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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 Twelve: Spinoza: Politics of affect

← 133 | 134 → CHAPTER TWELVE


As argued throughout, all accounts of privacy should take into account its affective dimensions. This means we should not only inquire upon ideas about ethics, questions of autonomy, political-economy, emergent protocol, processes of making-transparent, co-authorship, the ontology of data-based knowledge, and questions about the location of the subject, but also the existence of experiences of privacy. Privacy does not only involve the protocols of a system or arrangement, but also the tangible dimensions that go along with these when there is breach or discord. Where earlier chapters have assessed ethics and epistemology, this chapter addresses the role of feelings in relation to privacy arguing that the material and affective dimension of privacy should not be omitted. If skipped, we would be left with a very blank presentation of privacy. This would be a de-charged account leaving it prey to a one-dimensional discussion of systems, norms, processes, and the somewhat cybernetic language of tacit and overt optimization of protocol between actants (none of which are incorrect).

While behaviorists may deny the premise of mind and mentalism, when a privacy event occurs it certainly feels very personal. It has phenomenal attributes in that, at the very least, it appears to us an acutely subjective experience. Indeed, in undergoing a privacy event in public we may breathe deeply, quell heart rate, cool blood vessels and relax our face muscles for no one but ourselves to know what has just occurred. Exploration of visceral and affective undergoing finds ← 134 | 135 → expression in...

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