Welcome to “A Chip On Her Shoulder”, a novel
“A Chip On Her Shoulder” is a novel of web culture by Susan L. Gerhart.
Set in the near future, the darker side of social media and wearable gadgets degrades into snooping, terrorism, corporate over-reach, and collapse of faith in the web. An enchanted device, the Whisperer, brings social media out of its cloud into face-to-face conversation. But many “Packets of data formerly known as people” now recognize their dilemma. Free Internet presence brings too high a cost in privacy.
Riled up about social media behemoths invading her information space, retired software engineer Janice organizes a rebellious educational reform. Her team is multi-generational: an entrepreneurial millennial; a teenage statistics savant; his aspiring technology journalist mom; and Janice’s professional colleague empowered with low vision adaptations. Each team member brings life changes to the others.
Experienced with social computing well before the dawn of Web Time, Janice asks the perennial question: “How did we get into this mess?”. She answers through lessons learned from World War II and Sputnik, through Reagan’s “star Wars”, into post-9/11 Total Information Awareness; and algorithm-ad-driven Googlearchy. A lost language from the 1980s Japanese industry competition re-emerges as an educational game. In a nutshell, we didn’t educate about privacy, but her Team 3Gen will fix that. Then the social computing world changes below them in the wake of a really bad week of environmental upheaval. The Web collapses.
“A Chip On Her Shoulder” is a unique novel of humorous speculation, history lessons, diversity appreciation, and technological surprises that will make some readers spring to their keyboards to cancel social media accounts. But, is it too late?.
Highlights of A Chip On Her Shoulder”
Social Media dominates people In 2018.
- FaceBook, Google, et al have merged their data into the powerful CumuLinker conglomerate. “Surveillance capitalism” morphs into TIRex, for “Total Information Recall and Exchange.
- As a party host, CumuLinker, through Whisperers, introduces conversations, manages appointments, and integrates person-to-person information into the universal social graph.
- ‘everything is about ‘packets of data formerly known as people’. A ‘Social Media Resistance Movement protects what remains of privacy.
- National surveillance worries many citizens, especially after the ‘Great Trickster’ election of 2016.
A Diverse Team emerges to educate the public about privacy .
- Janice, a retired software engineer, resists TIRex and wrestles with her awesome powers as the “Enchantress of Whisperers”.
- Janice’s colleague, mathematician Sally (aka “Sally Forth” and @AccessSally) uses her low vision adaptations to help “Temporarily Able-Bodied” people better understand technology.
- Sally’s niece, Marilyn, newly divorced, struggling to become a technology journalist, receives a “social media makeover”.
- Marilyn’s teenage son, bob, applies his prodigious data analysis and programming skills to a multi-sensory wildfire simulator.
- A chance acquaintance, entrepreneurial“Millennial Matt” is maturing from a wealthy geek into a socially concerned and historically informed Internet scholar.
- Janice, Sally, Matt, Marilyn, and Bob bond into Team 3Gen after meeting under the nuclear shadow of Los Alamos. They envision a public education game, Privacy Hero.
- Janice’s life is enriched by Gavin, a Canadian snowbird with complementary sagacity and interests.
Technology Thrills and threatens.
- CumuLinker’s flagship product line, Whisperers, challenges readers’ feelings about privacy trade-offs. Janice uses her Whisperer powers for “computational snooping”.
- Text-to-speech has a terrifying shadow, “vocal terrorism”.
- An extravagant reunion game, ‘Life Replayed’, questions ‘digital remembering’.
- A half-day Internet outage exposes national infrastructure weaknesses.
- A gadget-fueled hike spoofs the Internet of Things.
- An abandoned computing language returns to guide Janice into programming turmoil while also motivating PrivacyHero.
- Five days of environmental and political upheaval disrupt the World Wide Web and the public that trusted it. Rampant alerts, fake news and loose political speech complicate responses.
Computing History Explains The 2018 Mess.
Janice’s career experience reveals how computer science created a Faustian monster, “surveillance capitalism”, i.e. “free” social media controlled by advertising.
- 1840s: Ada Lovelace, the first computational thinker, inspires technical women to humanize computing
- 1950s: Russian Sputnik launched the USA to build the international Internet.
- 1980s: The software engineering profession bloomed just as Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative intensified awareness of software risks.
- 1980s: Japan’s Fifth Generation rattled American boardrooms, then took down a branch of computing.
- 1990s: The public Internet and WWW emerged, then became entrapped by TIRex and the post-9-11 surveillance mentality.
- 2000s: Propelled by Moore’s Law, computing education couldn’t embrace social values such as privacy.
- 2018: Janice leads Team 3Gen to educate the public using the PrivacyHero game.
- Observing that “soon there will be no generation that remembers life before the Internet” (Michael Harris, “The End of Absence”), the novel’s characters and events crisscross the “Dawn of Web Time”?
- Fiction helps us deal with the aphorism: “Good judgement comes from experience, which comes from bad judgement”. But, technology accelerate too fast for us to apply what we’re learning.
- Self-proclaimed Technology Enchantress Janice believes her computing background, amplified by her team’s diversity, will reduce the adverse effects of her profession. How does that work out?
So, would you like to fictionally try a Whisperer and BodyReader to enrich your social media life?
Come join Janice and friends in our tales of speculative technology , historical remembrances, privacy ruminations, and wondering what else could go wrong before 2020.
First two chapters coming soon!!!