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

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Misguidedly Teaching of Intellectual Property – Propaganda?

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This is kind of scary, but glad there are people and media outlets exposing the absurdity:

“Wired examines a “near-final draft” of intellectual property curriculum that’ll enter California elementary schools this year. “This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate… It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” says an EFF attorney consulted for the story. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.” Thanks to the Creative Commons’ Jane Park, some open curriculum alternatives.”

Via Audrey Watters. Read the entire Hack Education News here.

Must Reads #longreads Edition: War on Fire Ants, A Band on the Road, the Birth of Pixar Theory, and Phony Bomb Detection

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on some things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

 

Ants Go Marching

by Justin Nobel on Nautilus

Fascinating exploration of fire ant colonies, how they have spread through the American South, and the impact of intense efforts by people to destroy them.

On Tour

by Claire L Evans on Aeon Magazine

“Life on the road with a rock band: memories blur, cities blend. Only in the frenzy of performance does the world pause.”

A worthy read for musicians and music fans. Insights into life on the road for your average touring band, making a living in rock clubs around the US.

The Pixar Theory

by John Negroni via Mashable

The author has developed an elaborate theory involving all Pixar films, where the characters exist in a the same universe, but at different times, and are part of one large narrative and theme. A thought-provoking read for fans of the animated movie company.

In Iraq, the Bomb-Detecting Device That Didn’t Work, Except to Make Money

By  on Bloomberg Business Week

This piece details the history of fake bomb detection devices and the swindlers who continued selling these devices around the world for decades. I was incredulous reading about the simplicity of the con and how so many different people fell for the scam. It is actually rather frightening when you think about it…

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See more of my Must Reads.

Must Reads #media Edition: Doggie Doors, Confused #Cheerios Kids, and Dragon Skulls

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

Videos

Perpetual Ocean – Animated Ocean Currents around the Globe (3:03)

I will admit that this one is older and you may have already seen it. I came across it again this week, and was blown away all over again. We live on a truly magnificent planet. Let’s keep it that way.

DIY Automatic Sliding Door (:47)

Awesome, easy, and cheap DIY project for summer. Plus the dogs are so cute! The self-closing screen door was designed for dogs but could be great for humans too.

(H/T 22Words)

Everyone saw the biracial Cheerios commercial, but kids saw it differently (8:59)

If you haven’t seen the controversial cereals commercial, you need to watch it now because it is just a great commercial. Then, hopefully you are as confused as these kids are about why it has sparked so much controversy.

(via The Daily Dot)

Motorcyclist grabs mug off of passing car’s bumper… (1:30)

The motorcycle maneuvers definitely made me nervous, but this was a whole lot of fun to watch!

(via 22Words)

 

Photos

Giant Dragon Skull Found on a Beach in England

…not really. It’s a Game of Thrones promo, but I will pretend it’s not.

(via 22Words)

Creative Commons – The Evolution of Copyright

3421327165_ddbf65fec7_zPhoto:  LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Giuli-O

Creative Commons (CC) is an organization that has developed a system of licensing of creative content (images, audio, video, animation and website) for distribution online. Content creators choose one of six licenses, delineating how their work can or cannot be used. Does the artist need credit? Can the work be used in a remix/mashup? Can it be reproduced on a blog? Other people online can search CC images and use them in their digital projects. This gives creators the opportunity to share their work in the way they want to, giving internet users the chance to legally use high quality media in their own projects.

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Photo:  LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by jorgeandresem

What I love about Creative Commons licensing is that it does not involve policy debate or legislation. It is something for content creators and users. Offering this alternative system to copyright takes out the interests of government and corporations. I become frustrated when large organizations with big money interests get in the way of what individuals can achieve. Creative Commons is a simple system to understand (if you can shed your traditional copyright-induced expectations) and provides more options than copyright law does about how to share and use content. Interestingly enough, CC accomplishes all of this while embeded within copyright protection. Technically, CC licenses are statements that qualify your copyright by communicating how the work can be accessed. The website has an easy to use tool to help you choose which license to use based on questions about the intented use of your work.

Ever since I first read about Creative Commons a couple of years ago, I have been fascinated by the concept and the benefits of the system as put into practice. I can speak about the practical side, because I use CC licensing as both a creator and user of content. In regards to photography, I would consider myself an amateur or “enthusiast.” I do not plan to make a business out of my photographs – I do it for the love of the medium and the challenges of capturing different types of images. This enthusiasm compels me to share my work with a wider audience, wider than what once was just my family and then Facebook friends. I share many of my photos under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.com. You can see how they look on this site, by clicking on any of my photos and finding the license information at the bottom right. I also feature some of these on my blog. I am now sharing my photos with a larger audience and giving that audience more options in how they may use that work. It is a rather democratic experience that I do enjoy. I think this system is balanced in how it values the rights of creators and is heavily informed by the philosophy of open access of information online.

Since I give to the community, I also take. When I write blog posts about technology, education, or other topics, I reach to Flickr and other collections of CC images to include in my blog posts. We know that pictures help us communicate ideas and hook our audience’s attention. When I use a CC photo, I copy the license type and link to the author’s page, and paste that information under the picture, as a caption. Not only is this legally and ethically sound practice, it also helps promote the work of other artists through attribution.

I understand that much of this can be compared to copyright law. Fair Use allows for work to be used in certain ways – does it not? The details of Fair Use are purposely ambiguous (according to a UPENN educational site), and unfortunately, the terms of use are determined by the government, not the creator. Creative Commons works around and within copyright law to make up for its limitations. So, although it revises and expands on copyright law, it is not completely separate from copyright. Despite its relationship with traditional copyright law, Creative Commons removes the influence of government and corporations from the equation, leaving it up to individuals to decided how they will share their work.