Hypocrisy at the Circle

One of the most notable themes that can be identified between pages 102 and 205 of The Circle is hypocrisy.  As Mae continues incorporating herself more and more into the Circle and immersing herself in its culture, it seems that she loses a sense of who she is and what she stands for.  Her interactions with both Francis and Mercer highlight this development.

When LuvLuv was introduced at Dream Friday, Mae was horrified to find herself named publicly as the subject of Francis’ affection during a preview of the new service.  Mae was caught off guard and unprepared for the entire experience.  Ultimately, everyone in the audience was given a detailed look into her life, including her allergies, names of restaurants she frequents, rankings of her favorite foods, movie preferences, favorite locations, and more.  LuvLuv was able to take advantage of the data trail she had been unwittingly leaving for years and turn it into a search engine for people who were interested in knowing about her.  Mae, understandably, is furious and finds herself wondering why Francis couldn’t ask her himself what he wanted to know about her.

One day later, however, Mercer repeats this same question to Mae when he criticizes her work at and association with the Circle.  Mercer take issue with how Mae interacts and communicates with him, essentially unhappy with how she uses social networks to interact, prioritizing online engagement over personal engagement.  He has problems with how the Circle encourages people to participate online in what he understands to be a system that perpetuates untrue information by way of comments, posts and reviews on businesses.  Mae had believed one of the false reviews about his business that was nothing more than rumor, and he is frustrated that she became instantly angry with him instead of asking him personally to verify the claim.  As a reader its frustrating that Mae can’t see the ironic parallel between her own frustration and Mercer’s. She had been wishing for the exact same thing only a day ago, that Francis ask engage with her personally.  Yet when speaking with Mercer, she decries him as an underachiever for being unwilling to participate and buy into the necessity of an online presence.  If she really believed in the importance of this online presence then she would have no issue with LuvLuv.

Maybe its my natural tendency to distrust things I don’t completely understand (in this case the Circle’s incongruous image as an overlord yet extremely convenient and necessary for social life), but Mercer’s interaction with Mae was the first time during my reading that I wasn’t on Mae’s side.  He advocates for an offline lifestyle and refuses to buy into the Circle’s dominance over communication and interaction, which is refreshing after reading about Mae being blindly enthralled by the Circle’s capabilities and technologies.  She refuses to acknowledge the dangerous side of these technologies, even after she is upset about the LuvLuv incident.  Mercer, I think, provides a needed respite from the Circle and its culture, and at least proves that some characters are immune to it’s powerful influence.

Making Disney Magic

Many reader posts this week focused on John Foreman’s article, which doesn’t surprise me.  I would have, too.  Full disclosure: I was literally obsessed with Disney as a child, and as far I was concerned Disney could never be bad.  It all started when Cinderella came to my birthday party when I was 3 and told me I was a princess.  I was 5 years old the first time my parents took me to Disney World (which I pronounced Dis-uh-nee), and we’ve returned many times since.  I vividly recall receiving a special hotel room key with my name printed on it, and hiring a family tour guide who could get us extra fast passes as we rode the rides.  It was all about efficiency, and there would be no time wasted.  As my sister and I grew older, it became more and more like a game as we tried to get as many fast passes for as many rides as possible.  It seemed like a race against all other families to do the most we possibly could in the shortest possible time.  In hindsight we were maybe too intense about our vacations.

Modern Fam - gloria- i lose i burn this hose down
The Duncan Family Disney Mentality, as demonstrated by Gloria from Modern Famliy


So to me, the Disney MagicBand feels like a device that would cater directly to my weirdly intense family.  We get sucked into the adventure and can’t stop running between rides and discreetly racing other families and buying snacks along the way, which is probably what they want — complete absorption in the entire theme park experience.  The MagicBand removes all obstacles in our way, like having to physically remove your wallet to pay for things.  It seems like it would be a perfect fit for us, so I decided to dig deeper into Disney’s data collection.  Apparently, the MagicBand is technically defined as “an all-in-one device that effortlessly connects you to all the vacation choices you made with My Disney Experience.”  What a nice personal touch.  However, if you check out Disney’s Privacy & Legal page you can actually “review how your information is collected and protected” which will then direct you to this FAQ where you can then access The Walt Disney Company Privacy Center.  The sheer number of links it takes to get to this page is enough for me to lose interest in learning about how Disney is tracking my data.  This stuff is boring so I read it for you.  Here’s what I’ve found.

Disney collects three types of information: personal, anonymous, and aggregate.  They collect your name, address, email, password, gender, date of birth, phone number, payment information, anything posted on their website, anything posted on a Disney app, location information when using their websites or apps, usage, viewing and technical data, and more.  So what happens to your data?  Well, a member (read: subsidiary or affiliated entity) of the Walt Disney Family of Companies (including ABC, Disney, DisneyPixar, ESPN, Hollywood Films, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Muppets, Playdom, Star Wars, and others) will act as data controller.  Specifically, a data processor will be the one analyzing your data on behalf of the data controller.  Using your data, they can “send you offers and promotions for our products” and “provide you with advertising based on your activity on our sites and applications.” From here, you can click through to Disney’s Online Tracking and Advertising page, which, if you’ve made it this far, is where you’ll really lose interest in caring about any of this (with the exception of maybe some data enthusiasts or something).  Do I really want to understand the full reality of giving Disney my data in return for this plasticky wristband of convenience?  Or do I want to be blissfully ignorant as I buy my $9 bottle of water with the wave of my arm, just like a magic wand?  I want to say no, that I wouldn’t be a part of their system, and that I wouldn’t simply give my data away so easily.  But let’s be real…

Tom - this is america, I want it now

Use Your Words

This week in class I chose to observe how often we use specific words.  I chose the words “like”, “um”, “kinda”, “ok”, and “so”, because I wanted to see how often they actually occur in conversation.  I’ve always been reprimanded for using “like” so often, so I wondered if it would be used as frequently in class as it is  in normal conversation.  Turns out, its used fairly commonly in class as well.  Additionally, after the first hour of class I realized that almost every sentence either began with “so” or used “so” as a conjunction.  Here are the results of my tally.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 4.33.02 PM

It turns out that “so” barely edged out “like” for most frequently used.  “Um” was a decently close third place.  “Ok” and “kinda” were not frequent at all, which I found surprising.  In hindsight, other words that I would have been interesting to include are “you know”, “sorta”, “well”, “stuff”, and “whatever”.


The Issue of Authoritative Maps

In Cartographies of Time, Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton illustrate how easy visualization of data can facilitate a deeper understanding of its meaning.  They take care to introduce and detail multiple different different data recording systems from the last several centuries, explaining the nuances and distinctions among each of them.  The evolution of these charts helps illustrate the relative importance of chronology as a field of study.  It seems, however, that while these charts are immensely detailed and intricate, today’s charts are considerably less so.  A timeline is no longer a revolutionary new method of visualization but more likely a homework assignment for a second grader.  These charts have grown simpler over time, resulting in the standard line graph, something that was previously innovative but is now mundane.  This lack of detail and intricacy points to an argument that Mark Monmonier makes in his book How to Lie with Maps, that exclusion of data and distortion of reality in a chart is necessary to get the most important points across.

A message that both books present is that simplicity is an important aspect of data visualization.  Clarity is key.  Unfortunately, the act of simplifying allows for the possibility of manipulation, which Monmonier details in his accounts of political propaganda maps. Monmonier alludes to the point that simplification of maps is dangerous because people trust them.  Maps are often awarded more authority than they deserve.  Take, for example, the following map:


This map means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and is a frequent source of international tensions.  The 9 dashed line (China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea, in red) was originally published in 1947 by the Koumintang, not the Chinese Communist Party.  In 1949 when the Koumintang fled to Taiwan and the CCP founded the People’s Republic of China, the CCP conveniently adopted this map as their own despite it having been created by the Koumintang, who also maintain claims to the area.  The CCP continues to insist upon their right to claim the entire South China Sea to this day, despite the fact that this violates mutually agreed upon international law.  Some might find this map to be completely legitimate while others find it outrageous.  It stands as an example of how lines drawn on a picture of the earth can represent something so incredibly significant as national sovereignty, and how oversimplification of maps can have potentially dangerous ramifications, especially when those maps carry authority.

Looking for a trade off

I’ve always understood our democratic system of governance as a trade off.  For example, we pay taxes to the government but in exchange we expect protection from external threats.   This perspective is how I attempt to validate the NSA’s snooping habits.  Tuesday’s in-class questions/fishbowl exercise had me wondering what such a trade off would look like in this current situation.  Maybe its because my emails, facebook posts and tweets are so mundane and boring that I really don’t care if the government sees them, but if I choose to accept that I’m possibly being surveilled then I absolutely expect something in return.  I expect to feel completely safe wherever I go, be it through airports or Times Square, and anything less than a guarantee of my safety is unacceptable.  I think this would possibly be the only thing worth an invasion of my privacy because its hard to object to the goal of national security.

Even following this logic, sometimes I’m still trying to convince myself that I could live with this deal.  In class on Tuesday, Richard raised the point about third party contractors having access to people’s data and using that privilege to creep on their exes.  This bothers me more than the NSA simply collecting a database of my phone calls or texts or tweets or whatever, and makes me reconsider my logic.  I would like to assume that I could trust the government to prevent this, but I’m not sure that I can make that assumption.  This abuse of privilege worries me more than the actual collection of my data.

As a final point, after reading The Guardian article and watching so many talking heads passionately discuss this issue, all I could think about was how lucky I am to be a citizen of a country where this discussion is possible.  So many people have completely different opinions about the extent of the government’s reach, but others aren’t lucky enough to have even that option.  I spent my semester abroad in Shanghai, and had a similar situation happened in China nobody would be talking about reining in the government’s snooping programs or establishing new oversight because they don’t have power to affect change in their government.  Consent of the governed is not a reality in China.  If the PLA was conducting the same kinds of data collection and analysis, which they likely are, the Chinese would have no way of protesting it.  In my opinion, not being able to act on the knowledge of governmental spying would be a worse scenario than the one we find ourselves in today.

Week 3 Observations

Tuesday, January 27:

  • 4 hats in class
  • 1 pair of crutches
  • 1 person wearing flip flops (high temperature: 46 degrees)
  • 3 people wearing glasses, unknown number wearing contacts
  • still only 3 girls in class
  • 9 shirts with collars
  • ~24 minutes spent building panopticon

Thursday, January 29:

  • 2 patagonia fleeces
  • 6 people wearing glasses, presumably lower number of people wearing contacts
  • 10 drinks on tables
  • Time of Arrivals:
  • Time of Arrival