Privacy and The Obligation to Explain

As one of the final acts of my undercover mission inside the University of Prince Edward Island, I’ll be giving a guest lecture for the Philosophy 105 course that I’m tentatively titling Privacy and The Obligation to Explain.

I’m going to take a different tack on privacy, suggesting that the default setting for privacy should be “off,” that we should all share everything always. And to support this proposition I’ll use examples from my own dabbling in digital exhibitionism as well as practical examples from the open source movement.

Although there’s no officially sanctioned way for members of the public to attend the lecture, given that I’m not officially sanctioned myself it would seem appropriate for anyone who’s interested to just show up to Main Building, Room 120 on Monday, March 30 at 10:30 a.m. and act like you belong there. Wear a UPEI sweatshirt and/or carry a backpack if you want to blend in and, if anyone challenges you, just say “I missed the first 27 classes, but I’m here to catch up.” Casual mentions of of episteme and techne — “man, that is so totally techne” — will also help.


Alan's picture
Alan on March 28, 2009 - 14:01 Permalink

…we should all share everything always…

But do you really? I think it is very fair to say there is a range of topics which you (and any blogger) are more comfortable with sharing but aren’t there whole areas of human activity that you do not discuss with good reason? Like me, you do not share anything about your sex life, your bowel movements, your client’s business matters and your doubts as to the capacity of those you love or rely upon. There may be other things. This is good and does not defeat your point. But there are limits.

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on March 28, 2009 - 21:34 Permalink

Alan…it’s a default setting. The opposite view to Peter’s is “Share nothing ever.” From there, you work towards a modicum of civility.

Like Peter I opt for the “share everything always” setting. If in doubt, share. It’s not an absolute stance, it’s a starting point. Societies based on one or the other starting points are very different places, even if people come to same middle balance points.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 29, 2009 - 05:21 Permalink

You have the advantage as, not having been to Peter’s guest lecture that happens 40 hours in the future, I have no idea what his position is. If it is only what he says above by way of proposition it will be a very short presentation.

But what a great point of view you share! As you explain, the concept of “default then drift” can be both wrong and right yet never be available to actual review while maintaining the comfort of a binary interpretation of, you know, things. Yet if one, as you may be indicating, inevitably move away from the default to another point then the default has no value as it is not what is actually experienced or, unless one is unaware, is not what is actually honestly advocatable. That troubles.

I trust it is more likely that Peter is actually saying that we should not all share everything always when he says that we should all share everything always after which he will then work on what he really means by everything (ie public sphere) which will exclude all those things no one in their right minds would ever share (ie private sphere) or would consider advocating sharing — while assert an interesting observation on the locating of a personal line between the public and private spheres. That would be more reasonable, interesting and useful.

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on March 29, 2009 - 22:48 Permalink

Well…principles are useful. So with more precision: “ìf in doubt, share.” This is a radically different stance than “ìf in doubt, don’t share.” So this is a useful principle for me, and means we don’t have to make a long list of things that are on one side of the privacy line or the other.

oliver's picture
oliver on March 30, 2009 - 15:35 Permalink

I think we don’t know how much and with how whom and to what ends we’re sharing, and the possibilities are wide open. I’m using the precautionary principle as my guide. But then I generally prefer hedging against catastrophe over gambling to get ahead.