A bad review of me

Update: Some asked for a fuller response and so here it is, on a Google Doc because it’s just so darned long. Here is a link to his response, in turn.

The thrashing my book and I just received from Evgeny Morozov was as preordained as the last election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Months ago, he bragged that he had me in his crosshairs, assigned to review Public Parts — even before I had finished writing the book. The New Republic assigned him with the sure expectation he would do this, for Morozov reliably dislikes me, just as he dislikes people I quote, whom he lists: Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott, Jay Rosen, Arianna Huffington, John Perry Barlow, Steven Johnson, Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, Nick Denton, Umair Haque, Doc Searls. We are, in his view, “comrades in the Cyber-Uptopian International.” Good company in my view.

I wish Morozov had tackled issues and ideas to show how it’s done. He wants an intellectual examination of the topic — accusing me of not providing it — but then he doesn’t offer one himself. Instead, he only writes a personal attack. It has the air of history’s longest troll’s comment. I could choose to feed him and reply to his complaints — his mischaracterizations (I imagine no “privacy police”) and his hysterics (he finds Streetview to be a case of Germans “tyrannized by an American company”) and his amusing overreaches (he complains about the names Habermas and Oprah appearing in the same book). And I could point out that he omits my agreement with and praise of him (putting him in bad company, to be sure) . But in the end, such a discussion would end up looking like this… Me: “You don’t like me.” Him: “No, I don’t.” So what? One price of publicness is haters. He fulfills that role for the people listed above and more.

Of course, I am linking to Morozov’s piece. I worship at the altar of the link, remember. “Geek religion,” he calls my faith. I trust that you’ll make your own judgments — because, you see, I am a utopian and a populist and fool enough to trust a public empowered by these new tools, which I hope to see us all protect. But then, that’s what my book is really about. You wouldn’t know it on the other side of this link.

(By the way, you’ll find you’ll have to read this very, very long screed in very small type on a printer-only page — the link Morozov provided — because that gets around his publication’s pay wall.)

  • Intergalactic Federation of Planets

    Your stock defense to any serious criticism of your ideas is that you are being personally attacked. This is not true. You should be able to stand up for your ideas.

    • http://www.twitter.com/themadav Madav

      Agree here, without having read the book yet, Morozov critisizes mainly the content and not your person (although he doesn’t seem to like you or any other Web 2.0 author very much). And in my opinion, the book critic does not need to provide the intellectual examination of a topic but only to point out what the book he is reviewing is missing.

      Btw. in your response you quote him wrong with “he finds Streetview to be a case of Germans “tyrannized by an American company” , while he argues that there might be more explanations than the one you deliver and this is one of them (there are several)

      • Oleg

        You are right, Madav. Jeff does quote Morozov wrong in the case of Streetview. I think it is a very strange thing for a journalism professor to do…

    • Jon A.

      Yes, I read Morozov’s review, and it is quite substantive in its critique. Mr. Jarvis’ response here is more of a personal attack (‘he just doesn’t like me’) than the review itself, which painstakenly addresses several of Public Parts’ substantive points and shows how a number of them are internally inconsistent or exhibit repeated logical fallacies.

      There are maybe one or two points where it critiques you beyond what is in the text of the book, but these are incorporated into the substantive critique of elements of your argument. I see no problem with this.

      I agree with Madav as well. Your only substantive response to Morozov in this post (regarding Germany and street view) misquotes him. He does not say street view is an example of Germans being ‘tyrannnized by an American company’, he lists this as one possibility amongst many examples of how the Germans themselves may have viewed street view. He then faults you for failing to explore all of these possible perspectives.

      If you have responses to his substantive critiques, I’d be very interested in hearing them.

      • Jon A.

        While I disagree with many elements of your longer critique, your main argument against Morozov — that your main point is the need for is championing ‘publicity’ is not addressed — is valid. He certainly does not address that thesis comprehensively.

        He does address it in one or two places. For example, he refers to the privacy minimalists, which argue that what is valuable in privacy can be protected by other rights, and what’s left is but a hindrance. He also references Richard Posner, who has made the most compelling and lasting critique of privacy, stating it’s economically inefficient and should not be protected outside narrow parameters (in much the same way you argue).

        BTW, you should probably be made aware that Posner’s arguments have probably had far more sway on the development of legal policy (to this day) than those of the privacy advocates you so vehemently deride. On that note, IAPP is not, in fact, comprised of privacy advocates, but rather privacy professionals, primarily privacy consultants, in fact, who do work in advising on compliance but, on the policy side, generally advocate for less or no privacy regulations.

        You are, of course, correct that privacy international is not the SOLE force for privacy in the world (just as Google is not the only company calling for lax privacy regulations), but PI remains one of the better funded, more organized, and longest lasting ones. Still, their resources pail in comparison to those of your average tech company calling for an end to regulation.

    • http://buzzmachine.com/ Edward R. Jarvis-Pope

      I found Morozov’s review to be generally well-aimed, and were I a disinterested reader looking for a new book to read, I would be persuaded by his review to leave your book on the shelf.

      I don’t agree with the tone of Morozov’s review, but the acerbity doesn’t lead me to miss his intent.

      As it is, I am a reader of your blog, so I intend to read your book.

  • http://www.loichelias.com Loïc Hélias

    I agree with you.
    Nice post Jeff.
    Best Regards

  • sorin7486

    It’s ON! To the netmobille!!! Whooooooossshhhhhhh!

  • Bursting with Glee about Habermas
    • Andrew

      That link runs into the paywall, which might have been your point because the version there is much shorter (and more readable as a result?). If you want to read the whole thing comfortably try (apple or ctrl) + “+” a couple times on the printout page. On most browsers this will increase the font size. Jarvis’ final burn falls a little flat because of this. I was surprised he went there (the font size issue, not the paywall) because the small printer type in browsers is so easily remedied. Maybe the feature isn’t well known.

  • Jeremy

    Jeff – you hit the nail square on the head: (in the words of The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy) Longest. Troll. Ever.

    I’m certainly no fan-boy of all of Jeff’s views on how we ought to live life, enjoy our liberty, and how we pursue happiness, but the vitriolic review of his book as only a complete pile of rubbish akin to a Commie pinko bastard’s maniacal ravings, as Mr. Morozov seems to do, is a bit much. Mr. Morozov seems more pissed that Jeff gets invited to speak at Davos than he does about whether there is value in allowing yourself to be part of the public rather than the skulking, antisocial dork in the corner.

    • Steve

      A troll is somebody who diverts attentions from the issues raised. I am no fan of Morozov, but he does focus firmly on the issues Jeff raises. This is called civilised debate.

      The ball’s in Jeff’s court now to rebut Morozov’s points. Jeff doesn’t do so here and maybe he won’t. But I hope he does.

  • Robert levine

    Agreed. Jeff, why not rebut his points?

    It seems the TRUE geek religion is to complain that those who disagree with believers ‘just don’t get it.’

    • Pancho Villa

      You just don’t get it, dinosaur man.

  • Robert Levine

    Also, Jeff, do you really say in the book that you don’t want your salary made public? Since you work for the city, I’m pretty sure that’s public information already. As it should be.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      If you’d read the book, you’d see that I do say how much I make as a professor because it is public. Gosh, he got something wrong.

      • Robert Levine

        Fair enough – that was a question, not a statement.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          My point in that section is that not everything is public. I believe in privacy. I have my own privacy. So I try to catalog what that privacy is. He uses a simplistic scale: my not releasing my passwords is hypocritical? Clearly not. I end up revealing much about my finances, pointing out that much of that information could be found out anyway, but say that I find talking about income uncomfortable and in examining that I believe it is cultural (vs., for example, Scandinavia).

      • Mind your own beezwax

        And for those who “worship at the altar of the link”, you can look up Jeffrey A. Jarvis’ salary here:

        http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/executive/

        $120k

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Yes, that includes summer salary. When I wrote the book, I was not getting it, so I quoted the lower number of 90+. This year I am through a grant for the center I run.

      • student of publicness

        Is it true that you are a CUNY professor, the head of the department and have tenure despite the fact that you have no academic degrees nor previous teaching experience? How did you pull that one off?!

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          I teach in a professional school.

        • Robert levine

          I disagree with Jeff about quite a bit, but attacking his academic credentials is just lame. Hardly any journalism profs have advanced degrees. And who cares, anyway? Much of the dumbest academic work about the online world comes from Harvard and Stanford.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Oh, my, Robert, from you that’s quite the defense. Thanks.

          I will later address my view of credentialing and universities.

        • Robert Levine

          Jeff, I respect the content of your character – I just don’t like the character of your content. (Sorry.)

          In the spirit of openness, I wanted to let you know that I have criticized your views on my blog, http://freeridethebook.wordpress.com . (It’s not about your new book, which I haven’t read; it’s about your thoughts on paywalls.) You are more than welcome to respond (and obviously also to ignore it.) I am not saying this as a challenge, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I just thought it would be friendlier to tell you about it than to have you hear about it from someone else.

        • Mark

          Levine,

          Expect Jarvis to attack you for your “baseless personal slur” (sic) against him. Remember, Jarvis is always the victim.

          Always.

        • ken nielsen

          Seems you got that one wrong, Mark

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Robert,
          I responded even before I saw this comment.

        • ken nielsen

          It’s a bit early to say that paywalls are a successful model. I suspect many of the page views at nyt.com are readers staying under the 20 articles a month. The number of paying subscribers is still not high for a paper lie the Times.
          Personally, I want to see newspapers find a way of being paid for online content. I want to see papers as we know them survive online.
          But it has not yet happened.

      • Paul Johnson

        Jarvis has a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In many disciplines, this wouldn’t be enough for tenure, but Journalism as a field includes real-world experience as a criterion for academic advancement because it is a trade-related occupation. Also, Jarvis has written books, so he meets the research requirement.

  • Hermes

    You need a raise.

  • http://eriksbates.com Erik Bates

    I just finished reading Morozov’s book, The Net Delusion, yesterday, and when I closed the book, all I could think was, “I wonder what Jeff Jarvis thinks of this.”

    Fortunately, that same day, the public library notified me that the copy of Public Parts that I had put on hold finally arrived. So now, I get to get my question answered.

  • http://eriksbates.com Erik Bates

    I couldn’t even finish that entire review. It was just frustrating to not read any real constructive criticism of the book, but rather a run-on attempt at punching holes in Mr. Jarvis’s book by mocking him rather than through logic.

  • Dale Hollohan

    Jeff, are any of Mr Morozov’s criticisms valid in your view?

  • Friendly Observer

    I love it.

    1) If this is such a valueless, poorly written book, why such a long and detialed review. Why not just ignore it?

    2) It the review is so outrageously bad, why break the paywall to spread it?

    Why not let Google just bury it in more favorable links?

  • Media Heretic

    It is a detailed and lengthy review and Mr.Jarvis’s response merely rather proves the critics’ points about his lack of intellectual seriousness.

    Calling a critic a ‘hater’ is the method of scientolology by the way.

  • Andrew Smith

    LOL. Nothing says “screw you” back like a link that bypasses their paywall. Classic. Well done!

    Andrew

  • John Ettorre

    Your bullshit over many years has simply caught up with you. Deal with it, pal.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Trolls really do hang out together. Welcome back. How’s the bridge?

      • http://www.workingwithwords.blogspot.com John Ettorre

        Your use of the childish webby word “trolls” to try to dismiss and marginalize critics rather than engaging with their ideas is in itself a brilliant example of what TNR (and Ron Rosenbaum in Slate before that) was talking about. I’ve made sustained and serious criticisms of you over many years, based on the substance (actually lack of substance) of your positions.

        And while troll might suggest some angry marginal person (you couldn’t so easily marginalize Slate or TNR as you try to do with commenters here), I’m actually a deadly serious veteran writer with credits in national publications, including the NYT. But the callow and pseudo-intellectual Entertainment Weekly part of your writerly soul evidently can’t seem to bring itself to have the courage to grapple with real arguments from smart people who don’t accept your shallow premises.

        So instead you deflect, delay, change the subject or just (in a marvelously delicious bit of irony) try to simply ban someone from the conversation. That strategy hasn’t worked, and will never work. You of all people ought to understand that, if only you just read your own writing and actually took it to heart. But in the end, you really always cared more about being a talking head, however shallow-minded, than you did about journalism, freedom of expression and the primacy of truth. That has always been your real Achille’s Heal.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          All you do is attack. Still true.

      • ken nielsen

        “Your bullshit over many years has simply caught up with you. Deal with it, pal.”
        The definition of a troll is not completely clear, but that remark certainly qualifies, Ettorre.
        What’s going on here” – Professional jealousy? Clearly much more than a disagreement about where the internet is going and its implications.
        We should be told.

    • Oleg

      Agreed. Jeff is obviously a smart guy but his “What would Google do” was really full of bullish. I wish I could feel differently about the book, though. Nothing personal, Jeff!

  • ken nielsen

    When I read the TNR review, I guessed there was something personal.
    It was simply not a professional review of the arguments in the book.
    To anyone who wonders if the review is far, I say read the book and judge for yourself.

  • ken nielsen

    Seems to me it is bad practice for a journal to commission a review from the writer of a competitive book. It rarely;y helps a reader to decide whether to read the book.
    It is funny though, when a review finishes with
    “Though this book has its merits, we have to conclude that the definitive work on the history of boatbuilding in Lithuania in the seventeenth century has not yet been written.

    Professor William Jones, whose book on the history of boatbuilding in Lithuania in the seventeenth century will be published next Fall.”

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      It’s not just that he has a competitive book but that he is on the record hating me and those I cite. They knew what they were getting. And they got it.

      • Paul C

        He doesn’t hate you, Jeff. He dislikes the position that you take because he believes that you fail to see the underlying assumptions that your position is based, and that those assumptions are potentially dangerous when taken out of context. He also dislikes the lack of rigorous thinking present not just in your own books, but in many of the Web 2.0 proponents, and personally I think that this is clear from his review. While he does bring in personal details that the review could do without, that doesn’t mean the review is a personal attack.

  • Mark

    “I wish Morozov had tackled issues and ideas to show how it’s done. He wants an intellectual examination of the topic — accusing me of not providing it — but then he doesn’t offer one himself. Instead, he only writes a personal attack.”

    Yes, Jeffrey, we all know: Everyone who dares to criticize or question a position or positions of yours is mounting a personal attack against you and the Jarvis name. Mommy forever told you that you were always correct. It’s the rest of us that never got the message.

  • Russell French

    Jeff, I don’t know much about either of you, but your response to the book review along with your “troll” comments and lead me to believe that the critic is correct.

  • http://blogdredd.blogspot.com/ Dredd

    Don’t worry about it Jeff. Onward and upward.

  • Stan Hogan

    I do see Jeff’s overriding point here. I, for example, could never write an objective review of his book. I disagree with too much of what he has already said and find his reasoning shallow, ill-defined and often churlish.

    I do not believe Jeff Jarvis brings much to the table other than overblown, broad concepts delivered with bluster. How could I review a book he’s written, much less suffer through reading it?

    • Mark

      Yes, Stanely, anyone who dares to question Jeffrey in a book review was obviously biased against him from the outset. Anyone who dares to suggest that Jeffrey is not all-knowing and always correct can only be subjectively opposed to Jeffrey as an individual and in all matters about which Jeffrey chooses to comment.

      Jeffrey’s mother is correct: Everyone who dares to doubt her Jeffrey must be against him.

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        Well, that added a lot to the substance of the conversation. Even less than the “review.”

      • Mark

        Just blogging by your principles, Jeffrey.

        My best to your mama.

      • Steve

        “Everyone who dares to doubt her Jeffrey must be against him.”

        Unfortunately Jeff seems to be trying his darndest to prove you right.

        Writer A makes a series of statements. Writer B says “you fail to account for X,Y and Z”. The onus is then on Writer A is to explain why X,Y and Z are not necessary to support the arguments.

        Instead, Jeff says “you hate me, I will not address your criticisms, go away”.

      • Mark

        Steve,

        Not to worry, AIPAC’s own, Howie Kurtz, will still have Jeffrey on CNN next weekend to discuss the Greatness of Steve Jobs’s Backdating Stock Options or some equally banal high tech issue.

        Meanwhile, everyone in D.C. knows that Kurtz’s wife, along with the paid Missus of Jonah Goldberg, teaches Frigid I and II classes four nights a week in the basement bomb shelter at Heritage Foundation HQ.

        Hey, when you’re paid members of the Georgetown-Hamptons Cocktail Club like Jeffrey and Howie, you don’t get paid media gigs for the quality of your information: you get paid media gigs for toeing the neighborhood line.

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  • http://lisadawley.wordpress.com Lisa Dawley

    Jeff, I haven’t followed your work since WWGD first released. I logged in tonight to see what you were up to and was bummed to hear you were dealing with cancer. I’m glad to see your finding the power in the situation by writing about it, candidly, openly, sharing the bitch of it all that many of us often feel in less worthy circumstances.

    Thanks for giving a voice to these issues. I have a very close friend who is in the same place. I believe in good vibes, so I’m sending some your way. Keep up the fight, your words have had a major influence on my thinking and work.

  • librarygeekadam

    I have yet to read the book and found the link to this site through the NY Times article. I did not finish the review that we are speaking of due to the fact that it was an obvious attack, personal or of another nature, because the review was not actually telling me anything about the points in the book. It just comes off as a rabid rant.

    For the rest of us bystanders, this includes myself as I have yet to read the book but will, instead of ridiculing Jarvis or Morozov as a person, the better stance would be to ask questions and attack Jarvis’ work if you disagree with it – after you have actually read it. I am not saying that I agree with Jarvis that Morozov attacked him personally, but Morozov’s review was anything but what I expect from a review; however, the individuals who have commented on this blog post are hardly ones to cast stones. Jarvis must have a huge following of children from the comments that were made. I haven’t heard “mama” mentioned in an argument since I was in middle school. Jeff should actually be thanking everyone who has made the childish comments. Because of those comments, the rest of us can now deduce that we will not have to worry about finding value in anything they say and can from now on ignore them.

    Thank you Jeff for generating this discussion with your post as it has shown some of us that there are people that cannot handle publicness and perhaps that is the fear of all those who scream for absolute privacy – everyone would find out how useless they are. I look forward to reading the book.

  • http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com SocraticGadfly

    OK, reposting, in case Jarvis’ blog spambot-files a post with multiple URLs:

    Damn, that’s a GREAT takedown Morozov has … I’ll have to post that on my own blog. I’ve not read enough of everybody on the list to have the exact same number of #newmediafail A-listers, but you, Rosen, Shirky and Huffington are certainly there for me, too.

    Oh, and if you all want to learn more about the reality of the media’s future than new media fluffers will tell you, here’s the book you need to read to get started: http://www.amazon.com/Will-Last-Reporter-Please-Lights/dp/1595585486/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

    In it, Thomas Frank, among other things, eviscerates Jay Rosen with an anecdote from when Rosen interviewed Roger Rosenblatt, CEO of New Media writing serf farm Demand Media (eHow and other sites).

    And the hardest-hitting interrogation Rosen could do was ask, “If you love the Web, then why are you doing this, running these content farms?” And, Frank indirectly lets us understand that that attitude toward the financial side of how most New Media can’t be financially supported well, unless run on a hypercapitalist model, and the refusal of Rosen, Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis and others to address this, is the problem with most New Media fluffers.

    Otherwise, for Robert Levine and others of like mind, I suggest reading the new Salon series of articles on the hollowing out of the culture class, Jarod Lanier at The Edge and more.

  • http://www.inaperfectschool.com Jeff

    Speaking of reviews:

    Jeff – I just reviewed your old book on my education blog. I am a huge fan. Can you + and retweet it?

    http://www.inaperfectschool.com

    I don’t sell anything, just want to increase my blog viewership up from 3! :)

    Thanks!

  • indc

    I haven’t read your book, but I have read your blog and the points Morozov has raised about the book are true for your blog as well. He’s right on the money.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Then how would you know? This is your standard?

  • Name it

    I stopped reading your blog years ago after you took strong exception to a counter-argument I made and then banned my IP. I was delighted to read TNR piece because it reminded me of how superficial your arguments are.

  • Todd

    Jeff, the main reason I follow you is because I disagree with you a lot. It frankly annoys me that you are such a good advocate for your stance. I was, if anything, well disposed towards the author of a critical review of your book.

    Unfortunately, reading that review didn’t provide me with a reasoned response to your book. All I got from that review was the fact that he apparently dislikes geeks and is distrustful of all the crazy internet types. Oh, and boy does he hate you.

    Some snarky comments to this post try to make it sound like all you do is dismiss criticism by claiming it’s a personal attack. I cant’ speak to other instances, but anyone reading this review will come away with only one take away. That is to wonder what you did to this fellow to make him toss out his ability to reason and simply resort to … well one long troll post.

  • bingfan

    Why didn’t you name your second book “What would Facebook do ?”

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  • http://www.mattsnod.com Matthew Snodgrass

    Why did Evgeny Morozov give a review more of Jeff Jarvis and less of the book? As I read Evgeny’s review, the image of John Hodgman’s character on “Bored to Death” came to mind. (Those who watch the show should agree with that reference.)

  • http://gtr-skyline.com/ Martin

    Nice response to a bad review. I think you flipped it, and that he was looking for a reverse form of attention, which in essence throws a bit more attention your way, which can be a plus.

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  • Mike

    Hi Jeff,

    I read an article from Evgeny Morozov in my (Dutch) newspaper, and I had seen a great documentary with him on (again Dutch) television. The man is very book-smart, well educated and very well able to ‘understand’ topics related to internet and communication in terms of history.

    I think the review was overly detailed, and he is sometimes a bit of an asshole: some of his stuff was ‘ad-hominem’ I think. To that last, he says in the Dutch newspaper NRC this week: “I have no problem telling people they are full of shit, I don’t need to be liked, I have nothing to lose and don’t have to anybody to care for: I have no mortgage and no children”

    But when you posted it on Google+, you should read the reactions! So typical on the internet, nothing but ‘ad-hominem’. Those are your readers. Not very intellectual!

    But then again, I am from Europe not the US. I think we have more sense of history. And so we can appreciate Evgeny Morozov, because that is exactly what he brings to the table in this discussion. Read his conclusion: he is critical of so-called internet intellectuals, that go from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, and skip all that is in between.

    I don’t know how proud you should be with the support from your readers if they take a look at the review from Evgeny Morozov and then come to the conclusion that he is simply a douchebag or a hater. I think that’s very American (“fuck yeah”) to say “tl;dr haters gonna hate” where the ‘American’ part is the ‘dr’ or ‘did not read’

    I did read, and I was impressed. I’m curious how Europeans review your book. I can see some hypocrisy in your writing. In Europe we care more about privacy, so we are less likely to see your point of view. Evgeny Morozov comes from the eastern block I believe. You must understand his history too, he will be even less inclided, you understand that I hope?

    For example: why did you pounce on his ‘tyranny from an American company’ and not on his ‘Stasi history’ comment about Germany vs Google Maps? Is it because bringing to the foreground the first comment it is easier for your American reader to say ‘ugh, what a douchebag’ whereas the second comment would make your American readers go “WTF is a Stasi?” In other words: I think here you took the easy, non-intellectual road by highlighting a part that seems flame-bait for Americans (works all the time) instead of the possibly more historically correct interpretation that would require more insight to comment on.

    Anyway, I think you got pwned by an intelectual, but that’s just my opinion. I think your book will be read more that Evgeny Morozov’s writing, so you have more influence, so then you ‘win’ (more Klout, fuck yeah!).

  • john smith

    I see a lot of irrelevant bickering here. Is there a different place I should post my questions/observations about the book?

  • john smith

    We will assume for the moment that this is the appropriate place to post discussion regarding the book “Public Parts”.

    I am about 2/3 of the way through it. I have several questions:

    While reading this I found myself thinking about how I would define privacy or more importantly how I would decide what seemingly trivial bits of information about me should be considered private.

    If a hundred random people approached me during a week and asked me seemingly harmless questions like “do I like grapefruit?”, “have i been to a doctor in the past week?”, “am i over 50?”, “does grapefruit appear on my weekly grocery list?” I would probably answer all of them honestly. I probably would not think much about it. If one stranger asked me a battery of questions like that I might be more inclined to not answer them at all. But here is one thing that keeps bugging me. What happens when you find out that those one hundred random people all got together on saturday to compile their notes on you? Does that approach the “creepy” line? It would for me. And it definitely would make me think twice about sharing.

    I have never posted to a blog before, the Internet for me peaked in about 1990 before it went public. Its more of a signal to noise ratio now where as before the method of sharing was via the usenet and newsgroups now there is a lot of noise and very little signal. Sure there were trolls but they were delt with at the community level (its amazing what a kill file can do). And there were no ads me and my trusty z29a spent many a useful hour in the newsgroups. I’m not much for sharing but figured I’d pose my questions and add my two cents worth so I guess thats score 1 for Jeff Jarvis.

    I’m on page 143 now and yes John Smith is my real name.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      John,
      Love the last line.
      I think you still need to ask what the harm of public knowledge of your grapefruit passion could be. It still comes down to that.
      Now, of course, you raise another, larger issue: that the combination of data bases can yield more information than one can: greater than the sum of the parts. As I say in the book, knowing that I bought a bunch of fertilizer may not be telling until you find out I took out a book about making bombs. That is an issue. But still, I don’t think that “creepy” is the proper standard. That is sometimes just a synonym for the unfamiliar.
      jeff

      • john smith

        page 144

        “…serendipity machine.”

        The algorithms used in data mining are the serendipity machine and they have no concept of privacy or personal boundaries.

        You just recently went to the doctor, you no longer by grapefruit, your over 50. Of course this is way oversimplified. However, somewhere the data-mining algorithm run by your insurance company just registered an uptick in the liklihood that you might be on Lipitor and thus might have high cholesterol I think you see where the argument goes from there.

        After re-reading that last paragraph I might sound like a quack but then again I think it bears some consideration. Without knowing where my information will end up and how it will be mined its a bit scary to try and define my personal privacy boundaries.

        js

  • john smith

    Should all the tracking you mention at the bottom of page 160 top of 161 be opt in by default or opt out by default? That is to say should a customer at the grocery store be required to give authorization to the store to track his purchases in detail? Or should a business not track anything unless requested to do so by the customer?

    This goes to setting expectations, should a consumer today expect that he is being tracked in his online surfing and in his daily purchases? Or should he expect that he can opt in to that tracking explicitely?

  • John Smith

    After watching the frist 2 minutes of Triangulation Episode 28
    http://twit.tv/show/triangulation/28

    After watching the episode my interpretation of the book changed some what. Many of your statements in the book hit me as an attack on privacy and how privacy is over-rated or at least that maybe the level of privacy that is expected by many is too high. Some portions made me feel as though you were attacking the level of privacy I felt I should be entitled to. Which is fine, I felt it was more of an intellectual challenge than a personal one.

    Im not done with the book yet I’m somewhere around page 175 but hearing you talk about wanting to write about the positive side effects of sharing instead of the negative worst case scenarios was refreshing and helps take some of the “attacking” tone out of my interpretation.

    “If all we do is manage to the worst case we will never get to the best…”

    Or as one of my friends is fond of saying:

    “If your really really really careful nothing GOOD or BAD will ever happen to you.”

    js

  • John Smith

    In discussions regarding privacy regulations and proposed legislation the argument often follows a very interesting pattern.

    The first stage of the argument, bring up a historical example.
    In the book there are discussions of the first Kodak cameras and what privacy conerns that raised. There are discussions regarding companies like Acxiom and the fact that the industry of information brokers and mass marketing has been around for quite some time.

    Then the next stage of the argument goes something along the lines of look these technologies have been around for some time and nothing bad has happened.

    Some observations–

    Positions that follow this line of reasoning often neglect the context and time frame of their examples. In 1890 the person with the Kodak camera did not have a cheap, convenient, efficient way to share his photos to ‘the millions’. Hence, there was no cheap, easy way for ‘the millions’ to collect and correlate all the shared images and the metadata surrounding them.

    For some time information brokers have been able to collect and correlate all kinds of statistics. They have been able to provide this collection of information to marketers. However, the situations that generated the information in the first place were mostly public to begin with like going to the grocery store and tracking what shampoo you purchased. Besides your in a public place and anyone can see whats in your shopping basket. In such arguments there is an implied consent that people want to be tracked when in reality its more a matter of ignorance to being tracked an an ignorance to the extent of the tracking. Would more people take a higher interest in their personal privacy if they new to what extent they are being tracked? Would there still be this idea of implied consent?

    Going to the grocery store and using the Internet are too very different activities with different contexts wrapped around them. Going to the store is a public activity which carries with it certain expectations. For example I am expected to wear something more than just my underwear and bunny slippers when going to the store both because of my own personal beliefs and because of the beliefs held by the majority of those in the community in which I live. I can buy my groceries online in the privacy of my own home in just my underwear and bunny slippers. Same activity different settings with different contexts and different norms.

    Towards the end of this kind of argument there is usually some statement of ‘see nothing bad has happened’. When in reallity we either don’t know what bad side effects have happened or we weigh the benefits and the risks and decide that the benefits outway the negative side effects. As I said in an earlier post I have changed my mind from viewing the book as an attack on privacy to one of advocacy for sharing.

    The point is made in the Triangulation piece and in the book that we tend to regulate the wrong things, we are trying to regulate the technology versus its usage. Where do you believe the protections should be? Do you believe there exist certain activities that are so morally reprehensible that scraping an aspect of technology which allows the activities to proliferate even though it might have some benefits, is appropriate? Some would define that as wisdom.

    I ask these questions not attack but to help me define my own boundaries and expectations.

    js

  • Ralph J. Gallo

    stick to the issue. no need to have personal attack.

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  • john smith

    Finished the book Public Parts.

    I would highly recomend it to anyone interested in the issues of privacy and the “sharing” economy. While I tend to place a higher value on my privacy than Mr. Jarvis might it is worth the time to read. He brings up some very good points in the book. It has allowed me to re-examine my own thoughts regarding privacy and the boundaries I set for my self.

    It has left me feeling a bit disappointed in the marketing industry and nearly all the companies which track their users online. I don’t like being tracked online or otherwise period, even if there is the perception of value in allowing it to happen.

    Many hold the argument that if a service is provided for free then they should be allowed to track the users of the service. I would agree with that.
    But their tracking should be ‘opt in’, I should have to opt in to being tracked, the default behavior should not be opt out. Also the service should be COMPLETELY transparent about what data they track and where it goes and how its used. Of course then the argument is “well if you don’t want to be tracked then don’t use the service” OK I won’t.
    However I feel the reverse argument is just as valid, don’t offer a service for free if you expect some kind of payment for its use.

    js

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  • Martin Riber

    In researching this review in the TNR I stumbled upon this post, and even though the debate here has long fallen silent I would like to underline a few points which seem to have been largely ignored.

    Firstly: The initial review by Morozov clearly seems to be an ordered hit-piece for The New Republic.

    Secondly: This fact, by itself, does not leave TNP in the wrong concerning a vital – and still current – topic; A scathing book review can facilitate an interesting debate like nothing else (Chomsky on Skinner comes to mind). However…

    Thirdly: I can see no further reference to the debate, or indeed single counter-arguments, published in TNP. Which leads me to conclude that..

    TNP acted surprisingly irresponsibe in this matter, and deserves to be called out on it. Furthermore they likely robbed their own readership of material to form a justified opinon on the matter – and I simply cannot see why.

    I merely wish to make the point – albeit a bit late.