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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 Eight: Latour: Raising the profile of immaterial actants

← 87 | 88 → CHAPTER EIGHT


Heidegger and Latour share an interest in technology. Heidegger’s approach sees it as part of an unfolding of a much older metaphysics concerned with presence. Latour is also interested in technology’s ubiquity, strangeness and even seeming spirituality, and both agree that technology is not just technological. On pervasiveness they also share a common interest, but their means of assessing technology and its function within society are very different. Latour’s interest is of a more democratic nature as he seeks to assess technology by means of affect and its capacity to make a difference to social arrangements. The capacity for affect is technology’s membership ticket to being a full participant in social life, and for Latour the capacity to affect gives technology a voice of sorts in how society is arranged and governed. This means that in any analysis much greater attention should be paid to the role, affordances and properties of any given technology. In assessing technology and human arrangements Latour sees evidence of one in the other, and two steering concepts in Latour’s writings are hybridity and actants. Hybridity refers to an endeavor to find less divisive ways of expressing the relationship between people and the domains in which we live, and the things therein. This also problematizes the idea of pure objects or subjects as both are comprised by significant traces of the other. Latour employs ‘actants’ as another word for ‘actors,’ but uses the stranger sounding term to remove traces of anthropomorphism. Moreover, beyond the blurring...

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