Jeff Jarvis bares all in Public Parts

Public PartsFor all the negative aspects around online sharing, there are just as many benefits that help make our day to day lives that much better.

Those benefits are all discussed in Jeff Jarvis’ latest book Public Parts: How sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live, which I picked up when he came to Third Tuesday Toronto to speak about it, in November.

Every so often a disruptive technology comes along that causes people to worry about the effect it has on privacy. It happened with theĀ  printing press, camera, TV, computer and of course, the Internet. People have trouble adapting to new technology, but for the most part, they have made us more connected and aware of our surroundings. Like Jarvis says in this interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources (paraphrased), if people continue to worry about the worst that can happen, you could miss out on the best that could happen.

For businesses, getting to know their customers on is becoming the norm. Examples that the book looks at are Facebook and Amazon, which have grown by targeting their services toward the individual user. Jarvis argues that if you’re getting better services from these companies, wouldn’t it be in your interest to give up some information?

As a consumer I’m down the middle on this issue. I actively tweet, post on Facebook and blog so I’m putting out information all the time, but there’s still a lot that I don’t care to share. I’ll never intentionally click a social ad on Facebook, or sponsored tweet on Twitter even if it’s targeted toward my interests, but if a site like Amazon offers me better suggestions on products based on what I’ve looked at, I don’t mind them tracking my usage because it makes shopping that much easier. Jarvis also brings up a great point – if you’re worried about having your information out there for the public to see or companies to use, no one is twisting your arm to post it. I couldn’t agree more.

The benefits of public vs. private have also played out a lot with the revolutions on this past year in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the Occupy movements across Europe and North America. Through sharing on blogs and social media sites, people have been able to mobilize mass-movements that have led to the fall of governments and bringing to light the shady practices of many corporations. Specifically in the Arab countries, people were able to share their experiences with the public, and journalists, who weren’t permitted to enter those countries, could work with the citizens to report on the revolutions. Examples like this show the benefits of social media to the journalism industry as well as the effect it has on allowing people to change their livelihood.

Near the end, Jarvis asks “who will protect publicness?” and goes through examples of governments and companies that have proven to be unreliable. He says there needs to be a set of principles that act as a watchdog if governments or companies violating our freedoms, but I don’t see anyone other than governments who could do so. It’s very complicated topic and I feel there needs to be some regulation, but I don’t see how that could happen without it affecting someone’s freedoms.

Public Parts is definitely a worthwhile read, though I found his chat at Third Tuesday a lot more engaging. If you’re into the public vs. private debate then I say give this one a go, and if not you probably haven’t read this far anyway. I give the book a 3.5/5.

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About Sean Bailey
Social media specialist who also happens to be a tech geek that's addicted to reading, movies, music, sports and coffee. Anything said on this blog is my opinion (obviously).

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