[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Dean, Jodi JDEAN at hws.edu
Mon Sep 28 22:11:41 UTC 2009

(I'm taking specific elements out of Brian's response--my intent is not to misrepresent Brian's remark but to specify where I am engaging and to keep the amount
of text as small as possible)

Brian: " But even though contemporary selves seem to
have increasingly less content...l the grasping
character of possessive individualism remains. That's the first paradox:
while we are increasingly socialized by the relation to fluctuating
signals, still the imperative in a competitive, status-and-profit seeking
society is to somehow perform your distinction, to stand out, to make a
temporary difference, to be a blip in the flux. I think Sean is absolutely
right: under semiotic capitalism, your ultimate and perhaps your only
property is your personal name, your electronic signature. I am what I
sign.... And what's more, since the flux is globally shared, the signature
becomes the only really identifiable difference."

I'm not sure I agree that the grasping character of possessive individualism remains. This grasping character does not seem to
be the same thing as the imperative to stand out. Those seem to be two different things, in fact, the imperative could well be
stronger the more 'whatever' we become or the less able we are to perform our distinction (or both or more). I've used the
term celebrity subjectivity in past writing; I think it designates something like a mode of subjectification oriented around making
oneself known. I think that some of us are subjectivized this way, but I'm not sure how widespread this is. I say this because I don't
think that names are the crucial designators of personality/personal property (the point Brian links to Sean seems to be a version
of the older notion of reputation). But, anyway, I don't think there are any stable signatures of difference now: there are multiple
Jodi Dean's on facebook; some times people attribute positions to the name Jodi Dean that have nothing to do with what I say and

Brian: " But the sheer, typically communist insistence on commonality is an ideological dead letter, belied by the
complexity of society and the diversity of life-paths."

I may have used commonality but I think collectivity is likely better (or maybe Brian initially used commonality as a way of
designating participation in a shared situation, I'm fine with that term, understanding that participating in a common situation
does not mean the same thing of all participants). Anyway, I disagree with the dead letter etc claim. In fact, I'd say commonality/collectivity
is the only viable response to complexity.

Brian: " In the best and worst of cases - in massive outbursts of political protest and in disaster
situations - there is an actual, material experience of commonality, where
the differences among people do not exclude shared action, concrete
solidarity. These are the circumstances where the singularity of each
person appears as indifferent to the events at hand, so that everyone
becomes a "whatever singularity." That phrase by Agamben, from The Coming
Community, is a very strong and positive one. It insists on the material
difference and historicity of each human thrown into the world, but says
those diverging existential conditions are our common lot, whatever, no
distraction from the basic political issues. 

I think that whatever singularity is not particularly positive, even if that's the way Agamben meant it. More specifically, I don't think that
one can get to the claim of 'basic political issues' if one presumes something like whatever singularity. Why? Because there are no
ontologically given 'basic political issues.' Rather, the claim for issues is political, which means divisive and antagonistic, part of a stand for
and against.

I guess my appeal is for organized solidarities rather than temporally singular experiences of commonality.  But, perhaps the opposition
is less stark than I'm suggesting and the latter are a means of producing the former.


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