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Privacy and Philosophy

New Media and Affective Protocol


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 Two: Aristotle, borders and the coming of the social

← 14 | 15 → CHAPTER TWO


Border-based understanding dominates our phrasing and conceptions of privacy matters. It involves a public/private duality and can be connected with other pairings that inform the ways in which we formulate an understanding of privacy. Be this inside/outside, internal/exterior or intimate/distant, we have pairings that are seemingly fundamentally different in nature, if not oppositional. In lived life however pairings need a zone, object or means by which to tell the two domains apart. While borders may be fixed as with walls, fences and sunglasses, they may be less rigid instead involving behavioral boundaries such as averting one’s gaze, managing proximity to others, maneuvering without touching others, or the use of decorum and emotional restraint as a means of initiating virtual walls. A border-based conception may thus involve material and architectural norms, as well as social constructions of a behavioral and less substantial nature. While the existence of privacy is universal across people, its make-up differs enormously, and borders are deeply ethnocentric and dictated by agreed cultural norms (Ford and Frank, 1951; Hall, 1969; Moore, 1984; Westin, 1984 [1967]; Mead, 2001 [1928]; Malinowski and Ellis, 2005 [1929]). This chapter explores in greater depth the roots of border-based privacy in relation to Aristotle and Greece from the time of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). Following Moore (1984), the specific period and place in question is Athens from the end of the Peloponnesian War (404 BC) to its defeat by Philip of Macedon in the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC). It is in...

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