[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 4 22:15:52 UTC 2009

 This is not going to make me popular on this list either, but I must echo John's feelings in this request. It seems that there is so much focus on all the ways in which we are alienated, exploited, etc.. but almost posited in a radical absolutist way ... it is not said that we loose some privacy, and that companies use or sell these data, no, what is said is that all of us have lost all privacy already ... The beast is hypostasized (hmm that's sure not the right english word) as absolute ... and what do we hear about people's agency and self-organizing ? what do we hear about the hundreds of people living new shared values, building free software, open knowledge, self-organizing their local food provision, experimenting with local currencies, struggling in various ways to reconstitute themselves as a community and as related beings ... not much it seems .. So really "all we do" is "in the service" of the "oligarchy"? We don't have complexity, agency, we
 don't try to negotiate our lives within constraints, but also to try to go beyond them. We are all just puppets of the system??

Like John, and observing now my own students, I see people continuously deciding what to put online and not, developing strategies, not for the oligopolies no, but for their own friends and the new emerging socialities. Is that exploited by private interests? Of course it is, but is that all there is to the story?

I don't think that the people that I admire, and that are working on creating open and free, participatory and commons oriented alternatives are blind to exploitation, alienation ... I think they are leaving it for what it is, and constructing a better life and a better society ...

Where does this relentless focus on the negative come from, what purpose does it intent to serve? Is this how we are going to 'free' labor from its alienation and exploitation? Isn't this nihilism precisely what the beast wants, to make you think it has already won, and that the only thing left is to complain, and to despair that 'the masses' are deluded, because they haven't yet understand that all is lost?

Is it the academic condition that produces this kind of thinking?

----- Original Message ----
> From: john sobol <john at johnsobol.com>
> To: idc <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 5:25:48 AM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity
> This thread confuses me.
> On the one hand I find in it many interesting ideas, quite  
> brilliantly described, and many useful and fresh insights into our  
> world. And I understand that these insights are designed to yield  
> results; that they are in the service of justice and some form of  
> revolutionary authenticity, or are intended to be, and I very much  
> respect that. But the conclusions that are drawn seem to me so  
> curious that i struggle to make sense of the disconnect. For example:
> > Sean Cubitt wrote:
> >
> >> We cannot achieve public good without sacrificing
> >> both private property and identity.
> and
> > Brian Holmes wrote:
> > The first key  point you make is that the individual sense and  
> > performance of a
> > private self is now deliberately (if rather chaotically) produced
> > to fit the needs of global corporate oligopolies...(snip)... You  
> > draw an important conclusion: the focus on the
> > performative self and its "properties" is repressive.
> and
> >>
> >> Sean Cubitt wrote:
> >> Thesis: Privacy was only ever the privilege of a small proportion  
> >> of the
> >> world's population for a brief period in history. For about 150  
> >> years, the
> >> European bourgeoisie enjoyed private rooms, private water closets  
> >> and a life
> >> distinct from the life of the street. That period is now over,  
> >> thanks to the
> >> development of always-on, ubiquitous media. The only people left  
> >> with a
> >> direct interest in privacy are wife-beaters and tax-evaders.
> >>
> and
> > Brian Holmes wrote:
> > under semiotic capitalism, your ultimate and perhaps your only
> > property is your personal name, your electronic signature. I am what I
> > sign.... And what's more, since the flux is globally shared, the  
> > signature
> > becomes the only really identifiable difference.
> What I find most problematic in each of these statements is the  
> willingness to make bold statements about how other people live that  
> are so at odds with the way real people really appear to live.
> Because the people I know do not have to sacrifice private property  
> and identity to achieve public good. I will give you that sacrificing  
> private property is often - though by no means always - part of the  
> equation, but identity is rarely disavowed where i find people  
> achieving valuable public good. Surely I need not give examples.
> And the people I know do not seem to believe that the way they dress  
> or think or talk or play music or have sex or eat or walk or run for  
> mayor or play soccer or participate in listserv discussions – all of  
> which involve the very intentional performance of identity – is  
> inevitably experienced as repressive, as manipulative, as  
> exploitation. Now, do many of them understand that our experiences as  
> consumers, as workers, as lovers and all the rest play out in  
> relation to the visible and invisible architectures of 'global  
> corporate oligarchies'. Yes, to varying degrees, they do. But are  
> those architectures not ambiguously negotiated by thinking, feeling  
> beings?
> Well, it depends on your perspective I guess. Obviously I think they  
> are. Whereas, to my mind, the stance that you celebrate in the Tiqqun  
> writings, Brian, while entirely suitable for a self-centred teenager,  
> is not really a mature perspective that recognizes life's  
> complexities or the more subtle forms of human agency. And I don't  
> mean that as an insult because we need those youthful rants and  
> ravings, the Jim Morrisons and the Brothers Karamazovs and the Sex  
> Pistols etc., all of which one grows out of somewhat but which serve  
> a very useful purpose. Like this quote from the Tiqqun text: How Is  
> It To Be Done? (http://tarnac9.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/how-is-it- 
> to-be-done.pdf)
> "In a squat. In an orgy. In a riot. In an occupied train or village.  
> We get
> together again.
> We get together again
> as whatever singularities. That is to say
> not on the basis of a common affiliation,
> but of a common presence.
> This is our
> need for communism. The need for nocturnal spaces, where we can
> get together
> beyond
> our predicates.
> Beyond the tyranny of recognition Which imposes recognition as a
> final distance between bodies.
> As an ineluctable separation.
> Everything through which ONE - my boyfriend, my family, my
> environment, my company, the state, the opinion – recognizes me is
> just that through which ONE takes me to be constrained.
> By constantly reminding me of what I am, of my qualities, ONE
> wants to extract me from each situation. ONE wants to extort from
> me, in every circumstance, a fidelity to myself which is but a fidelity
> to my predicates."
> But do you still feel this way as an adult? Really? And if I don't  
> feel this way anymore is it because I have willingly sold out my  
> youthful ideals, or because I am deluded about my supposed maturity  
> which is really cowardice and conformity to the global oligarchy? Or  
> is it because while I still respect the transcendent spiritual,  
> sexual and social orgy, I also now (at my occasional best) understand  
> better its power and how to use it judiciously, not as an egotistical  
> imposition on others but as an enabler of transformative connections  
> that are attuned to individual and collective needs, strengths,  
> dreams and scars? That to me is the rightful maturation of this  
> youthful freak-out-and-fuck-off energy. Because in my experience not  
> everybody should take acid or be in an orgy, not every community  
> needs a revolution. But we all need to grow and find our deeper selves.
> And the people I know do not think that privacy is passe or  
> pointless. Has the Internet and surveillance culture radically  
> restructured the practices of privacy? For many of us absolutely  
> (though for many people in this wide world not), and clearly this is  
> a vital trend and issue. But to actually argue that privacy is  
> extinct and unimportant to anyone is just so bizarre. Sean, do you  
> yourself no longer have a private water closet? You really pee in  
> public?
> And the people I know do not think that their names or electronic  
> signatures are the only difference between their identities. Let  
> alone all the people in the world who have do not have electronic  
> signatures at all. Does that mean they have no identities?
> OK, I understand that some of these positions may have been meant as  
> speculative exploratory ideas. But if I have taken them at face value  
> it is because they were all presented that way as well-considered  
> critical positions by very smart people.
> And again, to preempt at least some of the criticism that is coming  
> my way, should anyone care to take these points up, I am (really,  
> really) not an anti-intellectual or antagonistic to revolutions of  
> the body or the spirit. On the contrary. But I do think that we need  
> our ideas about how to achieve such ends to be grounded in our lived  
> experiences in order to have any hope of their gaining popular  
> traction and to not remain perpetually (and often gleefully) marginal.
> Brian, from all of your posts I get the feeling that you must have  
> had some really interesting experiences in various alternative  
> movements in Europe over the years. And you are obviously highly  
> passionate about both that past and its future. I wish you'd share  
> more of that on this list. I'm sure it would be both fascinating and  
> totally educational. In fact there are so many intensely smart and  
> interesting people on this list I wish everyone would spend more time  
> talking about themselves – their important experiences, their  
> mentors, their mistakes, their dreams, their challenges, their gifts.  
> And for that matter about the places they live, the people they meet,  
> the things they do, art they see and make. All the important everyday  
> stuff that feeds the ideas. I feel like I'm almost the only one left  
> here who is more interested in life than theory, which I don't recall  
> being the case in the earlier years of this list. If I really am  
> alone here in thinking that distributed creativity means more than  
> distributed theorizing I will likely quietly depart one of these days  
> and stop bugging everyone, but I hope I'm not, because this listserv  
> has generally been a fascinating place and has the potential to be  
> much more so...
> Anyway, once again, from the tumbrel,
> John Sobol
> www.johnsobol.com
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