Networked: Carabella on the Run
When I first heard that Networked: Carabella on the Run was a co-production with a non-profit organization, I was leery. PrivacyActivism is dedicated to helping people “understand the real-world implications of privacy losses” and protecting this fundamental human right. I feared that the message, although from a cause I support, would overcome the story. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
I quickly got caught up in the adventures of Carabella and her classmates as we learn more about where she came from, why she’s blue, and how difficult it can be to avoid being tracked and manipulated as a consumer and citizen. (Carabella starred in PrivacyActivism’s two previous projects, online Flash games that explored how to get music online legally while maintaining your fair use rights and how to protect yourself from consumer profiling when starting college. Oddly, for a group that, among other things, teaches people to surf anonymously, their site asks you for a cookie when you visit.)
The conflicts start simply. For example, someone at a party she attends posts pictures of Carabella to “Facespace”, leading people to invade her privacy and bother her online because of her appearance. Other concerns about social media are discussed, before we get to the meat of the book. That’s pure science fiction, although extrapolated from today’s concerns. Alien technology accidentally provided by Carabella is used in a new line of fancy shoes, complete with cameras and network connections.
Her attempt to prevent the product launch drives Carabella and her friends underground, where they “fight the power” without the use of credit cards or trackable online communication. The lessons intend to spur thinking about how the information you reveal might backfire, or how details about you might be released without your knowledge or permission. (For more information on those, see the online teacher’s guide.) The exaggerated situations and emotions bring drama to what would otherwise be dry policy debates.
If you’re a fan of techno-thrillers, you’ll enjoy this read written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Mark Badger. It’s refreshing to see a fast-paced adventure with some real ideas behind it. And it’s a great way to teach teens to think more about these issues.
NBM has posted a preview. (The publisher provided a review copy.)