Post-Privacy: Talk by Christian Heller

On: May 6, 2010
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About Sarah Moore
I am a MA New Media Student at the University of Amsterdam. I received my bachelors in Radio-TV-Film and Sociology at the University of Texas in 2007. I am interested in graphic design and media arts. Currently working on a website about life in Amsterdam http://www.muntthee.com/.

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The first session at the Geneva Lift Conference covered “The Redefinition of Privacy” and what privacy and personal security means in the 21st Century. Independent Futurist Christian Heller spoke on the topic of Post-Privacy. Below is a summary on his views on privacy.
Fuller believes that privacy is gone for good. In the future,Long term privacy will only be the exception. In general, the belief in society is that privacy=freedom and the only space to be ourselves is in private but he believes this is flawed.

The History of Privacy

Most of history, people have lived completely in the public. Peasants who lived in Villages in the middle ages would not even understand the concept of privacy because they lived in a society where everyone knows about their work and were monitored by others at all times. They had to have good behavior at all times or be punished. Nobility also had no privacy. Every aspect of personal life, especially sex life was public. In the Renaissance, people lived in one big room that was used for all aspects of life, people shared beds and all lived in one open space. Privacy came later when rooms were made for different purposes and this went to the outside world making the division of private space and public space. Bodily functions, emotions, and family were categorized into private space while politics and work were categorized into public space.
Gender was also divided, females were related to the home/private space while men at work were a part of the public space. But females weren’t satisfied with home life/private life and wanted to be emancipated and have the right to public discourse. To women, privacy meant isolation and shame.

Then the sexual revolution of the 20th century took private sex and made it public discourse. People began to talk about sex, masturbating, and homosexual fantasies. Most importantly, homosexuality left the private sphere and entered the public. Gay pride parades, and other gay events and movements forced society to develop tolerance. These are cases that prove that privacy does not necessarily equate to freedom.

Privacy in the Internet Age

In the internet age, many personal issues such as sex, fetishes, and other sub-cultures have gone public online. Many sub-culture communities based on fetishes are made and people do not feel isolated and can connect with others. Self-assertion through openness is created and people are no longer considered outcasts in society like in they would have in the middle ages. In the internet age you select the society that conforms to you, societies are segmented and you can choose the one you want to fit into.

Data Mining

Fuller approves of data mining sites like Okcupid.com and patientslikeme.com because they use questions to learn knowledge about society through openness. When privacy promotes too much data protection and protection is forced rigoursly, then Facebook, google, and other websites we enjoy would disappear completely. Instead of worrying about surveillance, we should use the openness to our benefit.

One Response to “Post-Privacy: Talk by Christian Heller”
  • May 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I am sure everybody agrees that “too much data protection” is not a good thing. But what is “too much”? I am not sure I want google to store every website I visit and every search I make on the net. Even if their motto is “Don’t be Evil”. Also I am not at all convinced storing this information is absolutely necessary for the search engine to function.

    There is a lot of money to be made in online profiles of people and I am not at all sure that all companies doing that have the best intentions for the common people at heart.

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