[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 3 10:10:31 UTC 2009

Just for info,

I have been collating material on this topic, in the framework of a shift from individuality to relationality-focused modalities, at

- http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Relational 


- http://del.icio.us/mbauwens/P2P-Intersubjectivity

My positive spin:


the Great Cosmic Mash-Up, which focuses on P2P and common projects and their role in the construction of our identity: 

"Postmodernism was all about deconstructing oppressive mental structures that we inherited from modernity. Amongst other things the Cartesian subject/object split and the alienating effects of Kantian's impossibility of knowing true reality; it was a necessary destructive passage, a cleaning out process, but it didn't, as its names "post"- indicate, construct anything. So in my view, if modernity was about constructing the individual (along subject/object divisions), and postmodernity about deconstructing this, then this new era, which I'ld like to call the era of participation, is about constructing relationality or participation. We are not going back to the premodern wholistic era and feelings, but just as modernity was about rigorously individualising everything, eventually reaching the current dead-end of hyper-individualism, we are now just as rigorously 'relationising' everything. If in premodernity we thought, we are parts of a whole that is one
 and above us, and in modernity we thought we are separate and unified individuals, a world onto ourselves, and in postmodernity saw ourselves fragmenting, and pretty much lamented this, then this is the mash-up era. We now know that all this fragments can be reconstructed with the zillions of fragment of the others, into zillions of commonalities, into temporary wholes that are so many new creative projects, but all united in a ever-moving Commons that is open to all of us.. 
So the fragmentation of postmodernity is a given for us now, but we are no longer lamenting, we are discovering the technologies (infrastructural, collaborative-software-ish, political, but above all the mental and epistemological) that allow us to use this fragmentation to create the Great Cosmic Mash-Up. That is the historical task of the emerging Peer to Peer Era." 


Introduction on Individuality, Relationality, and Collectivity
This is an excerpt from the P2P Foundational Essay which also appeared in our blog [1] 
"This articulation of modernity, based on a autonomous self in a society which he himself creates through the social contract, has been changing in postmodernity. Simondon, a French philosopher of technology with an important posthumous following in the French-speaking world, has argued that what was typical for modernity was to ‘extract the individual dimension’ of every aspect of reality, of things/processes that are also always-already related . And what is needed to renew thought, he argued, was not to go back to premodern wholism, but to systematically build on the proposition that ‘everything is related’, while retaining the achievements of modern thought, i.e. the equally important centrality of individuality. Thus individuality then comes to be seen as constituted by relations , from relations. 
This proposition, that the individual is now seen as always-already part of various social fields, as a singular composite being, no longer in need of socialization, but rather in need of individuation, seems to be one of the main achievements of what could be called ‘postmodern thought’. Atomistic individualism is rejected in favor of the view of a relational self , a new balance between individual agency and collective communion. 
In my opinion, as a necessary complement and advance to postmodern thought, it is necessary to take a third step, i.e. not to be content with both a recognition of individuality, and its foundation in relationality, but to also recognize the level of the collective, i.e. the field in which the relationships occur. 
If we only see relationships, we forget about the whole, which is society itself (and its sub-fields). Society is more than just the sum of its “relationship parts?. Society sets up a ‘protocol’, in which these relationships can occur, it forms the agents in their subjectivity, and consists of norms which enable or disable certain type of relationships. Thus we have agents, relationships, and fields. Finally, if we want to integrate the subjective element of human intentionality, it is necessary to introduce a fourth element: the object of the sociality. 
Indeed, human agents never just ‘relate’ in the abstract, agents always relate around an object, in a concrete fashion. Swarming insects do not seem to have such an object, they just follow instructions and signals, without a view of the whole, but mammals do. For example, bands of wolves congregate around the object of the prey. It is the object that energizes the relationships, that mobilizes the action. Humans can have more abstract objects, that are located in a temporal future, as an object of desire. We perform the object in our minds, and activate ourselves to realize them individually or collectively. P2P projects organize themselves around such common project, and my own Peer to Peer theory is an attempt to create an object that can inspire social and political change. 
In summary, for a comprehensive view of the collective, it is now customary to distinguish 1) the totality of relations; 2) the field in which these relations operate, up to the macro-field of society itself, which establishes the ‘protocol’ of what is possible and not; 3) the object of the relationship (?object-oriented sociality?), i.e. the pre-formed ideal which inspires the common action. That sociality is ‘object-oriented’ is an important antidote to any ‘flatland’, i.e. ‘merely objective’ network theory, on which many failed social networking experiments are based. This idea that the field of relations is the only important dimension of reality, while forgetting human intentionality . What we need is a subjective-objective approach to networks. 
In conclusion, this turn to the collective that the emergence of peer to peer represent does not in any way present a loss of individuality, even of individualism. Rather it ‘transcends and includes’ individualism and collectivism in a new unity, which I would like to call ‘cooperative individualism’. The cooperativity is not necessarily intentional (i.e. the result of conscious altruism), but constitutive of our being, and the best applications of P2P, are based on this idea. 

----- Original Message ----
> From: "Dean, Jodi" <JDEAN at hws.edu>
> To: Brian Holmes <brian.holmes at aliceadsl.fr>; Sean Cubitt <scubitt at unimelb.edu.au>; "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 4:11:30 PM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity
> Brian writes:
> But the difficult question is, how exactly
> does a self become a post-individual?
> Doesn't this de-individualization require an effort at least as
> deliberate as that undertaken by the corporations -- and doesn't
> it therefore entail sites, toolkits and processes of
> experimentation, in opposition to the statistically configured,
> profit-driven targeting procedures that characterize control
> environments? These places, toolkits and experimental processes
> form a kind of expanded artistic practice, against the background
> of the society of control. The conundrum is that the shedding of
> the self does not seem to occur through the simple revelation of
> a recognizable and pre-existing commonality, but instead it
> happens as a singularizing event, offering a specific experience
> of intentionality in and through multiplicity. Simply put, you
> transform into a collective singularity. Is it possible to
> recognize a common transformative capacity operating in other
> singular processes -- and to develop broad and effective
> solidarities on the basis of egalitarian struggles for the
> material and cultural conditions that would allow us all to shed
> the capitalist self through singular experiments?
> One way to approach this question is to note that contemporary socio-economic 
> conditions have already done much of the work
> of de-individualization. That is, contemporary subjects have much more fragile, 
> mutable, unstable identities than, say, the subjects
> of disciplinary society. Some of the work done on this includes Zygmunt Bauman 
> and Dany-Robert Dufour (The Art of Shrinking Heads).
> I've worked on these themes via Zizek in terms of the decline of symbolic 
> efficiency and the collapse of symbolic identities (as opposed
> to imaginary identities). Yet another approach to the same problem can be 
> accessed via Agamben's 'whatever being'. Dominic Pettman
> is very good on this (Love and Other Technologies). 
> At any rate, these different approaches don't emphasize shedding the self but 
> attend to the different shapings selves are taking (different
> from the mythic subjects 'modern individual' or 'disciplinary subject.'). All 
> emphasize that these subjects do not form in terms of stable symbolically
> given identities (in terms of sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, class) but take 
> on more temporary, mobile, identities. For some theorists, this makes them more
> vulnerable to the securities offered by fundamentalisms. Other theorists argue 
> that this makes contemporary subjects less likely to be co-opted into
> fundamentalisms. And for still other theorists the problem is that such 
> subjectivities are too loose to be understood as capable of opposition to or
> solidarity in the face of anything.
> I would be very interested in tool-kits of commonality. I think, though, that an 
> emphasis on singularity heightens already present tendencies that
> lead away from collectivity.
> Jodi
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