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Sharp, broad-ranging techno-criticism that merits attention.

When the product is free, you are the product.

Writer and art critic McNeil acknowledges that the term “users” is problematic, if only because consumers of social media are the ones being used, “as scrap metal, as data in a data set, as something less than human, as actual tools.” Everything that is priceless, such as friendship and knowledge, carries a price tag; every boundary is transgressed. When we do a Google search, Google is searching us for preferences, interests, worries, and concerns. “It would like to predict what you want to know with the data is has collected from you and about you,” she writes. In that milieu, there is a difference between anonymity and privacy—but is one ever truly anonymous given all the tracking and big data crunching and aggregation surrounding us? There may be ways, but to trust the system is to have one’s privacy eroded at every step, as when McNeil writes of a friend who, on social media, found her father in the “People You May Know” box, a father whom she hadn’t seen for three decades and didn’t want to know about. Facebook’s assumption, as that friend wrote, is that everybody wants to be connected to everyone else, when of course that’s not true: One doesn’t want to be confronted by angry exes, stalkers, rapists and other agents of past traumas. Artificial intelligence doesn’t know about all that—yet. AI doesn’t rule everything—yet. As the author writes, the editors of Wikipedia represent a very human phenomenon, interpolating technology with their own prejudices as (mostly) white males who are vocal about biases and tend to shout down “newbies” who may be of other ethnicities and genders: “There’s a learning curve, after all,” writes McNeil, “and it is accelerated by the vicious pedantry of the fervid.” In our brave new world, everybody wants something, and ferreting out the identity of the former wallflowers who lurk quietly in the corners of discussion rooms is a particularly desired prize.

Sharp, broad-ranging techno-criticism that merits attention.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-19433-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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 19, 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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