Friend request: Social media mystery

Friend Request is the debut novel of Laura Marshall.

When I read the blurb about this book, I wanted to read it.
“Louise receives a Facebook friend request from Maria Weston.”
“Maria Weston wants to be friends.
But Maria Weston’s dead.
Isn’t she?”

Ohh, talk about goose bumps!

The novel follows Louise a woman with a troubled teenage past that has caught up with her. Can she face her past and come clean? She has a lot to lose, her son for one.

The narration is skilfully split between the present day (2016) and the past (1989) as we learn about what happened to Maria 25 years ago.

This psychological thriller has themes of social media, bullying, teenage & middle age angst and dealing with choices made in the past.

I found Louise realistic as a paranoid single Mum, but found her only reasonably likeable. I’m sure I would have found the book rather gripping if I had connected with Louise, but I ended up finding it rather flat with the ending slow and transparent.

I still think if you like psychological thrillers, like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, or Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone you should give it a try. Maybe you’ll connect with Louise and find it the gripping modern mystery it could be.

Friend request
by Laura Marshall
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9780751569155

Tania Cook
Outreach Library Assistant

Podcast – Youth engagement in elections

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around youth engagement with elections such as –

  • youth engagement in the recent NZ local-body elections and disappointingly low levels of voter turnout
  • contrasted with high levels of youth engagement in the American presidential elections despite those elections being less immediately relevant to the lives of young people in Christchurch
  • the role of memes (and social media in general) to encourage youth engagement – the positives and negatives of this type of social commentary
  • what lessons might be taken from these two experiences and brought to bear on the national elections next year
  • the responsibility of youth leaders in encouraging youth engagement in elections

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Tayla Reece Work of Youth Voice Canterbury, Tei Driver of Global Development Tour 2017 and Sofie Hampton of Christchurch Youth Council.

Transcript of audio file

Organisations mentioned in the show

Find out more in our collection

Cover of The electoral politics in New Zealand Cover of Vote cover of Voters' victory Cover of Class, gender and the vote Cover of New Zealand Government and politics Cover of Virus of the mind

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

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Pae pāpāho pāpori – Social media & technology in te reo Māori

I love the Māori Dictionary. Here’s some social media and technology words in te reo Māori. Use them in Te wiki o te reo Māori, and all year round:Whāngaihia-te-Reo-logo

Thanks to Jaye Riki – @jayeriki on Pae Tīhau –  I know now the Māori word for selfie – ahau-i.

Here’s a great – and appropriate – sentence (with the 2015 tohumarau – hashtag):

E hiahia ana Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori kia muia ngā pae pāpāho pāpori e te tīhau, me te karere reo Māori mō Te Wiki o te Reo Māori mā te whakamahi i te tohumarau #WikiReoMāori
The Māori Language Commission wishes social media to be swamped with Māori language tweets and messages for Māori Language Week using the hashtag #WikiReoMāori

Being ribald at whippings: Jon Ronson’s So you’ve been publicly shamed

Cover of So you think you've been publicly shamed

So you’ve been publicly shamed by Jon Ronson is a brutal read. It could so easily be you or me, saying something off the cuff on Facebook or Twitter and having it swirl back on you.

Jon meets the real people behind the stories of social media shaming, including:

  • Science writer Jonah Lehrer, pinged for plagiarism by another journalist, requesting forgiveness with a live Twitter feed on screen behind his head. And people on Twitter respond with venom.
  • Justine Sacco, who gets off a plane in Capetown to discover she’s lost her job and her reputation thanks to a tweet.
  • A couple of tech chaps who have their photo taken and spread around the internet after a throwaway joke.

It happens so fast, and blows people’s lives apart. But Jon Ronson wants to know how they get through it, how they rebuild their lives after being shamed.  And how people like Max Mosley manage to not take shame on board at all.

He looks at how your online reputation can be “cleansed”, and how much money there is in shaming.

It is nightmarish stuff, and you can see phenomena like the “Twitter mob” or “social media pile-on” play out with heartless regularity. Twitter and Facebook may be the hotbeds, but the stories end up in the mainstream media too. What is harder to uncover is why people are so keen to join the braying mob:

The response to Jonah’s apology had been brutal and confusing to me. It felt as if the people on Twitter had been allowed to choose their roles, and all had gone for the part of the hanging judge. Or it was even worse than that. They all had gone for the part of the people in the lithographs being ribald at whipping. (p.51)

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Cover of The circleEvery now and then you read a book that you want to tell EVERYONE  about and The Circle by Dave Eggers is one such book.

Mae has just been employed by The Circle, a social media company that operates out of a sprawling campus with state of the art everything, including on tap entertainment, luxurious dorms where you can sleep overnight, healthy free meals, complete health insurance, and is bulging at the seams with passionate ultra friendly and helpful co-workers.

Life can’t possibly get any better, although it does take a bit of adjusting to. Mae it turns out  isn’t as committed to social media as The Circle would like. Luckily once she boosts all her ‘likes’ and “smiles’ and comments, alongside posting all the photos of her daily life her status in the company climbs.

The Circle is a company committed to social justice, to transparency, to ending violence and every form of corruption. Workers are encouraged to sign online petitions calling for the end of child abuse, to develop GPS devices that can be implanted in children to stop all abductions, and to end political corruption by encouraging politicians to wear cameras that record every aspect of their lives. There is no room for corruption and shady deals when the camera records it all – and of course, those who refuse to wear the camera are obviously up to no good!

Gradually Mae becomes more and more absorbed into The Circle community. Why keep up an apartment when you can stay on the campus for free? Outside friends and interests slowly dissipate. The Circle provides concerts by famous musicians, talks and activities to satisfy every possible interest and Mae, being grateful for such amenities and the company focus of a ‘work life’  balance, repays them  by working into the night (another good reason to make good use of the dorms) and constantly increasing her output.

What makes this book so good is that as a reader you can be swept away by the wonderment of it all, the betterment of society seems genuine and it is completely feasible as to how Mae could be in the thrall of such endeavours. Gradually though a  sense of horror begins to develop, not from Mae, she loves it all, but as a reader you want to yell – “get out while you can!”

As an interesting aside, a  recently purchased title: Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking It Can Change the World by John Havens suggests there is…

an alternative to this digital dystopia. Emerging technologies will help us reclaim this valuable data for ourselves, so we can directly profit from the insights linked to our quantified selves. At the same time, sensors in smartphones and wearable devices will help us track our emotions to improve our well-being based on the science of positive psychology. Havens proposes that these trends will lead to new economic policies that redefine the meaning of “wealth,” allowing governments to create policy focused on purpose rather than productivity.

Perhaps Eggers’ book is not such a work of fiction after all?

In so many words (in quite a lot of words)

Thursday 4.30 at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival saw a small but select group attending a panel discussion about social media. Donna’s already talked here about her fellow panellists, and interviewed them as well, so I will just try to give you a bit of a flavour of the actual event. Cheating, I know, but hey, it’s the new social media, where everyone shares everything, and no-one owns anything. That’s right, isn’t it?

Just before we begin, in a happy little piece of meta, panellist Moata takes a photo of the audience and tweets it, turning the tables on those of us who think we are there to report on them.  I find this train of thought so distracting that I completely fail to take a photo of them. You will have to picture for yourselves, then, the small geodome in Hagley Park, a couple of comfy couches, and a lineup that includes Chair Graham Bookman Beattie, and guests Moata, Donna, Lara and Will, all looking and sounding incredibly calm and relaxed.

Each of the panellists here today spend a large part of their lives online, personally and professionally.  The first question (How has your internet life changed from five years ago?), brings some great comments. Lara points out that the small black portable notebooks she always carried have now changed to a small black portable phone that she always carries; and that F Scott Fitzgerald (the inspiration for this habit of hers of recording the “cognitive surplus” of her life) would have been brilliant on Twitter.

Moata notes that where the internet used to be a kind of “go, look, read” kind of place, there’s now a real depth to it, and you can go, look, read but then keep going, get deeper in, be more involved and interactive. Donna talks about starting with her own personal blog, but then very quickly developing the CCL blog – launched at the 2007 Auckland Writers Festival, it had a sense of immediacy that was new in terms of coverage of festivals and events. She also makes the point that we used to think that technology was cold and impersonal, but the events of 2010 and 2011 have shown us that social media brings the ability for us to share more, help more, and build community in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in the past.

Will notes that the biggest change for him professionally has been the speed at which The Press has had to move – the expectation now from readers is that the news is being reported as it happens. He also notes that online comments have changed the game: where the Letters page of the newspaper is a very groomed product, online commenting is a completely different animal.

Looking five years into the future, Lara quotes Gibson and Mieville, talks about a crackdown on online piracy and DRM, and points out that although we think the internet is free, when we agree to the terms and conditions of websites like Facebook and Twitter, these sites are then able to monetize our thoughts and ideas for their own profit.

Moata hopes that the future will see bloggers recognised as ‘real’ writers, rather than being thought of as vaguely unsavoury lower ranks. Donna thinks that the idea of the death of the book is a load of bollocks, and that libraries will become a place of increased connectivity and interactivity, with more collaboration between galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Will asserts that The Press will still be here, still be on paper, and still be delivered to the door of anyone who wants it; but also that most people will get their news on a device, that they will happily pay for it, and that the best and most successful papers will be the ones that deliver intensely local news.

A round  of mostly great questions, with the seemingly mandatory That’s-Not-A-Question as well, and the session is over.  I must just run out now and see if I feature in that photo that Moata took …

London’s burning

Contemporary London – how has it gone from the Tottenham riots of 2011 to the smiley, happy place of the Olympics 2012.? What’s really going on? I hoped two sharp observers of that wonderful city, Chris Cleave and John Lanchester, would help me find out in their session London’s Burning at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival.

Both writers certainly delivered. Its clear that London is a novelist’s dream. Poverty and riches exist side by side, history is palpable in the streets and buildings, and every story in the world is there to be told. The Dick Whittington story still exists – John Lanchester spoke of the London dream which is like the great American dream. People come to London believing they will find opportunity and the chance for riches.

He talked about the obliviousness of London. A lot of problems are in plain sight but people and the media choose to ignore this. He spoke of how this creates an undefined space which gives room for the novel. Novelists can ask the hard questions, novels are cheap to write and you can have an edgy book more easily than edgy films and television.

The two novelists experienced London initially as a difficult place. John Lanchester thought of it as grey and provincial after Hong Kong and Chris Cleave’s child’s eye view after 8 years in West Africa was of a cold, hard place where he was punched in the face at school for speaking French and not knowing what football team to support. Chris told a lovely story of his mother finding himself aged 8 and his brother, naked and blue in the snow at the bottom of the garden. Coming from a very hot place both little boys only knew of taking your clothes off as a way to cope with extremes of climate. Both men came to see London as a powerful centre around which things revolve and both see London as a different planet from the rest of Britain, a situation exaggerated by increasing globilisation.

The impact of the financial crisis has seen the “hollowing out” of the middle class and the growing gap between rich and poor. The super rich are discrete but because they don’t care what anything costs this sets new inflationary benchmarks. There is “ethical inflation” as well – a well lived life has less value.

Asked which will leave a legacy – the riots or the Olympics, Chris Cleave spoke of feeling a recalibration of his relationship with his country and some unification between London and the rest of the country.He felt hopeful that most people chose not to join in the rioting and were clearly fed up with it. John Lanchester spoke of the power of London in the financial crisis – the feeling that nothing you can do will change it, a feeling that is scary but reassuring too. He described it as like watching a great river.

All in all a wonderful evening of ideas and humour and sharply tuned intelligence. Chair Kate de Goldi was the blue meanie for bringing it all to an end. There is still a chance to hear both men again at the festival:

Find out all about the festival which runs until Sunday.

Going for “facts and genre” at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

In so many words is a panel discussion on social media and books at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. It’s on Thursday 30 August 4.30pm at the Literary PleasureDome aka the Geo Dome in Hagley Park.

On the panel are bloggers (and tweeters) Lara Strongman, Moata Tamaira, Will Harvie and me . It’ll be chaired by Graham “Bookman” Beattie and promises to be informative, banterrific and hey it’s FREE! Come along and listen, and ask questions and share your opinions.

The Press’s Will Harvie is a self-proclaimed “facts and genre kind of guy”. Here are his festival picks

I’m looking forward to many of the non-fiction speakers, especially the Antarctica panel on Friday, John Lancaster and Rod Oram on economics, and Joe Bennett of course. Joanne Drayton on Anne Perry looks good and it will be hard to miss Marianne Elliott and Nicky Hager on Afghanistan.

On the fiction side, I’m catching Owen Marshall with Kate Grenville, Emily Perkins and Sue Woolfe; An Hour with Emily Perkins; the Fatal Attraction panel, The Crime Debate, and Joanne Harris.

Twitter: where Muppets meet Michel Houellebecq: The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

In so many words is a panel discussion on social media and books at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. It’s on Thursday 30 August 4.30pm at the Literary PleasureDome aka the Geo Dome in Hagley Park.

On the panel are bloggers (and tweeters) Lara Strongman, Moata Tamaira, Will Harvie and me (Donna). It’ll be chaired by Graham “Bookman” Beattie and promises to be informative, banterrific and hey it’s FREE! Come along and listen, and ask questions and share your opinions.

Here I interview myself, which isn’t as odd as it sounds.
What are you looking forward to at the Festival?

At the last Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival I was pregnant with a wee sproglet who is now 3 and a half. Which shows it been aaages since we had our own literary shindig. Too long.

I’m looking forward to a mixture of fiction and non-fiction subjects. It’s good to combine that hardcore informational session with ones that are more about creativity and storytelling.

This will be my first Pechakucha, and I’m especially excited since it covers two of my favourite subjects – Rachael King’s is talking about creepy 70s and 80s kids’ tv and Mark Spurgeon (@typemark) discusses typography. I also look forward to getting another typography fix at the Christchurch Art Gallery’s Pressed Letters exhibition.

I want to go to Antarctica. The history of polar exploration is fascinating, and with IceFest coming soon to Christchurch it’s good timing. Emily Perkins’ novel The Forrests blooming well deserved any hype, so am keen to hear more from her.

On the Spot where Tim Wilson and Martin van Beynen will explore writing about big events like Hurricane Katrina and our quakes. How do you write about things that seem beyond words? A perfect subject for a celebration of writing.

What is the allure of Twitter for you?

Brevity. Wit. The delightful and unexpected. You might encounter a HouellebecqBot or get involved into a discussion on whether Big Bird is an Order or Chaos Muppet (Thanks to @adzebill for that one). Twitter is a space to share, highlight, ask, and explore.

It’s a community space . Christchurch people and others shared earthquake related information and concerns. The #eqnz hashtag came to represent this . When Margaret Mahy died, many remembrances and tributes were shared via Twitter.

Serious information sharing is tempered by outbreaks of fun and creativity when a hashtag like #songsfromthesouthisland goes nuts. Or more recently #replacebooktitleswithnewzealandtowns. Sometimes the tweeting of an event or tv show is far more entertaining than the actual thing. Twitter makes us all commenters and a Greek chorus.

#twecon showed a new way of communication for academics, “a way to introduce people to ideas worth following up on” as @HORansome described it. Otago University has just completed Tweet your thesis.

It can also be a place to hone your writing – have a go at the NZ Book Council’s #fridayshorts. Writing a tweet is in itself an exercise communicating effectively – whether you are enticing people to click on a link, making a trenchant observation, expressing an idea  – and you’ve only got 140 characters to do it in.

Who do you recommend following on Twitter (especially on the literary side)?

Book-loving essentials are the New Zealand Book Council @nzbookcouncil and the Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University @modernletters.

David Gutowski @largeheartedboy is awesome. He creates great stuff like Book Notes in which authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. He also knows a lot about what’s happening in culture and books.

I follow a bunch of writers, partly it lets you under the hood of the creative process, but also because they are all-round interesting. People like @sarahelaing, @rachaelking70 and @emilyjperkins.

Gravitate to libraries and librarians and information/data types – you’ll be exposed to amazing New Zealand resources – The National Library of New Zealand @nlnz, @digitalnz and Palmerston North City Library @pncitylibrary et al. Chris McDowall @fogonwater comes up with fascinating stuff like Uncertain Rainbow.

I like people and organisations with hearts of art and poetry – Phantom Billstickers do some awesome stuff @0800Phantom. Courtney Johnston @auchmill tweets about art, poetry, history and does so with contagious passion. Christchurch Art Gallery @chchartgallery is all around fab.

There are lots of ridonkulously smart and interesting tweeps.  Mike Dickison @adzebill and Philip Matthews @secondzeit are well worth a follow. Also Jolisa Gracewood @nzdodo, Russell Brown @publicaddress, Toby Manhire @toby_etc and @guysomerset have fingers on the pulse.

Tweeps in the publishing industry are often a step ahead in anticipating trends. People like Fergus Barrowman @FergusVUP and publishers like Aussies @text_publishing.

If you are into full on book worship. Swoon over the offerings of @BibliOdyssey and @50wattsdotcom.

Twitter “like any good party you can get pulled into the most extraordinary discussions”: The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

In so many words is a panel discussion on social media and books at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. It’s on Thursday 30 August 4.30pm at the Literary PleasureDome aka the Geo Dome in Hagley Park.

On the panel are bloggers (and tweeters) Lara Strongman, Moata Tamaira, Will Harvie and me. It’ll be chaired by Graham “Bookman” Beattie and promises to be informative, banterrific and hey it’s FREE!

Panellista Moata Tamaira is a Stuff blogger, librarian and web editor. We also proudly claim her as one of our own alumni (check out her posts on this here blog) .

1. What is the allure of Twitter for you?

Twitter is like somehow getting an invitation to a party filled with the sharpest, sexiest, edgiest people and being able to freely wander around picking up snippets of their conversations. And like any good party you can get pulled into the most extraordinary discussions. Pithiness is the order of the day AND you get all the news (and gossip) before anyone else. True there are some dullards on Twitter too, but it’s very easy to sidle away from them when you find one.

2. Who do you recommend following on Twitter (especially on the literary side)?

One of the first things I did when I joined Twitter was to search out the accounts of people whose work I’ve enjoyed, hence my timeline is a jumble of comedians, writers, journalists, bloggers, arts and culture mavens and naturally, librarians.

It’s hard to pick favourites because they’re all so different but I do have a soft spot for @johnjcampbell (he sometimes tweets in the ad breaks during his own show), Mike Dickison aka @adzebill is always good value, and though different timezones keep us apart, @simonpegg often makes me laugh out loud. One of my favourite science writers, @Bengoldacre never fails to bring the sarcasm.

@LeVostreGC You can’t get much more literary than pop culture references and song lyrics tweeted in the style of Chaucer (well, actually I suppose there are several things more literary than that). I like it because it makes me feel like that first year paper I did at Canterbury on Old and Middle English Literature wasn’t completely wasted.

And, just because I realise I haven’t mentioned any ladies. @Cateowen is funny in her own right but is also a good source for linked hilarity (and she knows a lot about the ins and outs of social media). Oh, and you wanted literary too? Jolisa Gracewood @nzdodo is my kind of literary – funny, smart, and approachable. And of course I’ve followed @christchurchlib from day one.

3. What are you looking forward to at the Festival?

Actually having one for a start. And having it be in a giant inflatable igloo in Hagley Park is also a highlight. I love how incongruous it seems.

I’ve never been to a Pechakucha event so I’m keen on checking that out.

I’m keen on both John Lanchester sessions. London is the only other city I’ve lived in, so the “London’s Burning” session he’s doing with Chris Cleave appeals as does “Whoops: Why everyone owes and no one can pay”. I’m a big fan of people who “translate” incomprehensible stuff, in this case the global financial crisis, for ordinary folks like me. It’s an honourable endeavour.

I’m also keen on checking out the exhibitions that form the festival, particularly “Ko taku kupu, ko tau / My word is yours”. I’ve enjoyed the pepeha that have been used in earlier festivals and the artworks that illustrate them. I also love that this exhibition will be in association with Gap Filler which is doing great work around the city, brightening up vacant corners.

An hour with Joanne Harris is also a must see. She’s a wonderful storyteller, and it’s always interesting hearing about how storytellers work their magic.

Can I say that I’m looking forward to the session that we’re doing? I am. That should be a good old chinwag and a good excuse to get me hair done!

You certainly can! See you there Ms M.