Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cory Doctorow visits Willard

Our 8th graders were treated to a fascinating talk by author Cory Doctorow.  At time speaking over their heads, and at other times, straight to their hearts, Doctorow discussed technology, surveillance, privacy, copyright, and piracy.  But it was his discussion of the late activist and hacker Aaron Swartz that struck the deepest chord with the students.  Depression and suicide are not easy subjects.  I was glad Doctorow was able to talk about the loss of a friend so thoughtfully and openly.

Doctorow is on tour to promote his most recent novel, Homeland, a follow-up to Little Brother.   Both books feature a teenager who uses his talents with technology to challenge governmental authority.  Doctorow's vast understanding of computer systems comes through in these novels as it did in his talk.  Unlike other author-speakers we have had in the past, Doctorow did not talk at all about his writing process, his editor, where his ideas, came from, or any of the usual author-subjects.  In fact, during his first talk, he forgot to mention that he had written a book at all.  The second round, he started with a plug for his new book, then launched into his 30-minute, non-stop, fact-packed, mildly paranoid explanation of how much we are watched via our technology and how little we can do about it.  What followed was a call to action, to look inside our gadgets, understand how they work, and demand that our government protect us when the corporations try to use our gadgets to their own benefit.  

Thank you to Tor Publishing and Jack Baur from the Berkeley Public Library for helping arrange this completely free author visit.  We hope Cory enjoys his new Willard hoodie and comes again to speak to future students.

Doctorow signing books for the students who won in a drawing.

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