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In his latest novel, Dave Eggers introduces us to a company called the Circle. Modeled after highly competitive and evolved work environments such as Facebook, Myspace and Google, it's a futuristic business geared towards innovative and, at times, highly controversial technological advancements.
Mae is a 24-year-old postgrad who’s a lot like every other young adult—she fears not finding her niche in life. When she’s offered a position in the so-called “customer experience” department at the Circle, Mae is immediately immersed in the bright, shiny new world of gadgets, mandatory company parties and shopping sprees on “campus” (aka, the work site). It's in this environment that Mae feels a sense of camaraderie from belonging to a cutting-edge corporation that prides itself on ingenious high-tech innovations.
However, Eggers sheds light on how the juggernauts of the digital world hone in on humans’ need for unity through constant dialogue. He paints a somewhat surreal portrait of such technological queries by showing Mae's naiveté when it comes to accepting her role in the company. Via Mae, Eggers puts forth the question of whether it's practical to be constantly connected.
When an intimate moment between Mae and another circler goes viral, Eggers digs further into post-social networking concepts of privacy and accountability. What was once considered sacred has been cataloged into an artificial world where “nothing can be deleted.” Every moment, every experience, horrific or magnificent, is automatically downloaded and kept in an online public database for all to view. Eggers jolts his readers into pondering the possible outcome of every embarrassing, private or joyful moment of our lives being streamed for round-the-clock public access. And not even by real friends—but strangers.
Handing a mirror over to the reader, Eggers asks for each individual to take a closer look at where we're headed. It could be a world where microchips are placed in infants to avoid possible abduction. It could be a downloadable app that allows users to stream live video feeds from a camera across the world. And if so, do we enter this world willingly? Eggers doesn't say, but he does paint a very vivid and, at times, all too real picture of what the world will look like from our living rooms … a world where everything we need is available with the push of a button.
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