The Calibans at Night



Mary: Ada, you’re good for a Calibans meeting?

Ada: What? I’m just coming home. Sorry. What?

Mary: Just you’re supposed to be one of the Calibans and we want to do a quick round-up on leading the discussion tomorrow. Dai and Sasha are good to go. Can you meet now?

Ada: I’m US-East, I was just headed to bed.

Sasha: You shared your location stream with us :)—you’re still at least 1500 meters from home.

Ada: Yeah, I’m out, but I’m about to walk in the door.

Mary: I know it’s late, can you give us 10 minutes just so we’re on the same page.

Ada: Same page…yeah, makes sense. I’ve just been out, and I’m a little spacey.

Sasha: Lightweight.

Mary: Can you see block text?

Ada: No, I’m reading from my hand-tat. I’ll be in front of a projector in 10. But I can tachiyomu if need be.

Mary: It’s just a short piece. It’s that main speech in Act Three. Tossing you a cursor now.

Ada: OK, got it, yeah.

Mary: We have your vitals and searches on that. We all had a bit of a heart-race on the “I cried to dream again,” but you had a peak right from the start and looked like you were really into it. It looked like you ran the first two lines four times.

Ada: Yeah, well, it just hit me hard for some reason. Where I grew up…well, whatever. My mother used to tell me not to be afraid, that the house was full of noises. Used to freak me out a little as a kid. Now…I kind of miss the noises. I live in new construction. Thin walls. So I have to choose between hearing my neighbor the aspiring opera singer or have phones on and block out everything. I saw Sasha peaked late on that phrase…

Sasha: No, I stubbed my toe. It was a false read…

Ada: And then did a lookup on the “twangling instruments” bit?

Sasha: Just wondered whether “twangling” was a normal word and was used contemporaneously or in anything modern.

Mary: I was manipulating the semantic net you put together. I like this bridge to “bangling” as well as the link to 20th century references to “twangy” country-western music. Anything worth teasing out there.

Tach: Sorry, excuse me for a moment. Can you help me and tell me the context for the “bangling” reference. It is not in dictionaries. And I have no access to this book Grace?

Sasha: Sending it now.

Tach: No, sorry, please no. I have no rights.

Sasha: Just one page then?

Tach: No, no page, no verbatim, please. Can you maybe read to me.

Sasha: Voice? Seriously?

Tach: No, nevermind. I will ask library to get rights so I can see.

Mary: Anyway, I found the “twangy” bit more interesting. He uses “twangling” in Shrew as well?

Ada: Sorry, y’all, I am still five minutes away from a screen, I can’t see the visualization of the semantic net.

Mary: You don’t need it, really. Basically, he uses “twangling” as a variant of “twank” which is the same as the modern “tweak.”

Sasha: So Caliban was a tweaker! I like him even more now…

Tach: Also, Twangdillo was used by many people in 1700s in English.

Mary: Cite?

Tach: Sent.

Mary: OK, good, so I want to make sure we are opening up an avenue of discussion here that no one has covered, and I like the country-western music theme. I did a lit review and no one seems to have picked it up. One of the badge requirements indicates “original insight” and I think this would count.

Ada: Actually, I know two of the sempai on the badge, want me to do a quick consult.

Sasha: Already Quorad it. Figured it was a good way to lay public claim to originality. Nobody has found any prior art so far, and it’s got over 1200 looks to date.

Mary: Ada, if you don’t mind, it might be good to see if there’s a good way to present it.

Ada: Just a sec, checking profiles, looks like I’ve got four friends with the badge. Let me just…“Thanks for the microconsult. Looking to present twanging in Tempest and Country-Western. Thoughts?” I’ll CC y’all if I hear back. OK if I provide them with some gradient permissions on our logs?

Sasha: OK with me.

Tach: Me also.

Mary: Yep, that’s OK. Ada, do you think we can work in the house sounds.

Tach: Maybe a Raymond Williams City and Country thing?

Mary: Yeah, how would you frame this?

Tach: I am sorry. Now I have to go to a meeting.

Mary: Can you go subvocal?

Tach: No tat, no subvocal. Very super old-school. I will check the log later. If you give me jobs I will do.

Mary: Thanks Tach. And can everyone go over our log and elect elements of our work for our portfolio.

Tach: Bye-bye everyone!

Sasha: Are you looking at the Google Alert from our discussion?

Mary: I have them turned down, is it any good?

Sasha: It’s constructing a search engine results narrative. It’s not bad, should I incorporate it in our log?

Mary: Can you just summarize it?

Sasha: It is already summarized.

Mary: I mean, like a human would.

Sasha: It does it better. It has my voice and face profile for a video version. We can always edit it together.

Mary: Let’s give it the badge.

Sasha: Google: It’s everything you’ll someday know!

Ada: I may be slow on responses. Elevator.

Mary: And then there were two…

Sasha: Actually, I’m going to have to go in a little while too. Real life and all.

Mary: Are you coming to London.

Sasha: Yeah, the Moscow People’s University is distributing crowdsourced travel funds among those with the Shakespeare L4 and above badges, as long as they also have the Open Collab badge. I’ve done an audit, and I think there are only three of us, so I should be good to go.

Mary: If we get the badge.

Sasha: Actually, I should be able to double-dip on our assessment tomorrow. Will you co-endorse?

Mary: Hold on. Have you already elected? Oh, OK, I see it…and…done. I gave you my full collaborator endorsement. I’ll attach evidence and context in the morning.

Sasha: You rock!

Ada: Can I get in on that too?

Mary: Yeah I’ll take a look when I get the chance…

Ada: Thanks. Anyway, I’ve been polling my personal archive for recordings of my old house, if we want to use it for some background audio. Also I’ve crossed reviews that mention “twang” and pulled up a playlist we can link out to as a sidenote in the doc, for fun and elucidation.

Sasha: I’ve already pulled in some of the other narrative assessments that reference this section. There are a lot of them. I will see which we might want to reference.

Ada: I’m at a keyboard. I’m going to bang out a text narrative to tie together our portfolio. I am a write-geek.

Mary: Why do you think we asked you to join our group? Thanks, Ada. Nothing like just-in-time production.

Ada: What makes the world go round. I’m going to run silent for a bit here to get some work done.

Sasha: You mean sleep!

Ada: Ha! Yes, that too. But I’ll stim up long enough to get this out to you tonight. Mary, you were going to sift our log for presentation permissions, yes?

Mary: Right. And Sasha, everyone but you has done a permissions and copyright check. Can you do that, like now?

Sasha: Not now, but within five hours. Good?

Mary: Yep, that’s fine.

Ada: Night. Catch you all live on tomorrow.

Mary: And hopefully in the flesh in London next month.

Sasha: Except Tach. I’m not sure he’s really a human.

Ada: So few of us are these days.

Ada palmed her connections closed. Emergencies only. She could still bang out text with the best of them. The OLED tattoo that made up her palm and forearm curled itself into a random image, a scripted quote from her namesake: “In this, which we may call the neutral or zero state of the engine….” She didn’t feel like writing. The buzz of the evening and the physical presence of old friends still had her excited. She heard a party somewhere in a nearby apartment and dialed in noise reduction. As she reached out to the keyboard, Sonify noted her vitals and her intention to write and constructed an appropriate playlist, heavy on the Ko Mak and German Cajun Chill bands like old Boozoo Bajou. But she found herself aching for the creaky sounds of her childhood home, and the voice of her mother.

She reached to a drawer and pulled out a ragged, dog-earned paperback with a missing cover. The title page read The Tempest and in the corner, in blue Bic ink and a neat hand, her mother’s name: Augusta King.

The Sorry State of Peer-to-Peer E-Book Lending


For most of my awkward life, books have been a way to escape or avoid stressful social interactions. Only recently have I realized that books also allow me to serve a social function: recommending titles to friends and family members, based on my understanding of their interests and character. Some people find book suggestions obnoxious and presumptuous, but in my experience, some carefully thought-out picks can transform a nonreader into a book liker, if not a book lover. When a friend raves about a book and asks me to suggest another, I gloat a bit and then attack my shelves, to find another delightful tome to pass on.

But the e-reader! Oh, the e-reader. The Kindle is a childhood dream come true, an opportunity to carry with me enough titles to assure that if I finish a book, I will not be left to make uncomfortable small-talk on the plane. But it is ruining the one bit of social currency I can offer. In only limited circumstances can one lend a book to a friend, and when you are attempting to convert a nonreader, being able to give them the book instantly, for free, is vital.

Of course, e-book lending is a fraught topic for publishers and public libraries. In May 2013, the divine Ursula K. Le Guin laid out the absurd terms on which the “big five” publishers permit digital titles to be lent. But slowly, that situation is getting better; some months after Le Guin wrote her pierce, Macmillan announced that it would make its full backlist available. HarperCollins still demands that library obliterate a digital copy of a book after it’s been lent 26 times, which is an abomination. Still, this isn’t likely to last much longer; as Cory Doctorow detailed in a convincing column in September 2013, it’s in the best interest of the publishers to make libraries their allies.

But even as publishers and libraries warily come to agreements—slowly though they might—person-to-person lending remains nigh impossible. On the Kindle, for instance, digital rights management sometimes permits owners to lend a title—but only once per book. Most books don’t permit sharing at all.

Publishers’ concerns about consumers lending books to people they don’t know through book-swap sites could be ameliorated: For instance, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici has proposed a self-described “pretty good solution” that would entail people meeting in person, physically, to “bump” titles from one device to another. True, that would require social interaction, but I think I could handle that brief encounter.

Without creating a mutually acceptable way to permit easier, more widespread book sharing, the personal social networks that exist between readers will fray. While Americans continue to read at about the same pace as in years prior, the rate of e-book reading continues to rise, according to the Pew Research Center. The rise in digital book consumption is particularly sharp among 18- to 29-year-olds. This is despite the death of the e-reader, which websites have been predicting since at least 2011. Even if tablets render my beloved Kindle obsolete, e-book reading will continue to grow. Permitting readers to swap titles will only accelerate that adoption, not diminish it. Because reading truly is a social activity, no matter how solitary the individual curled up with a book may appear. One could even make notes or highlights with a particular fellow-reader in mind, then delete them or adjust them for subsequent borrowers. This would only complement the strong social networks for readers that have cropped up online.

So please, publishers. Don’t take away my only bit of social utility.