André Spiegel's Reviews > Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Life, Business, and Society

Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis
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Sep 27, 2011

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Read from September 27 to October 02, 2011

I had been looking forward to this book for months. When it came out, I was glad I didn't have to camp in front of a bookstore to get my copy — it was delivered wirelessly to my e-reader a few seconds after publication. And yet, having read it, I cannot deny a mild sense of disappointment.

I feel a bit like a choir being preached to. I'm on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, and a host of other online services. I publish my precise physical location online, and I've got my own blog. I haven't yet written about my penis online, but would feel little restraint doing so, if the occasion arose. Oh, and perhaps I should mention I'm German and am quite comfortable sitting naked in the sauna.

Whenever a new service comes out that suggests to make further parts of my life public, my initial feeling is not so much one of anxiety, but rather of curiousity. I'm eager to try things out.

So maybe I'm not quite the intended audience of the book, which might be those who are still tip-toeing into the new kind of public sphere that is developing, or those who are critical of it.

Alas, I don't think this works. In my experience, irrespective of age, social background, or even culture, people fall squarely into two camps: those who are curious about publicness, and try things out, and those who are not. If someone belongs to the second camp, I have found that no reasoning whatsoever, no carefully compiled list of advantages, and no enthusiasm could persuade them to venture into publicness beyond a half-hearted first attempt that quickly fades.

»It is futile to try and explain a thought to someone for whom a hint is not enough«, said Nicolás Gómez Dávila. And one of my German Twitter acquaintances quipped: »The digital divide is not between us and those who don't get it, it is between us and those who couldn't care less.«

I would, therefore, consider it still very much up in the air whether the desire to share, which Jarvis so enthusiastically celebrates in his book, is really a fundamental human instinct that is only inhibited because we did not grow up in an environment that enabled it, or whether it is just a trait of a rather limited group of people.

For those like me who are in the publicness camp, the book is what Germans might call a »Konsensschmöker« — a tome of consent. It is exciting to read, not least because it kindles one's sense of being part of all sorts of fascinating developments, the outcome of which we probably cannot even begin to imagine. »We ain't seen nothing yet«, as Jarvis exclaims. And he quotes Leah Marcus with what became one of my favorite passages: »Renaissances happen by infrequently enough that they should be enjoyed in the process. I, for one, await the Cyberspace Renaissance with great interest, and hope to live to see its zenith.«

This nicely sums up the spirit of the book. Unfortunately, beyond this enthusiasm, it offered little additional food for thought to me.
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62.0% "Through with it. Earlier than expected: the rest is footnotes and index."
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Hans-Peter Merz Auf Deine Einschätzung zu diesem Titel bin ich gespannt.

André Spiegel Ich melde mich dazu. Brauche noch kurze Inkubationszeit.

Hans-Peter Merz Hi Andre, obtrotz Deines eher verhaltenen Kommentars freue ich mich auf das Buch. Eigentlich vor allem deshalb, weil ich gute Gruende fuer meine Haltung to publish all suche. Die eine Frage ist ja, wen sollte bitteschoen interessieren,wo ich heute mittag ein Broetchen gegessen habe oder welches Buch ich gerade lese. Ich mache mir also eher Sorgen, als Wichtiguer, Aufschneider oder Exhibitionist zu gelten, als dem Staatsschutz seine wichtige Arbeit abzunehmen. Die andere Frage ist die nach dem Nutzen jedweder Oeffentlichkeit. Meine Tweets werden mich nie so beruehmt machen, dass ich ueber nachfolgende Werbeauftraege hoffen darf, meine Miete oder auch nur meinen Weinkonsum finanzieren zu koennen. Und all die schoene Zeit, die man in all den social areas vertroedelt.

Was bleibt, ist die Neugierde auf diese Renaissance. Das war fuer mich 1997 der Grund, mit einer Homepage online zu gehen und das ist bis heute der Grund, all diese Spielereien auszuprobieren. Das ist eigentlich Grund genug, immer schon gewesen.

Ich werde stilecht in den ibook store gehen und nachsehen, ob das Werk auch in diesem Teil der Welt verfuegbar ist ;-)

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