Saturday, April 05, 2014

Closing the circle

The Circle, by Dave Eggers.
I mean, all this stuff you're involved in, it's all gossip. It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it's fucking dorky.

Like, smile, favorite, zing, tweet, thumbs up, vote up, recommend, pin, forward, plus, doubleplusgood.

Recommended for anyone who has ever tweeted, messaged, sent an email, answered a customer survey, reviewed, commented, posted a status update, joined a community.


Society buys into the idea that ever increasing levels of "transparency" are of ultimate benefit to all. The Circle implements what sounds like great ideas at first — politicians that wear cameras on them at all times, criminals that are easily identifiable in a crowd, children that can never be abducted because they are instantly trackable via GPS, etc., — but along the way, all personal freedoms are one by one jettisoned, and the reader is faced with seeing (literally) what it would really be like to be at all times monitored, and "known" by anyone else who wanted to observe what you were up to.

So Many Books:
The Circle was a page-turner, the horror of watching Mae get sucked into the hivemind is delicious.

Betsy Morais: Sharing Is Caring Is Sharing, The New Yorker
But even without the searing wit of "1984," the book is capable of landing on point—when it's at its most irksome. Where "1984" has the vigilant Police Patrol and Thought Police, "The Circle" has SeeChange and Clarification. Surveillance isn't a bad word; it's a gift, even a human right.

Margaret Atwood: When Privacy Is Theft, The New York Review of Books
The nineteenth-century art critic John Ruskin—who famously said, "Tell me what you like and I’ll tell you who you are"—viewed bad taste as a moral offense, and the young Circlers subscribe to this dogma: nothing gets you the brushoff more quickly than a pair of uncool jeans. Utopia, it seems, is an awful lot like high school, but with even more homework.

Ellen Ullman: Ring of Power, The New York Times
She is more a high school mean girl than an evil opponent. Perhaps this is what Eggers wants to say: that evil in the future will look more like the trivial Mae than it will the hovering dark eye of Big Brother.

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