London Review of Books
The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighborsby Hal Niedzviecki
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</i>
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.
London Review of Books
Ubiquitous video technology and the Internet have ushered in a "peep culture" that makes us all either-or simultaneously-exhibitionists or voyeurs, according to this eye-opening study. In good participant-observer fashion, Niedzviecki (Hello, I'm Special) dives into our mania for observing and revealing pseudo-secret personal information: he starts a blog, applies to reality television shows, does video surveillance around his house and slips a GPS tracking device into his wife's car. He's content to merely interview, rather than join, the middle-aged couples who post their amateur porn online. He argues instead that peep culture reprises an ancient impulse to bond through the sharing of intimacies, but worries that our digital version of village gossip and primate grooming is a weak and fraudulent foundation for community (out of his 700-odd Facebook friends and blog readers, only one showed up for his offline party). Niedzviecki's smart mixture of reportage and reflection avoids alarmism and hype while capturing the strange power of our urge to see and be seen. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Take a peek at The Peep Diaries an erudite (but not too erudite) look at the culture that Facebook, Twitter, et al. have spawned.
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Meet 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.
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Wow. One of the best and most attention holding books I have read in a long time. How many of us, when we walk out the door each day ever pause to ask ourselves 'who is watching me'? And if we do, how many of us assume, if anyone is watching us, its probably the red stop light cameras or cameras at the ATM machine at the bank? And yes, we know of the successful use of cameras in homes that have caught abusive baby sitters and even thieves in the process of robbing the home owner. Now I know that all stores, banks, ATM machines etc have cameras. But how many people know that gas station pumps have cameras that show you are using pump number 3 that is for the low octane gas? What about the bathroom in the restaurant you go to? Or the neighbor who has a camera hooked up to show everything not only outside his home but across the street and within eye shop on both sides? What about the rental car that shows not only if you are speeding but shows if you are eating or drinking while driving? What about the insurance companies who want hidden data to be recorded that shows if you speed or do reckless activities? Do you know how many photos of videos you share online are banked by servers or the photos on your My Space or FaceBook? How many people pause to think about the fact that everything you share online will be saved for decades and possibly centuries? And the sexual sites where average people either on a fluke or intentionally, share intimate photos. Like the group of people in the book who belong to a couple sexual sites who get together to talk about life and how they have fun being wild spirits. Yet often with little if any thought to how photos shared can be searched with server codes, so that prospective employers can see if you are someone they want working for them. How many people know that Google offers a site so that anyone anywhere in the world can see not only the area you live in, but by zooming in, can see you sunbathing or swimming naked in your rural back yard, which you chose to live in because it was rural, isolate and private? The book poses a series of fascinating questions, that people should be asking themselves. Will we have a few rebels who will go off the grid and become modern day hermits, where the only interaction outside their small abode, is face to face with like minded private folks who don't use banks, email, phones? Will these rebels create a back lash in regard to modern technology? I consider myself one of these rebels in the making. The book also starts out by discussing reality television and how the makers edit what you see, so that reality isnt really reality. Think of the five days of filming Trading Spaces or shows like Wife Swap, and how days and days and days of filming are reduced to an hour of television. Then ask yourself, what is going on the other 168 hours. With the talk of national health care and computer generated records of our doctor visits, has anyone asked the serious questions regarding identity theft issues we already are dealing with and what happens if someone dislikes you and hacks into your medical records to change what is there so that you now have AIDS or it says you have sued a doctor and thus you find yourself being black listed? As I write this review National Public Radio has had someone on talking about summer camp experiences and how today's summer camps now have Internet cameras so that parents back home can see what is going on. And email