Common read 2016 focuses on technology, privacy

Elizabeth Stoeger, Staff Writer

A committee composed of faculty, administrators and students selected the Common Read book for the 2016 PLACE theme, “The Digital Society.”

The book, “The Circle,” a 2013 novel by Dave Eggers, will be the 2016-17 common read.

“The Digital Society” will be the PLACE theme for the next 2 years. Each year will have a subtheme, with the 2016-17 theme being “The Digital Self” and 2017-18 theme being “The Digital Citizen.”

“Broadly speaking, the next two years will look at the role of digital technology in our society both here in the U.S. and worldwide,” Susan Sivek, PLACE Coordinator and professor of mass communication said.

Specifically, this next year will examine “how individuals relate to technology, how we form our identity with technology, how it affects our relationships, all kinds of issues related to individuals and their lives,” said Sivek.

The following year will explore “the role of digital technology in government, activism, global concerns.”

The common read book is always connected to the PLACE theme and is meant to engage the entire campus, especially freshmen, in discussion.

Library Director Susan Barnes Whyte said, “We chose ‘The Circle’ because it fit so well with the scope of PLACE next year. We hope that first year students will be able to connect with this novel’s questioning technology’s potential to take over/control our lives, in both the public sphere and the private sphere.”

“[The novel] asks how we as individuals are affected by the way that we engage in technology and the way that technology is designed,” Sivek said.

Sivek hopes the book will get students thinking, “The book raises a lot of really good and interesting questions about how much technology we want in our lives and what role we want it to play.”

“The Circle” follows Mae Holland, a woman in her 20s, at her new job with a company ominously known as the Circle. The Three Wise Men control the Circle and their aim is to make everything and everyone transparent, to eliminate privacy.

In her review of the book in The New York Times, Ellen Ullman wrote, “The Circle’s goal is to have all aspects of human existence – from voting to love affairs – flow through its portal, the sole such portal in the world.”

Mae blindly follows the Circle and its mission with relish and pride before meeting Kalden, who is an enigmatic figure with strong feelings against the Circle.

“[It’s] hard to put down, it’s suspenseful, it keeps you reading. It’s got a lot of depth to it but it’s also written in a style that’s very engaging and fun,” Sivek said about the novel.

It forces us to realize “that the way technology is built isn’t completely value free . . . that there are decisions that are made in designing different technologies that communicate certain values and that value some things over others,” Sivek said.

The book is available at Nicholson Library, the McMinnville Public Library, and for purchase online.