[Air-L] Privacy Buzz - one more time

Charles Ess charles.ess at gmail.com
Tue Feb 16 06:19:49 PST 2010

following up a bit -
I found this remark so intriguing because it is so wonderfully consistent
with the sense of the relational self predominant in many indigenous
societies as well as Buddhist and Confucian ones.
In contrast with the modern Western sense of the individual as a core point
of freedom (which justifies the rights ostensibly to be protected by the
liberal-democratic state) and thereby of individual privacy as a _positive_
good (e.g., as a core space protecting development of self, choice,
expression, etc.) -
in indigenous/Confucian/Buddhist societies, the only reason one would want
privacy is - precisely because someone has something to hide, e.g., the
Chinese word close to "privacy" (until 1985 or so) translates into something
dirty, hidden.
Ironically, so far as I can find in cross-cultural perspectives on the sense
of self and related privacy expectations - Japanese, Chinese, and Thai youth
(perhaps overly influenced by too much Western media, and certainly
dependent upon a growing material prosperity that affords them their own
rooms) are insisting more and more on Western-style individual privacy. By
the same token, a new word has been introduced in Chinese to refer to
privacy in a more positive sense.
Meanwhile, we in the West - whether Google or McNealy - seem to be heading
in the opposite direction.

McLuhan wasn't right about everything, but I think he and Harley Parker got
this one about right - though, apparently, far more sanguinely than I:

To an ancient Greek the discovery of private identity was a terrifying and
horrible thing that came about with the discovery of visual space and
fragmentary classification.  Twentieth-century man is travelling the reverse
course, from an extreme individual fragmentary state back into a condition
of corporate involvement with all mankind.  Paradoxically, this new
involvement is experienced as alienation and loss of private selfhood.
-- Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker, Counterblast (1969)

and, or so I worry, the foundations of liberal democracy.

or maybe not.

- charles

On 2/16/10 3:06 AM, "Christian Fuchs" <christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at> wrote:

> Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently remarked about Internet privacy: "If
> you have something that you do not want anyone to know, maybe you should
> not be doing it in the first place², which points towards a lack of
> understanding of the online surveillance threat and privacy issues.

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