On the End of Privacy:
Learning to Read, Write, and Think in the 21st Century
When I started text2cloud in 2010, I wanted to take a break from academic writing. I was coming off two terms as department chair and I wanted to invent a new future for myself–as a writer, as a writing teacher, and as a thinker. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, exactly, but I knew that I wanted to focus on how the act of writing was being transformed by the fact that everyone with a smart phone could instantly publish anything that they could see, hear, or think.
Early that fall semester, the local paper reported that two students at my university had been charged with using a webcam to spy on another student. Then it was reported that Tyler Clementi, the student who had been spied on, had committed suicide. Although I hadn’t intended to, I spent the next five years writing about this suicide and the issues it raised–about voyeurism, curiosity, privacy, pornography, and the law. My writing took me into areas I knew little about and corners of the web I never knew existed. I learned how to pay attention to unofficial news sources; I learned how to edit video and audio; I learned how easy it is to manipulate digital information. And I learned how difficult it is to keep anything private once it has been put into digital form–as a tweet, a text, an email, a photo, a video, an audio recording.
I’ve spent the past year organizing, reflecting on, revising, and rethinking the first drafts I’d produced over the previous six years. I wanted to think about the end of privacy and what is happening to our world now that thought’s final destination is no longer assumed to be paper. It seemed urgent to me that educators, legislators, law enforcement, parents–everyone–take the time to see the significance of this change. I knew it was important, but even so, I didn’t foresee the election of a president who doesn’t read and relies on Twitter to broadcast his need for attention.
I’m in the early stages of looking for a publisher, having moved the multimedia writing I did on text2cloud back into print-only form. It’s been an amazing experience going from text to cloud and back to text again. I’ll keep you posted, should there be developments on the publication front. In the meantime, here’s the Table of Contents, which traces the arc of my reflections.
|Preface:||Goodbye to All That||1-16|
|Chapter One:||On Chance, Distraction, and the Prepared Mind||17-41|
|Chapter Two:||On Recovering the Deleted Past||42-74|
|Chapter Three:||On Willful Ignorance||75-106|
|Chapter Four:||On the Private Pleasures of Looking||107-131|
|Chapter Five:||On Getting Caught in the Act||132-163|
|Chapter Six:||On the Digital Cameras at Abu Ghraib||164-186|
|Chapter Seven:||On Virtual Communities and Embodied Realities||187-217|
|Chapter Eight:||On Viewing Parties||218-249|
|Chapter Nine:||On Suicide||250-280|
|Chapter Ten:||On Fault-Finding||281-310|
|Chapter Eleven:||On Guilt||311-345|
|Chapter Twelve:||On Meaningfulness||346-382|
Note: the cover art is by Rob Miller.