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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 Nine: Phenomenology: The rise of intentional machines

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At heart, phenomenology is about experience, awareness, how things come to be for us, and detailing subjective goings-on in objective terms. It is keenly sensitive to suggestions about the constructedness of the world-of-our-experience, and the ways in which perceptual faculties and modes of understanding play roles in structuring our lifeworlds. The purpose of this short chapter is to inquire upon whether it is sensible to ask these questions about non-humans and media technologies, particularly those of a surveillant variety. I argue this question is valuable for privacy matters because the answer offers insights into the relationship between machines, attentiveness and people. Of course, attentiveness not only involves machine–human relations, but also those of a machine–machine sort. In progressing this, I develop an argument that began in Chapter 7 on empathy, and assess the [philosophically] controversial premise that machines and empathic media may have intentional characteristics. That is to say, they are able to objectify and intend towards things. Thus, while intentionality as developed by Brentano (1995 [1874]) and Husserl (1970 [1900]) is keenly limited to people (animals receive a brief mention, but objects not at all), I argue that machines are increasingly intentional.

As an approach to generating understanding, phenomenology describes rather than explains or analyzes. This is to open up and bring to the fore that which was always there, but passes unnoticed. It is interested in the lived world and deals in descriptions of the world and experience without taking into account psychological origins...

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