a place for the curious

Tag: privacy

Podlike: scrutiny in the house

bank of lights, tinted green

The harsh light of scrutiny

Housekeeping #4: scrutiny

I love a lot of what the folks at the Wheeler Centre do. While one of my unwritten rules for these articles is ‘one review per podcast show’, I’m going to let myself off the hook here. They just make too many types of shows. But the vastness of their work is what brings about gems like their latest mini-series, ‘Housekeeping’.

The Scrutiny episode of Housekeeping scratches at the surface of something that at first feels like it might be papery and dry.  Yet it somehow ends up in the middle of the digital era and leaves us surrounded by questions of privacy, individuality and public scrutiny. Like many of the best podcasts, it sets up our expectations and rapidly strips them away. With fascinating and beautiful speed.

Once you step out into the wilds of the internet, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.

I love it when any broadcaster or podcast show does a 3 or 5 parter, like Jarni Blakkarly & the Wheeler Centre have done. It’s a sweet, tangible serving to look forward to and it almost always leaves you wanting more.


Who’s that lurking?

Have you heard of a lurker?  Do you know one? Are you one?

In brief:”In Internet culture, a lurker is typically a member of an online community who observes, but does not actively participate.”

Or, like me, are you an occasional lurker?

I lurk when I don’t have anything to contribute or when a forum is highly technical and I am just seeking information.  Sometimes, more often than not, I’m only lurking to get the feel of a place before I post.

A couple of months ago I read an article encouraging people to stand up and be counted.  To get those quiet lurkers out of the cupboard.  But why?  If they want to be there, shouldn’t they stay?

The answer is, I think, yes and no.  If people are lurking in a strong community and are just looking for a ‘free ride’ it seems a shame that they might not contribute. Occasionally though, it just isn’t appropriate.

For some, being involved online is like stepping out for the world to view you, thoughts and all.  Once it is done, it can’t be undone.  The delete key in an online environment is never really what it seems.  And even where it is, there’s always the Wayback Machine.

There can be any amount of reasons for someone to lurk.  To sign up, to stay tuned in, but to stay silent. ‘Real’ life might just have gotten to a place where a little silence is golden.

Sometimes, in our eagerness to make people feel included that same enthusiasm could be making a private, shy, or just plain exhausted person feel like leaving.

There’s no simple answer to this.  It isn’t really a question.  Not everything we say needs to be either a question or an answer.  Perhaps it is just one more reminder that we are, as ever, a lot more complicated than it first appears.

One online glove does not fit all.

The disconnected e-reader

or… ‘Why my Kindle is never getting connected to Amazon’

Last year, I was delighted to win myself a Kindle, thanks to a little competition the RiAus was running.

It was a grand thing to win, as I’d long wanted to buy myself an e-reader anyway. I would have preferred a non-vendor specific e-reader, but a free book is a free book, electronic or not.
Once I had my Kindle, I loaded it up with books from the lush and wonderful Project Gutenberg.

Interlude: If you’ve not heard of Project Gutenberg and you love books, you’re about to be made very happy. One day I’ll set aside some time to write more about the splendid Project. But that’s for another day, so I’ll pop that thought in the ideas box for now.

I also have a number of purchased e-books and PDFs that I loaded onto the Kindle as well.  I’ve several hundred books on it now and, while you can’t read several hundred books at once, you may – at any given time – be in the mood for any one of them.  It’s rather delightful to have all that choice with me wherever I go.

Of course, my local bookstore should not despair.  I will always buy real, papery, beautiful books.  I love the way they look, feel and and make me feel.  I’ll save my pennies for the hardcovers, the special editions and the illustrated beauties.  And I’ll have no need to sully these treasures by lumping them around in my backpack for the day.  That’s the job of an e-reader.

And, so, with such an ardent love of books, why not connect to Amazon?

I value my privacy, but there’s nothing to hide.  There’s not a single book I’m ashamed to have read.  Not even the ones I regret reading (because I could have spent the time reading something better).  A book’s a book.  It’s full of words and has things to say.

I have long been troubled by what Amazon – and others – might do with my information.  It’s clear they have your information, it’s how they inform you of ‘what else you might like to read’.  That, for some, seems harmless enough in itself and very helpful.  But it’s the other end of the book process that troubles me.  It’s how, in the long term, it might affect the publishing, if not the writing, of your next book.

Is your e-reader trying to ‘read’ you?

As Mike Rekai points out, your e-reader is watching you.  It watches how you read, what you skip and what you appear to find boring.

One question that publishers want to know is do readers ‘skip certain chapters?’ In my case, that’s a big yes.  But it’s often because I’m reading the book in more than one way.  In the case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example, I read that on the Kindle when commuting or in a cafe and then, once home again, I brought out the beautiful hardcover version and read it without fear of ruin or loss.  Back to the Kindle: skip a few chapters ahead. Repeat.

While not every book reader does this, it illustrates my point. Just because the publishers think they know how you read, doesn’t mean they know why you do what you do. Skipping ahead doesn’t necessarily mean you were bored.

And even if I were bored, I might come back to it later, when my mood suited that particular book. Or maybe I was searching for a particular reference. There are all sorts of reasons that we do what do when we read. The publishers first need to stay out of our heads and, second, not use this information to influence authors.

What these possibly false presumptions might mean for books in the future is quite worrying.  Imagine future aspiring authors. For them, there is no ‘room of their own’, but a crowded auditorium with suggestions from every corner.

When I’m writing, I don’t like to feel like I have the reader over my shoulder.
— Kelly Armstrong, article

And, while it’s great for me that my Kindle has not connected up, that’s no comfort to the rest of the readers out there.  Books should be the one place you can feel adventurous and free, lost in both the words and world of another.

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