This book was not our our class reading list, but it was released halfway through the semester and we were inspired by its near-future musings on the state of social media.
The Circle, by Dave Eggars, follows 24-year old Mae Holland as she starts her new job at The Circle, a mix of Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media and advertising companies. The Circle campus is inspired by modern technology company campuses, where buildings are named after historical periods like Renaissance and Enlightenment and employees are encouraged to have all their social activities on campus.
The Circle’s main product is TruYou, a unified operating system that links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing resulting in one online identity. According to the company’s public rhetoric, this kind of transparency will usher in a new age of civility.
One of the main principles guiding the Circle is that ‘ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN’ and for that reason they never delete anything. They implement a CCTV system that covers both private and public spaces, as well as full ‘transparency systems” where people wear a streaming camera, on the principle that “SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, PRIVACY IS THEFT.”
One of the technologies in the book, LuvLuv, captured our attention because it seemed to be something that could easily be implemented today. LuvLuv is a dating application that scrapes all of the known data about an individual in order to provide the searcher with information to help them plan good dates and win over the object of their affection. For example, LuvLuv could advise you of where to take your date to dinner based on their history of allergies, or suggest conversation topics that they would be interested in. This also reminded us of a great short film called Sight, which combines these kinds of dating suggestions with an augmented reality display and gamification elements.
Our incarnation of LuvLuv was an interactive website where we used search results of the online activity of one of our classmates to construct a profile where someone looking to impress him could find out everything they needed to know. Part of this project was to see how he and the class reacted to this information. Although our (awesome) classmate consented to taking part in some sort of experiment, he did not know the specifics of our project. He was surprised to see how much could be learned about him based on only information he had put up willingly online. We may have gotten him to consider changing his privacy settings! Of course, in the world of The Circle, there are no privacy settings…
Below are screenshots of LuvLuv in action:
by Alexis Hope & Julie Legault