An eye-opening reassessment of the concept of personal data.



A reconceptualization of the very idea of identity—human or otherwise.

Brook opens his engaging nonfiction debut by looking at the way that people’s technological-assisted “extended presences,” or EPs, depending on such things as social media, extend far beyond their immediate selves. He circumvents readers’ suspicions that he might be faddishly following social media trends by using an example of someone who handily predates MySpace and Facebook: Cleopatra. Her public image, he writes, was much greater than a commoner’s during her lifetime and has since—through books, institutional instruction, plays and films—grown exponentially. Her form of extended presence, in other words, has gained a life independent of her own. Brook sees this as a prototype example of his concept of the “humem”: As new technology makes EPs more elaborate, functional and necessary in our daily lives, he says, they also take on a more independent existence. Brook is reluctant to limit his discussion to today’s technology: “At any point in history, we tend to construe the current state of the art as the final word,” he writes. “But we are always mistaken.” Instead, he believes that “humems” should be treated as though they exist “independent of any specific media,” as separate beings deserving of “many of the same things we require for ourselves, including agency, freedom, welfare, security, and even economic opportunity.” Brook looks to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a rudimentary model of his envisioned “humem state”; he compares this with legislation designed to protect nonhuman life (such as gorillas), which may make his concept more palatable to readers who find the idea of granting rights to Facebook profiles a bit jarring. In 11 densely written (and sometimes overlong) chapters, Brook lays out the case that “humems” have evolved sufficiently in recent years to warrant more nuanced consideration as self-contained entities. “Cultural mind-sets need time to evolve,” he correctly notes, and everyone who’s ever had their online data “mined” will think harder about that evolution after reading this groundbreaking book.

An eye-opening reassessment of the concept of personal data.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692251621

Page Count: 310

Publisher: humemity

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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