7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
If the style Jeff Jarvis uses to write Public Parts (a bit of a play on Howard Stern's book "Private Parts") is any indication, I'd imagine that Jeff was the kind of kid in school that was perpetually being told to get back to his seat and sit down, and to quiet down a bit. But you know...it works. Jarvis has much to say about the fantastic challenges to commonly held ideas of privacy that the massive hyperdrive toward connectivity in the 21st century poses. His approach to getting it all out in this fairly short book is a bit frenetic, and his never-a-dull-moment journalism can be energizing, or off-putting, depending on your own preferences. Jarvis's approach is far more the shotgun than the high-powered rifle, which allows him to encompass a wide pattern of topics.
While Jarvis acknowledges that privacy has its uses, he is a gigantic advocate of openness, of public access to information, rather than containment. He backs his advocacy with examples that range from the very personal level (where we hear about his urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction after his prostate cancer surgery) to the international level, where he argues that "governments should be public by default, private only by necessity". Good governments, he says, are transparent. Bad governments are invariably, and often lethally, private. While conscious of the collateral damage that can occur with making some forms of information public, I think he would agree with the thought that when all is said and done, when all the dust is settled, when all the fires of public outrage die down, being public with information is a large net gain to society compared to a culture of privacy.
Particularly enjoyable to me was Jarvis's review of the stages of increased communication that humans have gone through: development of language, development of the written word, development of the ability to copy and distribute the written word (think Guttenberg), ability to cast the written word to millions of people simultaneously over the radio, ability to reach millions (now billions) over TV, and now the ubiquitous connectivity of Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, SMS texting, and whatever the newest iteration of ramped up communication will be. And each time (at least once history was being written down), the naysayers and the prophets of doom predicted (only slightly exaggerating here) the end of society as we know it. Which, of course, the prophets of doom were right about: society has ---now and many times in the past--- come to an end as we knew it. Few even wish it otherwise, Jarvis would guess. Millenials, who often have little interest in NRA slogans, would resonate deeply with "You'll get my cell phone and my Facebook away from me when you pry my cold, dead fingers off my keyboards/keypads!"
Flaws? Jarvis likes to use the word "I" and "my" quite a lot. He's more attached to name-dropping than a smoker to nicotine. Just in case you've forgotten that he has a blog, he reminds you of this fact with more insistence than the "Your headlights are still on" chime in your car. Ping, ping, ping. But don't let this ad hominem stuff distract you from this truth: Public Parts will challenge you to think, and regardless of your convictions before you start the book, you'll find yourself with new perspectives by the time you end it. If you don't have time to sit and read it, get the audio download version, and listen during your commute or during your daily (right?) exercise period. Privacy, as we've known it, is dead. How to handle information going forward will be a series of decisions we'll make as a culture and a country. If you're in the camp that likes to make informed decisions, rather than shoot from the hip/lip, Public Parts is a fun, fast primer to get you up to speed.