Public Parts

That’s the title of my next book about the end of privacy and the benefits of publicness. I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve just agreed to write it for Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, my publisher for What Would Google Do? , working again with my brilliant editor there, Ben Loehnen. It will come out, muses willing, next year [fall 2011].

In Public Parts, I’ll argue, as I have here, that in our current privacy mania we are not talking enough about the value of publicness. If we default to private, we risk losing the value of the connections the internet brings: meeting people, collaborating with them, gathering the wisdom of our crowd, and holding the powerful to public account. Yes, I believe we have a right and need to protect our privacy — to control our information and identities — but I also want the conversation and our decisions to include consideration of the value of sharing and linking. I also want to protect what’s public as a public good; that includes our internet. We have plenty of privacy advocates. I want to be a publicness advocate.

This is a hot topic that’s going to get only hotter. This morning, I talked about publicness and “privacy in the time of Facebook” on public radio’s The Takeaway. Here’s the audio:

Also today friend Steven Johnson writes about “the value of oversharing” in Time:

We are discovering in this new realm that public exposure is not just a matter of egotism or idle voyeurism. This past year, several friends of mine have blogged their way through their battles with cancer. By taking their ordeal to the valley, they got valuable advice from strangers who posted comments and helped form an online support group — and an archive that could help future patients who happen upon it via cancer-related queries on Google. One of my friends — writer Jeff Jarvis, now happily in good health — talks about his experience as a lesson in the virtues of publicness. The Constitution may not contain an explicit reference to the right to privacy, but the notion that privacy is worth cherishing and protecting needs little justification. What Jarvis suggests is that the opposite condition needs its defenders: oversharing, in a strange way, can turn out to be a civic good.

I love this topic. I’ve learned a great deal about publicness since my life became an open blog and I’m learning more as I do my research — some fascinating stuff, which I’ll share with you here as I go. I’ll continue discussing the ideas here on the blog and will ask for your help … often.

(Some of you may remember that I was planning to write another book called Beta. Many of the ideas from that — about opening up processes — will be part of this book but I hope this one is bigger, about profound changes in society and the opportunities that come from them, a la WWGD?.)

: LATER: Here’s the extended, original version of Steven Johnson’s Time piece, before editors and scarcity got hold of it.

Also, in answer to some tweets, yes, my title is a bit of an homage to Howard Stern. It was after appearing on his show that I got the inspiration. His publicness itself is an inspiration for the book.