The Circle by Dave Eggers – Book Review Part 2

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Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Andrew Currie

Yesterday I posted my impressions of the first half of Dave Eggers’ new novel The Circle. I initially intended to write a final post at the end of the book, but I am feeling inspired to write more today, because there are more things that Eggers got right that I left out of the first post.

I love the juxtaposition that the author sets up between nature (kayaking in the story) and modern technology. There is a parallel conflict at work between privacy and sharing. Whenever Mae gets into a kayak (which is rarely ever planned) she does not talk about it to anyone, she does not post about it, she does not take pictures – nothing. She never even considers documenting the experience or inviting someone along. Despite how great she feels as part of this community and the excitement she feels from sharing online, she stills desires some private moments, even if she does not realize it at this point. Eggers also conveniently locates the kayak drop between Mae’s parents house (her old life) and The Circle.

The story is becoming a cautionary tale of connectedness and powerful technology. We are starting to see what would happen if data tracking, online sharing, and digital transparency are followed out to the extreme. Instead of community, Eggers shows us surveillance, power, and control. There is an overall sense that this is not a desirable outcome, though we don’t yet know exactly why.

As much as I share online and enjoy using products from the biggest technology companies, I appreciate the way the novel is making me think a bit more critically about those dynamics.

Part 1 of this book review – initial impressions

The Circle – The New Novel by Dave Eggers

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Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Johan Larsson

I am about halfway through Dave Eggers new novel The Circle, which follows a young female professional as she starts her career with the number one technology company in the world. The company is basically a mix between Google, Apple, and Facebook.

Dave Eggers is one of my favorite authors, and I was intrigued by the idea of him tackling the topic of technology and our relationship with social media. I have seen some backlash, saying the author got it all wrong, but I don’t think that is totally true.

It is difficult to judge a book – a story – until the ending, but I do have some impressions so far.

There is one thing he got wrong that has been bothering me, and that is the use of the term “cloud,” as in cloud storage. This metaphor has become popular to describe data storage outside of your local computer. I suppose the term may make it easier for some people to understand the concept of where is all that stuff. Yet many of us understand there is no cloud, per se. There are many, many intricate networks of many, many, many servers storing data that are access from devices around the world. The way characters in the story use the term (characters that should know better) describe things as being saved on the company’s cloud. That is linguistically, and technologically awkward, because they may be in the metaphorical cloud, but they are stored on the companies network of servers. Am I nitpicking here? I don’t know. I am an English teacher and a tech-nerd, so I guess this is the result of the combination.

I think many people are taking issue with his portrayal of a large tech company, but really it is all allegory. One thing he got very right, is our relationship to our gadgets and the way we engage through social media. The urgency of notifications, and the excitement of “likes” and “retweets” is well represented by the systems and employees within The Circle. At times, the company feels futuristic, and then there are many other times when you feel like you are looking into a mirror.

I look forward to the second half of the book, after which I will share my final thoughts. Anyone else read the book? What are your thoughts?

Photo: Painting the Gulf With Long Exposures

Last week I used my Nikon 55-300mm lens with a polarizer filter at the beach during sunset. Since the lens has a rather impressive built in stabilizer I thought I would try long exposures to capture images of the Gulf waves and wake to achieve the smoothing out of the motion. I have to say, I am very happy with the way some of them came out – it was so hard to choose for this post! The soft colors of the cloudy sunset matched nicely with the smooth motion. I like how it creates the look of a painting in some of them. Next time, I think I will try a neutral density filter to see how the results differ.

For more from this shoot, follow the link to my Flickr page below. Enjoy!

Soft Waves

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Soft Wake

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Some days, I publish an original photo along with some of the technical information. You can see more of my photography on my Flickr page.

My photography is licensed under Creative Commons (see details below). In addition, I ask that if you use any of my images that you try to show me how you used them. I think it would be interesting to see and track how my images are being used. Thank you.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

My Updated List of Free Music and SoundFX for Student Productions

My Updated List of Free Music and SoundFX for Student Productions

Here is my updated list of free music and sound effects for student (or other people) media productions. I encourage (read force) students in my video production classes to use audio from these sources for their projects. They also must provide attribution in the credits. I know that copyright law allows students to use copyrighted material for education purposes. But are we not encouraging students to share their work with the world? What happens when their excellent video project is uploaded to YouTube with copyrighted music? It is not longer a student project. I believe that it is important to show students how to use music that is legal and ethical to use, and will not cause their video to be taken down from YouTube.

I have also used some of these sites with English classes making book trailers or other video projects. After keeping track (no pun intended!) of this topic for several years, these are the best resources I have found and used regularly.