As adults, most of us are aware of the inherent privacy risks we run by participating in social media. If I post my social security number and birthday on a forum, then I’m probably going to face some pretty serious identity theft. That’s easy. We understand that, but what about “liking” something on Facebook? Are we all aware how much of our data is passed around through these simple, daily transactions?
More to the point, how aware are students?
Networked: Carabella on the Run is published by a group called PrivacyActivism in conjunction with NBM, and they seek to “entertain as well as educate” in this book. Wrapping a message in a story is a powerful-yet-tricky way to communicate. Done well, it excites the reader to take action on behalf of the cause. Done poorly, the story is a thin veil for an informational brochure.
Networked largely succeeds in storytelling and teaching, but there are moments when privacy issues are explained in far more detail than someone might use in a natural conversation. Keep in mind, though, the target audience for this book–preteens and young teens. Thus, the book needs to be clear with its message.
As someone who used to regularly work with students in that age group, I certainly understand the need to be as clear as possible. Even though the action starts and stops on occasion for teaching moments, the story is whimsical and humorous with a sci-fi influence.
The title character, Carabella, is a blue-skinned visitor from another planet who has managed to somehow blend in at a local college. As she learns more about social media and the ways her privacy can be threatened both online and in the real world, she is reminded of the totalitarian restrictions of her past.
Carabella has her hair up in a couple of buns a la Princess Leia, and she is approached by a Star Wars cosplay group who saw her photo on “Facespace.” The best part about this awkward exchange is that writer Gerard Jones ends up using this running gag in a clever way that advances the plot.
There are also several humorously awkward moments when Carabella tries to explain to her friends how her hippie-commune upbringing is the reason for all of her eccentricities–including her blue skin (permanently stained by tie-dye).
As a story, Networked: Carabella on the Run is a quirky little romantic tale that’s worth reading. As a teaching tool, it may highlight worst case scenarios a bit too much, but this book should be a wonderful conversation starter for students.