these entities have learned is that if we hadn’t collected all of this stuff, we wouldn’t be in trouble now. don’t keep data for very long
cory: has a friend who described a conversation with a self-defense instructor. what do I do if I’m in a dark alley when two guys are following me and I’m alone? answer - don’t go to dark alleys alone
q: as a consumer, i was better able to manage my privacy before 9/11 and before I bought a house. now my info is everywhere. how do I manage this?
beth: in terms of property, create a living trust and don’t put it in your name - this will protect you from real estate ledgers. start young on this one. this is good in general - just have a PO box - so that it becomes habitual. this is why working with young people is so important.
q: but traditional things like banking require a physical address and a Social Security number
cory: need to take control of your technology; jailbreaking drm; take control of debate & learn to speak intelligently about this; danah boyd shows a slide on online predation and how rare these occurrences are - knowing how to speak about the issue is key. third thing is regime change - if you don’t participate in the electoral process, it will participate in you
q: one of the big worries we’re facing today is that after 9/11, there is increased access by government to library information. there is a certain logic to the idea that we’ll be safe if we just give up our privacy. how much safer would we really be if the government knew everything everyone was reading?
dan: thinks people are starting to say that all of data collection this hasn’t helped us at all
cory: safety and security are not platonic universals. you can only be safe by definition from something. if you’re going to be made more safe from terrorists, you have to be less safe from government. this is at odds with the founding principle of this country. if you believe the former, you should go back to the soviet union. saying we are taking away your freedom to keep you safe from terrorism is a fundamentally unamerican premise
q: we have this huge cult of celebrity that everyone feeds into where it’s a cool thing to divulge this information. there has to be a shift for librarians to educate people if there’s a drive to not give out that info. would need a celebrity campaign to counter the norm
beth: that’s a great idea, especially for the long-term consequences
dan: saw this happen in a story about a secretive billionaire. guy purchased a company and never talked to the press. his daughter had a blogging site, though, where she talked about her parents and the fights they’d get into, what she overheard them saying. it revealed a lot about this guy and it enabled dan to approach him to say here’s what I know about you. that blog *stopped* as soon as the guy found out about it
q: transparency has ebbed and flowed across history and we’ll never have absolute privacy. we need to assert positive rights for privacy. how do we watch the watchers and take care of the positive ways?
cory: his daughter is 5-months old, but their first game will probably be 10p for every cctv you spot. wants to make a campaign of post-it notes with closed eyes on them that people can put on cctv cameras - “don’t watch me”
jessamyn: demystifying the media and telling people that it’s okay to not always believe the newspapers and magazines
q: it would be useful for us as a community to look at the successes of the green revolution and how it evolved, maybe piggyback on it. is our “inconvenient truth” “information footprints” instead of “carbon footprints?” get our own al gore and make our own movies. let’s build on that
dan: will have a problem convincing people not to opt-in to things they use everyday, though
cory: there’s a third option between refusenik and throwing up your hands - take control of your habits; use “google commander” firefox extension; in the library, we could redirect doubeclick URLs to 0000 so that library users are not tracked
dan: digital vandalism would make this info useless - a friend clicks around aimlessly to deliberately create false data
q: how can we work better with our IT people? and our vendors? what would be persuasive to the geeks who design our systems?
cory: is a former sysadmin and geeks believe really strongly in privacy for themselves. if you can get those people to expand the universe of people whose privacy they want to protect beyond themselves, they can understand it’s part of their mission
q: the EFF has the Tor program that can be downloaded for free to anonymize web surfing and can be used on library computers, too, if your IT people install it
cory: it was originally intended for naval communications
- additional liveblogging of this session at the Loose Cannon Librarian
, american library association
, beth givens
, cory doctorow
, dan roth
, jessamyn west
, kate sheehan
, open society institute
, privacy revolution
, soros foundation
—Not much reading time today. Shakespeare Club in the afternoon and somehow the morning just went to different activities. Did squeeze in time for about half a chapter of Lucky Girl. Love how she’s retelling the history of her birth parents, her adoptive parents, even the nun who facilitated the adoption.
—Beanie was glued to Usborne’s Living Long Ago all morning long. Wants to make fish pasties (the name made me LOL) and meat pie. Explained to me how to make a fake beauty mark. Showed me pictures of hoopskirts and farthingales, right before the Shakespeare kids arrived & “farthingale” was a word in one of our scenes.
—Baby had his two-month appointment today. Weighed in at 14 lbs! This has nothing to do with reading, of course, but it’s the reason I didn’t read much to speak of today. Schedule upturned. Guess I did read the med journal article refuting the notion of spacing out vaccinations.
—A gardening day. Sorry, books. I’m a foul-weather friend.
—Finished Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom. Doctorow spins an entertaining yarn. And makes me want to run and hide in the nearest neo-Luddite cave. And also, simultaneously and contradictorily, kind of makes me want to go to Disneyland. He paints a future in which scarcity is a thing of the past: scarcity of food, energy, shelter, access to transport, almost everything. The only kind of scarcity left is esteem-based: a good table in a restaurant, primo seats at a Disney attraction. What serves as currency in this kind of society is: esteem. The respect and good opinions of others. Fascinating concept. Doctorow calls it “Whuffie.” When others think well of you, your Whuffie goes up. Poverty amounts to ostracism, worse than ostracism actually, because it isn’t that people are choosing to look past you; they simply don’t notice you at all. Their mental internet uplinks tell them you have no Whuffie and their gazes just slide past you as if you aren’t their, which in a way you aren’t.
The more I think about Whuffie, and esteem as the measure of wealth, the more I wish we could apply a Whuffie system to, say, the AIG execs with their gigantic bonuses they’re sucking out of our bailout money. I have this gleefully nasty image of these people sitting on their millions but unable to find anyone willing to work for them or serve them in any capacity. No drivers, housekeepers, gardeners, nannies, accountants; all the dry cleaners, barristas, and restaurant staff in the country exercising a right to refuse service. Let them do their own taxes and plumb their own toilets. Ha.
Doctorow explores some of the complications and disadvantages of his Whuffie system: a kind of saccharineness overtakes public discourse, because in order for people to think well of you (increasing your Whuffie), they usually need to like you, which means people are careful to speak very pleasantly to each other all the time. Which sounds like a good thing, but if it’s not sincere it would be cloying. And even in a Whuffie economy, the rich tend to get richer and the poor poorer, because the more liked and respected you are, the better positioned you are to influence people and do things that make them admire you all the more. As I said, a really fascinating concept.
(Fair warning to my gentle readers—quite a bit of rough language and promiscuity in the book.)
Finished Rules by Cynthia Lord, a recent Newbery Honor book. 12-year-old Catherine has a brother, David, age 8, with autism. Catherine has great affection for her little brother and is quite protective of him, sensitive to the reactions of others around him, but she is frustrated, too, tired of the embarrassing situations David is constantly, unwittingly creating. At her friends’ houses, he’ll run through the house counting doors and slamming the cellar door if it’s open; a drop of water on his pants will cause him to undress right then and there. Catherine has created a whole set of rules to help David (who loves rules) learn accepted social behaviors; she is constantly adding to the list and reminding David of his rules.
My heart went out to Catherine. My Wonderboy is not on the autism spectrum, but he has some specific behaviors that are quite common in spectrum kids, and I could envision exactly the kind of situation Catherine kept encountering. That wet-clothes thing, Wonderboy totally does that. One drop of water is all it takes. And the fixating on an expected event, the difficulty in dealing with a wrinkle in the plans: oh yes, we’ve been there. But I’m the mom and helping ease my son through these challenges is part of my vocation. Watching Catherine battle frustration at David’s rigidity, seeing how helpless she sometimes felt, I felt some pangs over my older children, who, like Catherine, are extremely patient and loving with their brother, and who, like Catherine, probably feel in over their heads sometimes. Catherine’s parents are wincingly oblivious to her frustration. She longs for time alone with them, and seldom gets it. She longs for time alone with friends, without the complications that David’s presence can entail (as when, during the new girl next door’s first visit to Catherine’s house, David is bothered by the squeaking of Catherine’s guinea pigs and tries to drown them out by shouting), and seldom gets it. And even then, David seems to occupy most of her thoughts.
Catherine’s plight is handled with great sensitivity. Always, her deep love for David is apparent—and is, indeed, the cause of some of her hardest moments. It bothers her when people stare at him, but it bothers her even more when a stranger’s gaze slides past him, deliberately not seeing him. (Hmm, Whuffie again.) But Catherine’s unhappiness runs deep as well, and this is portrayed in an honest and utterly realistic manner.
The best parts of the book are the scenes in which an awkward friendship develops between Catherine and an older boy, wheelchair-bound, unable to speak, whom she sees every week in the waiting room of David’s OT clinic. Jason communicates by pointing at words written on index cards in a binder that is always with him. He’s rather a cantankerous person, clearly depressed, possibly suicidal. Catherine is shy and fumbling around him, not wanting to offend him but often doing so. And yet they become friends. Jason likes her a great deal. Unimpressed by the limited vocabulary his communication book affords him, she offers to make more word cards for him—and this is the heart of the book, because as Catherine searches for words that are important, vivid, useful, meaningful, to include in Jason’s book, she is also searching for words that communicate her own feelings. Her additions to the book range from the comical (”Whatever”—good for annoying your mother with, she tells Jason) to the poignant (”complicated,” “hidden,” “murky”). She’s groping for an understanding of who she is besides “David’s sister,” and she’s searching—though she doesn’t know it—for the courage to not care what people think, because what makes her unhappiest is her anxiety over the opinions of strangers, neighbors, the kids at school, the girl next door. Her friendship with Jason stretches her (and him too, it seems) in ways that are uncomfortable and good.