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Privacy and Philosophy

New Media and Affective Protocol

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Andrew McStay

What can philosophy tell us about privacy? Quite a lot as it turns out. With Privacy and Philosophy: New Media and Affective Protocol Andrew McStay draws on an array of philosophers to offer a refreshingly novel approach to privacy matters. Against the backdrop and scrutiny of Arendt, Aristotle, Bentham, Brentano, Deleuze, Engels, Heidegger, Hume, Husserl, James, Kant, Latour, Locke, Marx, Mill, Plato, Rorty, Ryle, Sartre, Skinner, Spinoza, Whitehead and Wittgenstein, among others, McStay advances a wealth of new ideas and terminology, from affective breaches to zombie media. Theorizing privacy as an affective principle of interaction between human and non-human actors, McStay progresses to make unique arguments on transparency, the publicness of subjectivity, our contemporary techno-social condition and the nature of empathic media in an age of intentional machines.
Reconstructing our most basic assumptions about privacy, this book is a must-read for theoreticians, empirical analysts, students, those contributing to policy and anyone interested in the steering philosophical ideas that inform their own orientation and thinking about privacy.
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Chapter One: Introduction

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A life without privacy is impossible. It connects with the most basic processes of how we live together and the institutions we create, and we can be absolutely clear upfront—there is no question of privacy disappearing. The notion that privacy might somehow be removed, surpassed or lost from the human equation is to very much misunderstand it. This is because privacy plays a fundamental role in our most basic daily interactions. Be this in our behavior towards each other, what we consider to be taboo, our modes of intimacy, the confidences we share with others, how we arrange our homes and working spaces, where we store thoughts and things of value, and more recently the ways that these are imbricated in media and technological systems, privacy is a very basic and primal premise. While passionately argued and defended, privacy is one of those words that does not lend well to precise definitions. In general though we use it as a means of referring to borders (keep out!); as a means of maintaining dignity in human behavior (for example sex or defecation); to highlight autonomy and the right to control aspects of our lives, relationships and bodies; and as a way of addressing the security of information that concerns us in some way. Like words such as freedom, liberty, equality and rights, we feel privacy to be an important ideal although laypeople and professional academics struggle to delineate ‘it.’ Privacy International (2013), a charity whose stated aim is to defend...

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