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

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“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

We have entered the age of "peep...

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

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“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

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.

Hal Niedzviecki is the editor 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen Burt
'Blog posts, images, videos, tweets, dating profiles and friend updates', [Niedzviecki] says, are creating a culture without privacy, a culture of 'wanting to know everything about everyone and, in turn, wanting to make sure that everyone knows everything about us. [He] argues that the handful of people who walk about with digital cameras on their heads, so that they can put every part of every day online, and the people who beg to be contestants on reality TV shows, are simply extremes of the Peep that engulfs us all.
London Review of Books
" . . . 'The Peep Diaries' sheds light on the darker corners of the rapid changes in how we communicate, the repercussions of such a shift in paradigm and the root causes for its embrace.” --(Kyle Armstrong)
Publishers Weekly

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.
Real Simple Magazine
Real Simple collected some of the best books out there to help you find your great summer read. . . . If You're Having On-Line Withdrawal. . . .
Take a peek at The Peep Diaries an erudite (but not too erudite) look at the culture that Facebook, Twitter, et al. have spawned.
NOW Magazine
Hal Niedzviecki's new book coins the term 'peep culture' and harnesses a ton of research - as well as his impressive analytical skills - in a way that's sure to make the term stick. Peep culture refers to the phenomenon that currently finds us all yearning to watch and be watched. It's spawned everything from reality TV to Facebook to complex spy technologies used for entertainment and other, not so benign purposes. . . . Writing with astonishing clarity - and even beauty - Niedzviecki piles on the ironies. In peep culture, TV shows like 'Cops,' originally intended to curb crime, wind up promoting it. . . . Essential reading.
The Globe and Mail
In The Peep Diaries, author, social critic and indie-culture poster boy Hal Niedzviecki explores, with humour and insight, how we got hooked up to this IV drip of perpetual connectivity, of watching and being watched. 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.
AARP Magazine
What's Peep, you ask? As social critic Hal Niedzviecki explains it in The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors, Peep is the innate human desire to know and be known, to see and be seen, to communicate and be communicated with. We are social animals, goes the Niedzviecki Hypothesis, and this primitive compulsion to reach out and touch (or view) someone harks back to our days as mutually grooming primates. . . . Taking us on a guided tour of over-the-counter spy gear, chat rooms, personal blogs, surveillance technology, and even the bizarre world of online amateur porn, The Peep Diaries provides a lighthearted overview of oversharing.
Oprah Magazine
You need to know. You need to be known.' That is the compulsion fueling what cultural critic Hal Niedzviecki calls 'peep culture, the bastard love child of gossip'-our mass addiction to twittering, tweeting, snooping, spying, blogging, gawking at reality TV and YouTube, spilling our secrets on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Ping . . . the list goes on. 'Call it surveillance with benefits,' he writes of our consuming need for human connection in The Peep Diaries (City Lights), a virtual descent into the loneliest of worlds.
For obsessive Twitter-ers and Julia Allison haters, journalist and cultural critic Hal Niedzviecki's fascinating nonfiction book might just be required reading. In it, he examines the world of what he has coined 'Peep culture,' the oversharing of one's life through blogging, Facebook, YouTube, etc., for a mostly anonymous audience.
Fascinating stuff. Scary, but fascinating. This is a highly enjoyable read. You may be afraid to be read it, but I think everyone should. You should know the facts, then think about how your actions have repercussions. You never know when or how they'll come back on you, whether innocent or guilty. This book provides so much real life information, such thoughtful musings, on contemporary "peep" culture and how it defines modern society. It left me wanting to know more, and I'm already reading more on the topic.
—Lisa Guidarini
Pacific Sun
The Peep Diaries is a crash course in the many ways our culture exposes itself and an investigative, often humorous look at just how attention-starved and lonely the majority of people are. Talking with many of the average Joes who expose themselves through tweets, blogs, posts and webcams, Niedzviecki . . . [argues that] the more we become connected by computers through our obsessions with 'reality,' the more disconnected we become from reality.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872864993
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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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Table of Contents

1 Introducing Peep Culture 1

2 Becoming a Peep (Product) Person 21

3 Faking the Real: Everyday Secrets and the Rise of Peep TV 75

4 Breaking the Seal: Gossip, Grooming and the (Secret) Allure of Peep 121

5 Watching the Detectives Watching the Neighbors in the Golden Age of Surveillance 153

6 Escape from the Castle: Privacy in the Age of Peep 209

7 Future Peep: Why No One Came to My Party and Other Semi-Transparent Conclusions 259

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted July 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful, fascinating, informative read

    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

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