Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Islands of Privacy–book review

Just finished reading Islands of Privacy by Christina Nippert-Eng . Its rare to find an engaging book that reports an extensive piece of research, in this case,  into what people think should be public or private about their lives and how they ‘work’ to make sure others only know what they want them to know. Nippert-Eng uses raw interview data, her analysis and just the right amount of other literature to create a thought provoking and authentic narrative. I really loved her use of the beach as a metaphor for the boundary we create, try to create, fail to create between our privacy islands and the public sea.

The best chapter for me was the one on secrets, with the practice of secret keeping opened out for inspection in lively way. The rich discussion about wallets and purses –who can see what and why certain items are public or private and the chapter on privacy management via windows, doors and our rubbish provides great insights into the individuality of attitudes –made me think about my privacy/public boundary work. Here I am blogging –a very public writing activity – and yet I also keep a note on what I think about books I’ve read in a private journal –worthy of analysis methinks. I was less impressed with the chapter on the impact of technology –nothing very new there except  perhaps the empirical basis of her discussion.

Overall,  a readable book on a topic that we all need to think about but not dwell on too much.

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Islands of Privacy by Christena Nippert-Eng published by The University of Chicago Press 2010

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