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What’s the last book your threw across the room*?

This distinction must go to none other than @ajkeen’s #digitalverigo. Yes, that is a hashtag in the title and a twitter handle in the byline. Mr. Keen is just that clever.

#digitalverigo is intended as a counterweight to the techno-optimism of Silicon Valley and the twenty first century in general. Not a bad aim, actually. We could all do with stepping away from the reality distortion field long enough to realize that the tech giants are not our saviors. Cypherpunks, the book and the show, with Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum (Tor Project), Andy Müller-Maguhn (Chaos Computer Club), and Jeremie Zimmermann (2012 winner of EFF’s Pioneer Award for work against ACTA) had much the same message – warning readers and viewers of the panopticon nature of the internet.

But I didn’t throw Cypherpunks across the room.

In #digitalvertigo, Keen takes the panopticon metaphor to  ridiculous lengths.

He begins the book staring at the corpse of Jeremy Bentham, creator of the infamous prison design. He muses on the nature of the internet as a similarly lifeless display where people line up to show themselves off and for others to ogle at them. The internet is a “public exhibition of self love,” a narcissistic outlet where real connection and meaning goes to die. Throughout the book Keen comes back  again and again and AGAIN to the metaphor of a corpse, and this is where the rage starts to boil up.

I am not a corpse.

The artists, activists, budding politicians, struggling young academics, fellow bloggers, and friends I follow are not corpses.

And self love? Narcissism?  At this moment on Facebook, I am watching our Librarian-in-Chief at TUEBL talk about his upcoming Ted Talk as the youngest party leader in Canada, an activist friend brings on-the-ground news from Bradley Manning’s trial, and even my non-political friends are grieve in quiet shock over the Zimmerman verdict. On Twitter, the micro-blogophere chatters about Snowden’s asylum bids, the limits of a free press, and the dangers of trusting the cryptography provided by untrustworthy corporations.

Yeah, there are baby pics, pets, and dinner plates in there too.

And you know what? That’s GREAT. Because sometimes, after a day of fourth amendment violations, you need kitties.

When people talk about the shallow, narcissistic nature of the internet, I have to wonder what they’re doing here. If their social media experience is filled with shallow, narcissistic content, then why are they subscribed to shallow, narcissistic accounts and following shallow, narcissistic people? It’s like going into 4chan and complaining about all the smut. Or walking into a sports bar and complaining that there are too many jocks. Well, gee, if only you could have walked into the quiet cafe across the street or the independent bookstore on the next block or the art gallery or the foreign food festival or the secondhand clothing charity or the botanical gardens… The internet is interactive – it doesn’t work if you don’t interact, And we are as responsible for the content we experience as those who put it out there.

While it is essential for users to be aware of – and fight – the surveillance state and censorship regimes that infiltrate our digital homes, the fact is that the internet is not a prison. It’s a community, one that we walk in and out as our own whims and need dictate. When the powers that be overtly or surreptitiously seek to coerce or control or censor our community, we must stand up for it, and we must always be aware of the threats to a free online life. And when our community is threatened, the guilty party is the one doing the threatening, not the community itself. This is exactly the rage-inducing point that Keen fails to grasp. We shouldn’t blame the free internet for prison-like surveillance and censorship, we should blame the people doing the surveilling and the censoring.

Near the beginning of the book, Keen relates an experience with his tech invading his offline life that really hits on this lapse of understanding. He says:

Digitalvertigo

“The RIM electronic device wasn’t called a smartphone for nothing. I had been wrong that nobody knew my location that afternoon. As I was about to send my tweet, an uninvited message from Tweetie popped up on the screen. It was a request to give out my Bloomsbury location, so that the app could broadcast where I was to my thousands of Twitter Followers.

TWEETIE WOULD LIKE TO USE YOUR CURRENT LOCATION –

DON’T ALLOW or OK

The BlackBerry device, I realized, wanted to betray me my broadcasting my location to the world.”

Betray?

Really?

He’s angry that Blackberry asked to share his location with his friends.

And he said No.

Nobody betrayed him. He wasn’t being spied upon, at least not without his explicit consent.

That’s not to say that phones don’t have information on us that can be used against us without our consent. Of course they do! They’re tracking devices that make calls. That’s also not to say that we shouldn’t be extremely skeptical or that we shouldn’t hold accountable those companies who keep our information. We should. It is essential to maintaining a free internet instead of a digital panopticon. But there is a massive difference between a forced environment of surveillance and being asked the question:

DON’T ALLOW or OK

I wanted to read #digitalvertigo because I needed to articulate what exactly bothered me about the author’s viewpoint, and I particularly wanted to examine why this book bothered me so much more than something like Cypherpunks or the many other respectable panopticon analogies and warnings to netizens. And I get it now: The fight for a free internet does not need to reduce users to passive lifeless corpses locked up for the world to ogle at. 

I’m not a fucking corpse.

My friends aren’t corpses.

People aren’t fucking corpses.

If that’s how AJ Keen sees the internet, I think he needs to get better friends. (Or, you know, learn how to use the internet…)

 

15-Day-Challenge


* Can be a figurative “throwing across the room”, as is the case with my copy of #digitalvertigo. As previously mentioned here, I squeeze in most of my reading around my work throughout the day… and most of my work takes place on the free McDonald’s wifi. They really don’t take kindly to books being thrown into people’s big macs. (That would squish out all the sauce, which is the best part.)

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It’s Day 3 of the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge (I’m catching up!) Day 3’s challenge was:

Who are your blogging BFFs?

I’m going to take some liberties with this one (shocker, right?) by changing blogging BFFs to blogging inspirations. Not to take away from the friendly relationships I have with other bloggers. But BFF has such a personal connotation in my mind, and I don’t know how personal ANY of my relationships in the blogosphere are. I spew way more of my personal drivel on Twitter, and even there I’m not sure I have BFFs. Me and my tweeps are more like fellow news junkies. Or book club buddies. Plus, it just seems a bit highschool to hand out ranks to friends. So I’m not doing this Facebook-style, I’m doing it Klout-style.

So. Forget friends. Who are my influencers?

There are two of my fellow writers who I’ve been following since SUPER early in my baby-step years of blogging:

Carrie Rubin

Carrie’s the traditionalist, a writer published with an actual fucking publishing company. But she’s been blogging since she was a lowly aspiring writer like the rest of us. Her stories about life in the medical profession and family life with teenage boys and poop stories were a light, funny retreat from the moody work of writing. She ended up getting a contract for her book The Seneca Scourge and has since been chronicling her adventures in the publishing world. From my vantage point on the selfie’s side of the publishing fence, it’s an enlightening anthropological study of the initiations into ye olde writer life – a life, I’m not likely to share.

Plus, she had some nice things to say about Stories About Things! (And I owe her for causing her to forget about dinner-making…) <3

Becka Sutton

Becka is the fellow free-spirit doing her own thing in the webfiction world from before I even knew the world existed. her Dragon Wars saga was one of the first web fictions I got into. It’s super long, and not only is it a great story, it’s also fascinating insight into the development of a webfic author with some real staying power in this world. She also wrote the Haventon Chronicles which are currently on my reading list.

And Becka’s has a thing or two to say about crowdfunding and Flattr – two things I’m passionate about but which aren’t terribly popular in the writing community yet. Granted, crowdfunding has really started to take off lately – even among the old fashioned bookworm crows! But two years ago, when I started out in this world, there weren’t too many folks excited about it. It was nice to hear another voice curious about the same things I was, and bold enough to try the out and teach us a few things about the experience.

15-Day-Challenge

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And, yup, it’s even MORE from the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge! (Yes, I’m still on that.) Here’s the continuation the first taskMake 15 Book Related Confessions………

Confession #2:

Sometimes I don’t like books because I don’t like their authors.

 

I never finished the Liveship Traders books. 

I got through the first two – which was quite an accomplishment because they’re some bigass books – and I liked them. They weren’t my favorite fantasy reads ever – the story jumped here to there, here to there, here to there and it was a bit hard to get into or follow any one particular story line, plus, they were depressing as fuck. BUT the depth and breadth of the world building was truly exceptional. And Wintrow and Althea were the kind of young and defiant characters that I as a young and defiant wannabe teen totally admired.

Every time I’m in a bookstore, buried in my usual sword-and-sorcery section, I see the books. I usually take them down and run my fingers over the spines and cheesy covers. Sometimes, I flip through them, trying to remember my favorite parts. Sometimes I pick up where I left off. Sometimes I start from the beginning.  Sometimes, I even start heading to the cash register to finish what I started. 

But then I don’t. 

can’t.

 

And it’s not Wintrow’s or Althea’s or the Liveship Trader’s fault. It’s Robin Hobb’s. Robin Hobb wrote the Liveship books as well as a bunch of other series that look like exactly the kind of books I’d love… but will never read. In 2005, Robin Hobb also wrote a diatribe against her fans – a diatribe so vitriolic and so contrary to what I (and many of my generation) have come to value about the literary world that I just cannot bring myself to read her words.

So what was this fatally-offensive tirade about?

Fanfiction.

For those who missed it in 2005, Hobb wrote a scathing post detailing the myriad reasons – from copyright infringement to identity theft (yes, identity theft) – on why fanfiction was such a vile practice and those who wrote it were pathetic, unoriginal  thieves. Apparently unaware of how the internet works, she retracted the post soon after, but copies of it multiplied, preserving it forever in the vast Internet troves of stupid. Readers and writers everywhere immortalized Hobb’s words in their own point-by-point responses, and I don’t need to repeat their arguments here. You know I love unconventional writing, and that includes fanfiction. That’s not the point.

The point is, it’s 2013 and I still haven’t finished the series.

Though Hobb deleted the tirade, she did not retracts her opinions. She didn’t have a change of heart. She just had an 38403928aversion to the anger that railing against one’s fans tends to cause. To this day, the FAQ’s on her website indicate in no uncertain terms that her position on fanfiction (as well as other derivative projects) has not changed:

May I write fan-fiction based on your characters or set in your world?

No.

I liked the Liveship books.

But I can’t read them.

I don’t want to buy her books. I don’t want to check them of the library. I don’t even want to pirate them because that too would very likely be supporting their author. Yes, I hold grudges. Yes, I’m a bad reader.  But goddamnit, I just can’t!

Nope. Not gonna happen.


~~~~Oh, and last minute edit: I’m not the only one. While this is not the reason I couldn’t get through Ender’s Game despite my sister’s persistent recommendations, it does appears other readers share my grudge-holding ability.~~~~

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This is Day 2 of the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge. Today’s challenge is:

What’s your bedtime reading ritual?

Well, gee, I don’t usually talk about ANY of my bedtime rituals on here, but if you insist……..

In all seriousness, though, I wish I had one. I wish I fell asleep reading stories. Sadly most of my reading-for-fun gets squished in between everything else, little bits here and there throughout the day, and it’s the everything else that I’m usually doing before I close my eyes at night. The last thing I see before falling asleep is panicked tweets about the latest whistleblower drama or techno-phobic Supreme Court decisions.

Yeah, I wish I had a bedtime reading ritual.

Sadly, that would imply an actual bedtime which, as I understand it, includes some form of sleep.

And that’s not so easy to come by.

I’ve written before about how writing can make for a kind of miserable existence. It’s a cycle that starts with a seed of natural moodiness, fueled by an obsessive passion, aggravated by chemicals, yielding restless nights or coma-like crashes which leave an even deeper moodiness upon waking… Yeah, there’s no room for a bedtime reading rituals or bedtimes or sleep anywhere in there.

But I try. Writers need to take care of themselves. I know that. I know that I need to take care of my mind because without it I can’t write. And periodically I’ll revisit my efforts to be a well-rested, sober, and productive business gal. And then I’ll have a bedtime ritual. I’ll end each day by switching from laptop to kindle. And the last thing I’ll see before closing my eyes is whatever wonderful world is woven into my mind by the words on the page.

………..I’m working on it.

Not doing so well with that. But lately, I have again been trying to carve out a few minutes every night to read. Instead of tackling a new novel, though, I’ve been doing translations of historical poems and whatnot – something I haven’t done much of since my college days when I cobbled together a guerilla-style Historical Linguistics program out of a Linguistics department that was WAY more focused on important sciency things like child language development (children… *shudder*) and cognitive… brain… things (I don’t know – I was reading about Vikings!) Dead people languages are way better than almost anything else you can study, because there’s no awkward interaction involved. Plus, unlike with, say, Harry Potter or Hunger Games you won’t lose friends in flame wars over the inherent evilness of certain houses, or the allegorical interpretations of future nation states. No one will EVER argue with you about Thor’s zombie goats because nobody fucking cares.

As reading material goes, translation serves the purpose of 1) being difficult, so I don’t feel bad about only doing a few minutes at a time, and 2) being boring and thereby lulling me into a deep sleep.

It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t break the Moody Writer’s cycle. BUT it helps me get to sleep and that’s a start!

15-Day-Challenge

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Ok, it’s Day 1 of the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge. (Ok, actually Day 1 was a couple days ago…. shut up, I’m working on it! At least I’ve got the right week. I think) Anyway, Day 1’s challenge was:

Make 15 Book-Related Confessions

Now what happened when I sat down to confess my 15 deepest darkest book-related confessions was………. I started writing. And then I kept writing. And writing. And writing. I sat down ready to write a bulletpointed list of my 15 confessions and then move on. But the words started pouring out. And they kept pouring out. And they just wouldn’t fucking stop. In my defense, I was doing this  on a train with the rattly white noise and the gentle rocking of the wheels that lull you into sleep or a deep daydream.  So here’s the deal: each confession is getting it’s own post. Here’s the first:

I look forward to the day when reading is 100% digital.

Yeah, I said it. I like ebooks. A lot. I’m a bad person. A bad writer. A bad reader. And I do realize that there is a contradiction in this confession – a confession I’m writing while sitting on a train using a very shaky pen and paper.

This post: V 0.1
I want to reiterate that I was on a train….. which TOTALLY accounts for the chickenscratch writing.

It’s not that I don’t like pressed tree gunk glued together and splashed with ink. I do. There’s something calming about moving a pen over paper or holding the physical result of communication in your hands. And books are beautiful. They are decorative, evocative. An old dusty tome feels different from a shiny new bestseller with a crackly binding and a gluey smell. A marked up textbook with wrong answers scribbled out in the margins gives a very different experience from a mint-condition, dust-jacketed Harry Potter hardback from a midnight release party.

But there’s an emotional component to my yearning for digital, too.

I love books.

But I also love stories.

In my pocket I have a palm-sized box of metal and plastic thinner than most picture books. In this box, my entire library lives. My favorite classics, practical manual-style non-fiction, embarrassing trashy romances… it’s all there.

Books – the physical things – are beautiful and evocative, but they cannot always be there. But fell the physical barriers and then stories can be everywhere. At the bus stop. In a crowd. At a boring dinner party. In bed. On the toilet. Everywhere. A little box filled with 1s and 0s lets stories invade meatspace – everpresent, easily read and remembered and shared stories. Stories that fit in a pocket. An entire library of stories.

And when I say 100% digital… I don’t mean that I want to throw away all the beautiful and evocative dead-tree-and-ink books. I just want to be able to (and perhaps more importantly be allowed to) read anything and everything in a form that fits in the 1s and 0s in my pocket. As much as I love books, my true love is the stories on their pages, and the pages are just a tool. Beautiful, evocative ones, but tools nonetheless.

15-Day-Challenge

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Good Books, Good Wine is doing a 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, and, well, I’m sort of a book blogger. Right? I mean, in between the pirates and politics there are book-related things going on here! But, whatever. I like doing fun things, and a Book Blogger Challenge sounds like fun things to me! Here’s from April over at Good Books & Good Wine:

“The other day I was messing around on Pinterest looking up recipes, which then lead into a bizarre spiral of looking up blogging boards and tips, because even though I have been doing this since 2009, there are always things for me to learn. On several blogging boards I came across different blogging challenges with interesting writing prompts, which were a lot like those challenges on Instagram. Unfortunately, none of the challenges were totally book blog related, so I decided HEY OMG OMG I should make one of these for book blogs….”

And so she did. Here are the 15 tasks for the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge:

15-Day-Challenge

Sounds reasonably fun, right? Yeah, I’m a bit late – Day 1 was yesterday. But, what the hell – not too late to catch up. Go check out the challenge, write something yourself, and link up with the other bloggers with nothing better to do! In the mean time, I’ll get busy catching up…

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Only one week into the World Intellectual Property Organization’s conference in Morocco, and the diplomats have done their job!

Well, some of the diplomats anyway.

Over the course of the conference, international relations have been…….. well, international relations. Frustrations ran high. Patience wore thin. Agreements and concessions were hardly forthcoming.

Predictions that the MPAA and fellow copyright hardliners would push back hard against the treaty were pretty active. Of course, the treaty already excludes movies and now only covers books and written material. In that light, the MPAA’s keen interest seriously suspicious. But in light of a Freedom of Information request that recently revealed emails between the US Patent & Trademark offices and the MPAA members, it makes a little more sense. The MPAA is well aware that this treaty is a new and unique step in world relations: it enhances READER’s rights, rather than reinforcing PRODUCER’s rights. And that shakes the copyright brigade into action no matter what industry they come from.

Still, their interest is dubious, especially when considering just how completely and utterly NOT objectionable it is from a copyright standpoint.

The treaty does not change the function of copyright law, and it implements accessibility workarounds in line with what we already have here in the US. The treaty wording is very specific about authorized parties who may make or distribute accessible copies of books, and who can be authorized and how.  It is very specific about authorized copies – or copies of books that authorized parties already have the right to make or distribute.

What the treaty does NOT do is turns librarians into pirates or hand a free pass to the Pirate Bay.

Of course, many in free-culture circles, myself included, do believe in furthering access to all cultural material and information for everyone – not just authorized parties making authorized books. But this treaty does not refer to everyone. It refers to a very specific subsect of people trying to get access to the same materials that everyone else already has. As much as us free-culture hippies would wish it, the WIPO treaty takes no substantial ground from the copyright monopoly.

But in addition to the frustrations, there has been also a fighting spirit in Morocco this week. Diplomats and blind advocacy groups have spoken up to remind world leaders everywhere of the real problems at hand: ending discriminatory treatment and bringing basic, equal access rights into the twenty first century.

And this week, just seven days after the conference began, their fighting spirit has prevailed.

This treaty is not perfect. And like all international treaties, is not much more than a symbolic gesture and agreement to do better. But the reaction to the signing shows just how important the agreement is. No matter what, it is a step in the right direction!

 

Please stay tuned on Twitter – and specifically my list of the best Tweeters reporting from the conference itself – for more updates on the finalized treaty!

 

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Just a heads up to anyone who is trying to access the books.cat forum, we are doing some updates and adding some much demanded plugins to help with spam and such. Basically, if you are upset you can’t view the forums, you should blame Mistress Omega because she forced me to pay attention to her forums and get stuff done.

Hopefully this will be like 30 minutes to an hour, but I wanted to give you a page that explains what’s going on. In the meantime, you can view our Facebook page (Facebook.com/TUEBLLOVE) or twitter @TUEBL, or even better read through all the amazing articles here on CheapAssFiction by librarian Aelius.

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This is a call to arms, TUEBLovers! The next ten days are crucial in the battle for access to creative and cultural material. Today in Morocco, representatives from over a hundred countries are meeting to discuss a treaty to improve blind and visually impaired individuals’ access to books.

Fantastic, right?

Can you imagine, fellow bookworms, if your vast library of beloved books were cut down to just a few, and if even though the technology existed to give you the ability to read the entire library, that laws were enacted to prevent it?

Yeah, that’s intellectual property law for you.

The Washington Post articulates the startling reality:

“Only about five percent of books are converted into formats that the blind community can use… That dearth of material not only keeps blind people from reading popular books but also from getting access to educational texts and other professional literature.”

FIVE. PERCENT.

FIVE! And to think that there is no physical reason why, in the twenty first century anyone should be shut out of so much of the world’s reading material. We have the technological capability to remove the restriction of a person’s disability and allow everyone access to books, in whatever format they can use. And yet – five percent!

Fortunately, people are mad.

And diplomats from all around the world are convening to do something about it.

It is hard to imagine that anyone could in good conscience oppose this step. Of course, it’s also hard to imagine how we could have gotten into this situation in the first place, and yet here we are. The Whitehouse, for one, has stopped vocalizing support for the treaty (gee thanks, land of opportunity) and rightsholders all over seem to be shitting themselves in fear over what will happen if blind people are allowed to read like everyone else.

But more insidious than any outright opposition to the treaty is the suspicious support it’s gotten from certain parties. The MPAA for example. Yeah the MPAA – aka. the biggest copyright trolls ever. The MPAA supporting people’s rights to access material? Horray! Maybe they’ve seen the light!

Uh huh.

No.

Cory Doctorow explains their deceptively altruistic move to support the international treaty:

Rather than promoting the US approach — which allows for the creation of works in accessible formats without permission — the US Trade Rep and his friends from the MPAA are advocating for a treaty that is far more restrictive than US law, ensuring that the US itself could never sign it.

In other words, in supporting the treaty, they appear to care about the plight of disabled individuals, while simultaneously using their support and influence to render the treaty useless.

Nice. Thanks, MPAA.

Chris Danielsen of the National Federation for the Blind, has this to say, and I think we – and every single diplomat at this conference – should listen to him:

So please, TUEBLovers! Even if you’re not a diplomat with a spot at this conference, you can still speak up. Sign the petition. Make noise. Spread the word. Bitch about it. Tell everyone. Let the world know that you’re NOT okay with anyone being denied the ability to read!

The conference plenary sessions will be streamed live and it looks like videos of the sessions will continue to be available for reference later. I will do my best to watch as much as I can and spread the word. So if you don’t have time to watch a conference on the other side of the world, follow me on twitter and keep your eyes on this blog for updates!

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Thank you all for the ton of smiles you submitted for Smile Month! And as promised we randomly selected a winner. Behold, Adeel and A Short History of Nearly Everything:

A GREAT reading choice, by the way. I love Bill Bryson. Or….. his books, at least. (Though I’m sure the guy himself is quite the charmer too! :-)The Mother Tongue was one of my earliest introductions to Linguistics and inspired me to study it in college. And when I get eaten by a bear while hiking the Appalachian trail, you can totally blame Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods for the inspiration. I haven’t gotten around to reading A Short History of Nearly Everything, but with a fellow TUEBLover’s endorsement, I may have to add it to my reading list.

Though the Smile Month prize was random, there was one pic so adorable that we couldn’t finish the contest without giving it something. So we added in a cutest pic prize! TUEBL sent an Amazon gift card to this early bookworm for the adorable pic of her and her favorite book:

#TUEBL.ca

A post shared by Joshua Freeman™ (@joshua_freeman) on

Thank you ALL for smiling and reading!

😀