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Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live Audible – Unabridged

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Format: Hardcover
If the style Jeff Jarvis uses to write Public Parts (a bit of a play on Howard Stern's book "Private Parts") is any indication, I'd imagine that Jeff was the kind of kid in school that was perpetually being told to get back to his seat and sit down, and to quiet down a bit. But you know...it works. Jarvis has much to say about the fantastic challenges to commonly held ideas of privacy that the massive hyperdrive toward connectivity in the 21st century poses. His approach to getting it all out in this fairly short book is a bit frenetic, and his never-a-dull-moment journalism can be energizing, or off-putting, depending on your own preferences. Jarvis's approach is far more the shotgun than the high-powered rifle, which allows him to encompass a wide pattern of topics.

While Jarvis acknowledges that privacy has its uses, he is a gigantic advocate of openness, of public access to information, rather than containment. He backs his advocacy with examples that range from the very personal level (where we hear about his urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction after his prostate cancer surgery) to the international level, where he argues that "governments should be public by default, private only by necessity". Good governments, he says, are transparent. Bad governments are invariably, and often lethally, private. While conscious of the collateral damage that can occur with making some forms of information public, I think he would agree with the thought that when all is said and done, when all the dust is settled, when all the fires of public outrage die down, being public with information is a large net gain to society compared to a culture of privacy.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeff Jarvis has written a provocative book that will force us to have a serious conversation about the trade-offs between enhanced privacy rights and "publicness" -- which he defines as the benefits that come "from being open and making the connections that technology now affords."

Some will bristle at the notion that privacy "rights" should be balanced against any other right or value. If we desire the benefits of a more open and transparent society, however, it is a conversation we need to have. As Jarvis correctly notes, publicness improves interpersonal relationships, empowers communities, strengthens social ties, enables greater collaboration, promotes transparency and truth-seeking, and helps enliven deliberative democracy, among many other things.

Of course, new innovations in information technology -- the printing press, cameras, microphones, and now search engines and social networking -- have always spawned new privacy tensions. Ultimately, though, they also bring tremendous benefits, Jarvis correctly notes. The Internet revolution and all the angst that it entails is just the latest in this reoccurring cycle. We're going through the same growing pains our ancestors did with previous technologies and it's important not to overreact.

Whatever your view on privacy and the law governing it, it's always good to hear the other side of the story. Jarvis delivers it here with gusto and makes a powerful case for re-framing the way we think about these challenging issues going forward. Incidentally, those who find this topic of interest should also check out "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us To Choose Between Privacy And Freedom?" by David Brin, which also makes the case for increased information sharing and publicness.

[My longer review of "Public Parts" can be found at Forbes.com]
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author wrote a lot about his opinion that our current excessive lack of privacy is a "good" thing, but he hasn't exposed a very scientific backing to his opinions which made the book lack a good knowledge base. Also the majority of the scientists studying in this area are going to say that our current state on privacy is a very bad thing.
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Format: Hardcover
Jarvis provides a succinct and well-organized argument on why sharing more can improve everyone's life - though the metrics for what constitutes improvement is of course, debatable. The arguments are fairly compelling; however, compared to Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age and Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together, Jarvis fails to inspire the reader with a sound theoretical argument or detailed examples. His focus on personal experiences derived from his blog (a must-read) and somewhat petty criticisms of his critics mar the value of this book.

Nevertheless, one can find nuggets of information that clearly show the potential impact of business models that rely on sharing (e.g. - TinyURL resulting in more clickthroughs than direct search on Google - showing the latent potential of Facebook-like platforms on monetizing connections/sharing and the increase in effectiveness of marketing, more relevant targeting). Readers familiar with the domain may not significantly benefit from the discussion on other applications such as Foursquare and many others that are focused on sharing purchase information. Overall, Jarvis makes the argument that sharing information will eventually lead to better targeted more relevant ads, that in turn increase the click-throughs - a win for the advertiser and the platform - and presumably for the target.
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