Privacy and Identity
Abstract for a talk Novi Sad, YU, July 31, 2003.
The notion of the "private individual" as a stable, somewhat
self-contained and autonomous entity, to be distinguished from groups of
all forms, is coming under stress.
On the one hand, the individual becomes ever more flexible. New
communication technologies allow to "take on" identities in more or less
playful contexts, a generally more dynamic social context encourages
"life-long learning" and personal reinvention, and new advances in
biomedicine allow for the physical reshaping of the body to an
On the other hand, new surveillance and control technologies make it
possible to inscribe identities -- defined by an administrational matrix
-- on the individual body to an ever greater degree. The instances in
which 'privacy is invaded' are becoming too numerous to count and the
recombination of the data gathered allows to create personalized
profiles of great accuracy.
What, then, remains of privacy. Very little. What do we make out of
this? One thing is that we have to consider that the notion of a
"private individual" is not universal, rather, it is an element of
alphabetic culture, whose foundations were laid in ancient Greece which
became dominant with the spread of the printing press in the second half
of the 15th century. What we can see now, is the demise of this
'meta-culture' which Marshall McLuhan called a long time ago "The
Gutenberg Galaxy" to which the idea of privacy is intimately connected.
go to the slides of this talk