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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 Seven: Heidegger (Part 2): On moods and empathic media

← 73 | 74 → CHAPTER SEVEN


This chapter resumes the assessment of Heidegger’s unique approach to technology and phenomenology, but in a somewhat delinquent fashion merges these seemingly incommensurable strands. My basic observation is that technology increasingly gives the appearance of understanding the uniqueness of situations, sentiments and the ‘thisness’ of events as we encounter them in a mediated setting. This leads me to put forward a number of concepts, including: machinic verisimilitude that involves semblance of intimate knowledge of people; dispositional competence and the passing-off of human understanding benchmarked by predictive capacities; and empathic media which is the capacity for machines in an ongoing process to represent and put to use the publically mediated emotional states of people, their intentions, communications and behavioral cues, and to act on them.

While we might operate under the impression that our sense of consciousness is all-encompassing and alert to what has gone before, what is occurring now and what might lie immediately ahead, this is not the case. Consciousness is a window of, at best, 15 seconds (Donald, 2001; Thrift, 2008). Moods are different and while a mood may feel like something very much present, and it is, it also transcends our ← 74 | 75 → immediate 15 seconds’ worth of temporal awareness and will probably continue after it. Read in terms of the mood of information or that co-created tone of interaction between people and networked technologies (McStay, 2011), this means we may be understood more thoroughly and properly by systems that possess flat and a-historical memories...

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