[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Sareeta B Amrute amrutes at u.washington.edu
Tue Sep 29 19:37:54 UTC 2009

Hi All,

I've found this thread highly productive. I won't refer to individual posts here, but all that has been said previously informs my discussion.
The discussion reminded me of a line I came across as I was re-reading Heidegger's "The Questioning Concerning Technology".  He writes, "man becomes truly free only insofar as he belongs to the realm of destining and so becomes one who listens, though not one who simply obeys".  The question the thread has been asking seems to be, what are the conditions under which 'listening but not obeying' become possible?  That is, in what ways do and can people come to recognize the social conditions at work in the world today--hyperindividualization, flexiblity, microcollectives being the useful markers for some of these; global divisions of labor, semiotic capitalisms, and circulating regimes of value, being some others--but refuse to obey them (perhaps by or more accurately through building collectivities)?  It seems that this question needs answering locally, though potential strategies also need 
to be shared.  I have been doing research with middle class technology workers in India and in the diaspora, and have been trying to unpack how they practice listening but not obeying, which they seems to do quite well.  That is, when asked to be highly flexible and mobile programmers, they do not always say yes.  They sometimes say, 'I'd rather not' to a job that, while it comes with a higher salary, takes them in directions they are unwilling to go.  Meanwhile, others are invested in re-purposing the capital (social or otherwise) they earn in new directions.  I don't mean to paint a too-rosy picture here.  Some of this repurposing moves in decidedly anti-progressive directions, while some mimics forms of bourgeois philanthropy. How do these workers produce in themselves an ethic of collective or non-capitalist action? Well, by creating spaces that look very much like kinds of publics.  But 
not all publics correspond to a communicative realm of disciplined interaction that Habermas envisioned (there is an important article by Sudipta Kaviraj on this point; Dipesh Charabarty's Provinicalizing Europe also takes up this line of argument).  Indeed, many of the topics discussed in these publics would disqualify a person from participation in rational discourse (like the supernatural, the irrational, cyclical forms of temporality). But this is precisely the point.  The tools for building collectivities may lie not in rejecting as a kind of antimony the structures of feeling that circulate under contemporary capitalism, but rather in pushing the boundaries of what may be included in a collectivity, and what may be counted as an valuable life.

All best,

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