Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live Hardcover – Sep 27 2011
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“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, Forbes.com
"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, Forbes.com
About the Author
Jeff Jarvis blogs about media, news, technology, and business at Buzzmachine.com. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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 Forbes.com]
Nevertheless, one can find nuggets of information that clearly show the potential impact of business models that rely on sharing (e.g. - TinyURL resulting in more clickthroughs than direct search on Google - showing the latent potential of Facebook-like platforms on monetizing connections/sharing and the increase in effectiveness of marketing, more relevant targeting). Readers familiar with the domain may not significantly benefit from the discussion on other applications such as Foursquare and many others that are focused on sharing purchase information. Overall, Jarvis makes the argument that sharing information will eventually lead to better targeted more relevant ads, that in turn increase the click-throughs - a win for the advertiser and the platform - and presumably for the target. The discussion on sharing health information had the most potential - while he discounts the reasons for resistance to sharing, he could have focused more on the health/wellness domain - providing the perfect intersection of security/privacy and regulation constraints.
The clear standout chapter is one that outlines the "ethics" of "privateness" and "publicness". In fact, if the book had been organized around these ethics, with specific examples on success (and failure) stories, the reader may have been better served. The first-person narrative style forcing repetitive self-referenced attempts at humor and the earlier-mentioned 'petty' squabble with a critic blogger is likely to mar the interest for most readers. Overall, an above-average read - but Shirky's works in this area is more compelling.
I greatly value Jarvis views and wasn’t disappointed with the value the book added me with its information, but especially with the questions raised and the perspective offered, which helped me better understand the issue.
Overall you won’t get a lot of insights if you follow Jarvis and his ideas, but even so you’ll gain some new perspectives. If you don’t know much about his ideas I highly recommend the book, since I think he has a deep understanding of how the net is evolving, especially in reference to communications.