[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Sean Cubitt scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Wed Oct 7 01:59:20 UTC 2009

Hi iDCers

The discussion hurtled on and mutated while I was in mid-air, celebrating
family nuptials, greeting the dog after long absence etc. Much to mull over,
like sareeta's de-westernising, and wise words of warning not to overburden
a mail-list with what shd be essays. (My apologies for trying to mix genres
and condense an essay into a coupla paragraphs - whence Michael G's gracious
description of it as 'poetic'). Also for the consequent compressions
(including the ones that make abstract ideas sound like people). But in
response to three key threads:

agency: I admit to thinking that political life and economic are entwined
now in a database economy where biopolitics and commodity form act (have
agency) in ways that individuals do not (or don't always feel themselves
capable of). Likewise I believe that this is how things appear as well as
how they are, but that there is a gap between the real and imaginary
conditions of life. Critically, I think humans are not the only agents: that
the 'capillary action of power' and likewise the nature of trade (credit for
example) is that they are mediated, and that the technologies which mediate
them are agents too. Add in the agency of the organic environment
(materials, production, energy-use and recycling of digital devices for
example) and you have something like network agency. This is the achievemnt
of the current order, it is what we have to work with, and it outstrips the
capacity of the current regime (database economy) to control. Consideration
of the changing nature of agency seems like the basic step that must be
taken before acting becomes strategic. Relationships come first, and only
sometimes result in individuality - thanks to Michael B for reemphasising

subjunctive: what a great word Margaret gets for the navigation of this
condition. I guess this is something Jodi is looking at/through too: living
'as if', premised on the formula 'yes I know but . . .' - on the one hand
uncertain, on the other almost fictional, or perhaps better , living
autobiographically, as if performing a script in which the probability of
everything from a sudden illness to alien invasion could be calculated on
the basis of which genre of life you end up in. Concreteness is not, if this
is right, a naïve condition but soemthing to be striven for

What next: Michael B and Brian hammer on this and they're right. Considering
where we are now (a backward glance) and observing the unexpected nature of
the present should be the basis for looking toward what happens next. Some
of the tings worth thinking about concern who or what has agency, and
whether words like privacy and identity are good ways of thinking about it.
But the critical issue is indeed what are the tools for conviviality.
Michael's P2P and Brian's swarmmachine are pointers, and margaret's work out
of 2nd wave feminism too.

I guess that brings us back to the playground and the factory, and to
whether an ecology embracing non-human and post-human, gaia and technology,
might come up with a third option?


(darn, that's longer than I meant)

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