[Air-L] Inside, Outside, Upside, Down - Privacy and Public presence in the Internet age

Paul Frosh msfrosh at mscc.huji.ac.il
Mon May 10 23:11:26 PDT 2010

Responding to Carmel and Seda, it might be helpful to think through publicness in two time-honoured and occasionally contradictory ways: first, as visibility (see John Thompson's work on this, among others) - being in public involves being seen in a shared space common to (and open to) all. Obviously new technologies mean that increasing areas of what were once considered domestic life are made visible to unknown others, for better and for worse (that is why privacy is invaded) - although 'old' technologies (photography, voice recording, television) did a pretty good job of expanding publicness. Thinking about Carmel's example of the wifi street party this idea of publicness obviously applies: the street is a paradigmatic example of shared public space. The other sense of publicness is discursive: a group united by shared discourse (Habermas, Warner). In the modern era this was usually but not exclusively a physically dispersed group brought together through shared texts and media, and frequently synchronized consumption of those texts (reading the daily newspaper) - irrespective of whether those texts were consumed in (visible) public places or in private spaces: in fact, broadcasting media pulled private 'domestic' consumption firmly into the discursive public sphere. Carmel's example equally applies here: everyone listened to the same music, at the same time - and the music was 'broadcast' to them by wifi. The paradox in Carmel's wifi street party is between these two forms of publicness - visible and discursive - and in the conspicuous, comic redundancy of co-presence to the act of public media consumption. It is as though one were suddenly presented with a material image of the dispersed media public, transformed into a publicly visible crowd, put on view to one another, while still privately consuming their shared texts.
Don't know if this rambling helps!

Paul Frosh,  msfrosh at mscc.huji.ac.

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