The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors

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9780872864993: The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors
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We have entered the age of "peep culture": a tell-all, show-all, know-all digital phenomenon that is dramatically altering notions of privacy, individuality, security, and even humanity. Peep culture is reality TV, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, over-the-counter spy gear, blogs, chat rooms, amateur porn, surveillance technology, Dr. Phil, Borat, cell phone photos of your drunk friend making out with her ex-boyfriend, and more. In the age of peep, core values and rights we once took for granted are rapidly being renegotiated, often without our even noticing.

With hilarious, exasperated acuity, social critic Hal Niedzviecki dives into peep, starting his own video blog, joining every social network that will have him, monitoring the movements of his toddler, selling his secrets on Craigslist, hiring a private detective to investigate him, spying on his neighbors, trying out for reality TV shows, and stripping for the pleasure of a web audience he isn’t even sure exists. Part travelogue, part diary, part meditation and social history, The Peep Diaries explores a rapidly emerging digital phenomenon that is radically changing not just the entertainment landscape, but also the firmaments of our culture and society.

The Peep Diaries introduces the arrival of the age of peep culture and explores its implications for entertainment, society, sex, politics, and everyday life. Mixing first-rate reporting with sociological observations culled from the latest research, this book captures the shift from pop to peep and the way technology is turning gossip into documentary and Peeping Toms into entertainment journalists. Packed with stranger-than-fiction true-life characters and scenarios, The Peep Diaries reflects the aspirations and confusions of the growing number of people willing to trade the details of their private lives for catharsis, attention, and notoriety.

"Take a peek at The Peep Diaries, an erudite (but not too erudite) look at the culture that Facebook, Twitter, et al. have spawned." Real Simple

"It’s a great read; it mixes frank interviews with people pushing the boundaries of voyeurism and exhibitionism, alongside a bracing critique of the social context that got us into peep culture and the forces that now exploit our participation in it.” The Globe and Mail

"A snapshot of a world in profound transformation. Compelling and creepy." Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo

"If you've found yourself obsessively posting to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and becoming a little uneasy about how it's changing your life you should read this book. The Peep Diaries is a superb investigation into how technology is shifting the landscape of our private lives." Clive Thompson, Wired magazine columnist

"A cogent and penetrating analysis. I certainly hope, as The Peep Diaries suggests, that the cruel spectacle we're witnessing on the tube most evenings actually holds some hope for a more loving future." Douglas Rushkoff, author of Media Virus and Life, Inc.

Hal Niedzviecki is the founder of Broken Pencil magazine and has published numerous works of social commentary and fiction, including Hello I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity and Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened, which is also published by City Lights Publishers.


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About the Author:

Hal Niedzviecki's writings on culture have appeared in newspapers and magazines across North America. He is the founder of Broken Pencil, a magazine covering zine culture and the indie arts. In addition to three novels and a story collection, Niedzviecki is the author of Hello, I'm Special and We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Stephen Reiss We may still be bowling alone, as Harvard professor Robert Putnam famously observed in his 1995 article about the decline of civic organizations. But it's a new form of solitude, in which we upload video of our gutter balls and blog about our lousy scores ad nauseam. We're bowling for a broadcast audience now, some members of which we've invited, many others we haven't. In his new book, "The Peep Diaries," Hal Niedzviecki is worried about that uninvited portion: the companies that try to make money off our likes and dislikes, the government agencies that track what's happening in every alley and intersection, the unnumbered lurkers scrolling for titillation and yucks. Niedzviecki sees danger everywhere: in the proliferation of reality TV and its effect on the poor folks who have their moment of fame and then are left to fend for themselves; in the people who put intimate photographs of themselves online and then are shocked, shocked! when others recognize them and disapprove; in the corporations that dare to use loyalty programs to subject us to targeted advertising. There have been exhibitionists and voyeurs since Noah. But the advances in camera technology and computer networking that allow us to expose ourselves to wider and wider audiences are ubiquitous, and inevitably there are people who misuse them and others who are harmed by them. (Last month, for instance, laptops across the country were briefly preoccupied with video of a naked Erin Andrews, ESPN's sportscaster/cupcake, that was put online by a peeping Tom.) If Niedzviecki had stayed with that premise, he would have written a worthy, if somewhat predictable book. Instead, he's more ambitious and ultimately more disappointing. He posits the rise of something he calls "peep culture," in which "life is lived on constant record because you never know when you're going to want to be able to rewind something, see it again, confront a family member, show it to the police, sell it to the highest bidder, or post it on your blog." Or, more succinctly: "We all have lives worthy of watching. We all have lives worthy of selling." These are the right questions to be asking: What does it mean for society, for human nature, when the camera is always on? Is this going to change the way we relate to each other? Our expectations for daily interaction? When almost everyone tweets every thought, who will need to enter a wooden booth and tell a priest what's going on? The reference to peep shows in the book title is intentional and an unfortunate reflection of the writer's preoccupation with sideshow acts such as a woman who blogs about being a sex slave to her husband and a man who spends a year with a camera mounted on his head. Furthermore, he sees only bogeymen in this new culture. Remarkably, one has to scour this book to find any acknowledgment that there might be good aspects to hyperconnectivity. Politics is being opened up to the masses in an unprecedented fashion, as we saw in the last presidential election. People with rare diseases can now find advice and comfort from others in the same situation around the world. A.J. Liebling's famous observation that "freedom of the press belongs to those that own one" is now obsolete, as anyone with access to a laptop and an Internet service owns her own press. Niedzviecki closes his book with a stunt: He invites all 700 of his Facebook "friends" to join him at a bar in his home town, Toronto. Only one turns up. Somehow this pity party and his reconstruction of why people didn't come are supposed to illuminate how the bonds of community are dissolving and no one wants to bother with face-to-face contact in an age of widely disseminated anonymous confessions. But all they really show is that he is trying to attach old labels to new phenomena. Facebook friends aren't your real friends? D'oh! What we really want to know is whether the nature of real friendship is going to change. It may be too soon to answer that question. But there are Yahoo groups willing to talk about it.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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