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Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live Hardcover – Sep 27 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Sept. 27 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451636008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451636000
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #424,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“A refreshing take on a topic often covered by people who feel that the Internet…threatens to imperil our children and undermine our society.”—Jessi Hempel,

"This is a superior work. Not only is it well researched and elegantly argued but he makes some original observations about how digital technology is changing the nature of human self-expression."—John Gapper, The Financial Times

"Jarvis offers a persuasive and personal look at why sharing things publicly on the Web should become the norm... Jarvis works methodically in Public Parts to unravel long-held beliefs about why openness online is dangerous... Jarvis' message of openness will be provocative to many, but what he explores is only the beginning of a revolution that will continue to change how we use the Web—and how the Web uses us."—Mark W. Smith, Detroit Free Press

"The author of What Would Google Do? returns with another thoughtful look at the Internet age. A welcome and well-reasoned counterpoint to the arguments that social-networking sites and the easy availability of personal information online are undermining our society and putting our safety at risk... A must-read for anyone interested in the issue of connectivity versus privacy."—David Pitt, Booklist

"It's important and will become more so, and I'm very glad Jeff has written his valuable book."—Stephen Baker, author of The Numerati

"How do we define what is public and what is private? What are the benefits and dangers of living a life in which everything is shared? Jarvis explores these questions and more in his immensely readable, chatty style... No one knows what's going to happen next. But people like Jarvis are having fun making sense of these confusing early years."—Niall Firth, New Scientist

"Jarvis makes a powerful case for re-framing the way we think about privacy, and for better appreciating the benefits of “publicness” in the information age."—Adam Thierer,

About the Author

Jeff Jarvis blogs about media, news, technology, and business at He is associate professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and lives in the New York area.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Contemplating Public and Private Parts Nov. 10 2011
By Daniel Murphy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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 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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Sharp examination of the trade-offs between privacy & "publicness" Sept. 27 2011
By Adam Thierer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jeff Jarvis has written a provocative book that will force us to have a serious conversation about the trade-offs between enhanced privacy rights and "publicness" -- which he defines as the benefits that come "from being open and making the connections that technology now affords."

Some will bristle at the notion that privacy "rights" should be balanced against any other right or value. If we desire the benefits of a more open and transparent society, however, it is a conversation we need to have. As Jarvis correctly notes, publicness improves interpersonal relationships, empowers communities, strengthens social ties, enables greater collaboration, promotes transparency and truth-seeking, and helps enliven deliberative democracy, among many other things.

Of course, new innovations in information technology -- the printing press, cameras, microphones, and now search engines and social networking -- have always spawned new privacy tensions. Ultimately, though, they also bring tremendous benefits, Jarvis correctly notes. The Internet revolution and all the angst that it entails is just the latest in this reoccurring cycle. We're going through the same growing pains our ancestors did with previous technologies and it's important not to overreact.

Whatever your view on privacy and the law governing it, it's always good to hear the other side of the story. Jarvis delivers it here with gusto and makes a powerful case for re-framing the way we think about these challenging issues going forward. Incidentally, those who find this topic of interest should also check out "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us To Choose Between Privacy And Freedom?" by David Brin, which also makes the case for increased information sharing and publicness.

[My longer review of "Public Parts" can be found at]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not scientific enough Dec 10 2012
By Nathan Campos - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author wrote a lot about his opinion that our current excessive lack of privacy is a "good" thing, but he hasn't exposed a very scientific backing to his opinions which made the book lack a good knowledge base. Also the majority of the scientists studying in this area are going to say that our current state on privacy is a very bad thing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book will change to all. March 20 2012
By Tetsuya Koja - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Now, this book has become the center of attention even in Japan.
History brought people various benefits and a new problem by Gutenberg's printing technique invention. Privacy and a public concept. Celebrities' scandal.
Facebook, a twitter, a social networking service.
It is necessary to protect ethics in those use.
The share is teaching it that monopoly of knowledge or information is unnecessary now. Invention of printing changed the world and changed history.
The Internet also changed all. And the Internet is the eighth continent. The rule for living on the eighth continent.
This book is teaching it. It is knowledge required for a man of today.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Privacy Is Dead, Long Live Privacy - Private Thoughts on Public Parts Sept. 30 2011
By H. G. Van Ess - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
By the end of my presentation about the dangers of social media, some of the audience had left. My aim was to tell about something I call the Privacy Paradox - to me the heart of Jeff Jarvis' book Public Parts.
Let me define the Privacy Paradox. People love to share personal details with total strangers. But there is outrage when these strangers misuse personal information.
I was hired by information specialists of high schools. The ones that left thought they just witnessed the result of some serious hacking into personal databases. They simple didn't believe that the information was published voluntarily. By their own students.
I took the insignificant personal details of one single person from Twitter and Facebook, combined them with some marginal geodata from Foursquare, mixed them with a few more particularly unnewsworthy facts from other networks (with the help of Spokeo) and made a narrative of them. I told a story. A real story. The sum of all these public parts ? A naked person. He told us where he lived, what he loves, what he hates, why he does things, what his cell phone number is, where he works, his family and friends, everything.
Did this person intend to tweet or post personal details? Yes. Does the person hate that a stranger makes his whole life public? Yes. That's the Privacy Paradox.
The definition of privacy is shifting, says Jarvis. That's ok. We just don't want our data used against us. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, hated that someone published a ton of personal details just by .. Googling him. We want to express ourselves, we want to find information about other people, but want to control our own information. Which we can, but we don't because we want to share.
I think the openness is great. In a transparent world, wonderful things can happen. I love my Flipboard where I can make my own magazine about niche topics that are extremely important to me. I read thoughts that are fresh and at the same time fragile.
I can follow the first thoughts of gatekeepers in `journalism',' internet research for reporters' and even `people who design internet research courses for reporters'. I can read how new ideas are conceived. I can participate.
Even specialists will sooner or later talk about what they ate, their holidays or the weather or how great their newest book is. But thanks to intelligent filters and the curated web, I won't know. I can ignore the personal details. But if I want to, I can make the person behind the specialism come alive with all the mediocre details of daily life.
University of Amsterdam, introductory tour. After the first student introduced herself, I said: "Hold on. Let me do this". I show the students their own public details from Facebook and Twitter. Your mother's birthday is tomorrow. You want bigger breasts. You only slept one hour last night. You killed your cat.
Again, some are shocked. But all of the details are from authentic posts. The solution to the paradox is not to protect people from themselves with more privacy laws. It's about the misuse of personal data, not the personal data itself.
Do we need more privacy filters? Do we need more laws? Must Facebook be stopped? How evil is Google? In the few seconds that it took you to read these questions, over 100,000 people typed "Can gonorrhea be cured?" into Google and they were happy to find a companion who is transparent and honest.
Another 10,000 people just searched for "I lied to my boyfriend about my age" and found real people with the same problem.
The risk of transparency is not the loss of our privacy. The risk is that we lose ourselves in a virtual world of personal tidbits and we are shocked when it leaves that world.

Jeff Jarvis wrote a book that will be required reading for my students. With great skill he proves, yes proves, that the current privacy debate is too simple.
That we shouldn't concentrate on what is there, but on how we use it.