[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

John Postill jpostill at usa.net
Tue Sep 29 09:35:55 UTC 2009

Brian Holmes wrote:

> ...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.... [...]
> The question then becomes, how to organize situations where people can
> experience something else? What are the places, the processes, the
> tool-kits of an experience of commonality?

My own ethnographic research in suburban Malaysia, social theoretical work and
firsthand experience as a father and knowledge worker in provincial England
lead me to a different working model. I don't see a world of atomised selves
socialised in relation to fluctuating signals where the challenge is how to
experience commonality. I see not a me-centric world (Castells, Wellman) but
rather a *sociocentric* world of persons operating within heavily monitored
milieus (esp. school, peer group, workplace and nuclear family).
Socialisation, it seems to me, still unfolds in relation to other humans
operating in these same social milieus, not in blips. The weekly and seasonal
cycles of school, work and holidays are still very much with us, and they
continue to reproduce our social worlds and form our personal habituses. 

The massive technological changes we are experiencing and the search for
broader societal commonalities must be put in the context of the hugely
resilient micro-collectivist (not individualist) practices that we find in
schools, peer groups, families and workplaces. 


Dr John Postill
C3 Research Institute (C3RI)
Furnival Building
153 Arundel Street
Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield S1 2NU
United Kingdom

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