Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

Humanity's transition into the digital age has led to concerns about the impact on peoples' psychological well-being and the state of privacy. As the world grows ever more connected, it's imperative that voices preaching caution without hyperbole come to the fore. How refreshing, then, to read Akiko Busch's How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, which perfectly threads the needle. Neither panic-stricken nor naïve, Busch sets out to find places where people can still become invisible and how artists, scientists and activists have created opportunities for people, both literally and figuratively, to disappear.

That combination of literal and figurative is important, and not as hard and fast as it may seem at first. The most interesting subjects in How to Disappear are the liminal spaces. Grand Central Terminal is one, where so many people come together and move past each other in self-organizing, self-less ways that a cloak of anonymity falls on the entire collective in action. "Disappearing into" or "becoming one with" the crowd are forms of self-effacement and are just as interesting subjects to Busch as the people trying to develop a real-live invisibility cloak. How to Disappear, despite its name, isn't interested in providing a roadmap for getting off the grid, but in exploring the various ways humans do disappear, whether it's from view or simply into themselves. Readers expecting a hard and fast set of conclusions may prefer to steer clear of this thoughtful, philosophical work. But those interested in joining Busch on her wanderings and ponderings will find much to mull over in How to Disappear. --Noah Cruickshank, director of communications, Forefront, Chicago, Ill.