[iDC] The difference between privacy and anonymity

Margaret Morse memorse at comcast.net
Tue Sep 29 18:58:19 UTC 2009

Dear naxsmash,
I find your opposition charming.  I can't speak for anytone else but I  
think of myself as a little more complicated than that--after I have  
studied philosophy, including Derrida and Wittgenstein, who might be  
relevant here.  However, I think in some profound way you are right.   
The world is a great mysterious other full of external objects in open  
sets.  However, the sets are never stable and they are established in  
retrospect through constantly changing memories/new experiences and in  
dialog or "social reality."

I am not sure how "universal"  "second wave feminism" ever was.  I was  
a grad student in Berkeley in the late sixties.  Women of all types  
including angry ones like me feverishly gathered  trying to be a part  
of what we knew was something very big.  I remember one meeting in a  
church that was packed to the gills; many of the women took notes in  
shorthand.  At that and further meetings, the exclusions grew before  
my eyes as more and more women were counted out of the determinations  
of what ultimately proved to a particular sect.   The shorthand  
notetakers were soon gone as the group got tinier.  The limitations of  
"second wave feminism" began for me in some of those very first  

How does belief play into your opposition?   Does it matter whether or  
not we believe (in) a "universal"?  I find that I live subjunctively;  
that is, I accept a life in a realm of objects that are not entirely  
"real" but rather that could be, might be, are contrary to fact, are  
hearsay, virtual, etc.  Those objects are also subject to the work of  
time. Then there are those bolts from the blue that turn everything I  
thought I knew completely around.  Does your opposition account for  
this instability?


On Sep 29, 2009, at 7:21 PM, naxsmash wrote:

> Observe a metaphysical stalemate:
> Sean and Brian are nominalists,  whereas John and Margaret are  
> realists, therefore talking past each other.
> For example: John and Margaret appear to propose that "individuals"   
> as such exist, in the sense that 'individuals' are instantiated by a  
> universal abstract object (the set of all possible individuals) --  
> about which we communicate linguistically through common examples or  
> tropes, like subsets ( 'second wave feminism', 'people i know', etc  
> etc) .  The 'realism' of this view assumes that 'real' includes many  
> kinds of objects including works of art (Brothers K, Flaming Lips,  
> etc), which may exist in many possible
> sets, whether they are perceived in the material world or on this  
> list or not.
> By contrast, Sean and Brian appear to deny the existence of  
> 'outside' abstract objects of this type.   They allow debate over  
> abstractions as predicates, or what i might think of as  functional  
> namings.  No such thing as 'individual' needs to exist as
> an abstract object within 'real'.  Universals of this type are,  
> according to this view, a logical error, since universals exist only  
> post res, i..e. after the fact   They therefore attempt to define  
> certain spaces, particularly political spheres or domains, as real;  
> and
> name within such spheres, which items will be called universal  
> abstractions, or more simply universals. Thus it becomes possible to  
> state, as in the snippel below,  that 'privacy' as such only matters  
> to 'wife-beaters' etc.  : the linguistic operation is simply this:  
> to state a sphere of the real, name what / who is in it; these names  
> become the abstract universal predicates which in turn determine  
> sets of possible operation.
> I am charmed by this conundrum.  Yahweh in Genesis 2 creates Adam,  
> then observes him "to see what he will'  name items in the creation- 
> space (garden, or sphere of real).
>  A blithe gloss to this deviously appears as "H is for House," Peter  
> Greenaway 1973.  http://petergreenaway.org.uk/hisforhouse.htm
> King James Version  Genesis 2:19 "And out of the ground the LORD God  
> formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and  
> brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and  
> whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name  
> thereof..."
> " Our term "universal" is due to the English translation of  
> Aristotle's technical term katholou which he coined specially for  
> the purpose of discussing the problem of universals.[5] Katholou is  
> a contraction of the phrase kata holou, meaning "on the whole".[6]
> Aristotle famously rejected Plato's Theory of Forms, but he clearly  
> rejected Nominalism as well: ...'Man', and indeed every general  
> predicate, signifies not an individual, but some quality, or  
> quantity or relation, or something of that sort..    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalism
> naxsmash
> naxsmash at mac.com
> christina mcphee
> http://christinamcphee.net
> http://naxsmash.net
> On Sep 29, 2009, at 12:25 AM, Margaret Morse wrote:
>> Dear  John,
>> Thanks for saying something I've been feeling.  So much has been
>> written recently on the list that I can't/don't want to address it
>> point by point.  My fundamental response is that distinction and
>> individuation are something far older than capitalism and its link
>> with commodities.  As someone from the beginning of second wave
>> feminism personally would feel utterly suffocated if I had had to
>> become less of an individual in order to become more of a group/
>> collective, etc.  I believe the contrary is true.  This doesn't mean
>> that I haven't had that oceanic feeling or that I don't embrace  
>> social
>> relations and social reality.  For me, thinking about collaboration
>> allows a more dynamic and dialogic conception of the individual.
>> I have already made the point much earlier about having some ground  
>> up
>> conversations--I believe this is a kind of theorizing too  This is  
>> not
>> an attack, rather it is longing for more variety in my intellectual
>> diet.
>> With respect,
>> Margaret Morse
>> On Sep 29, 2009, at 12:25 AM, john sobol wrote:
>>> This thread confuses me.
>>> On the one hand I find in it many interesting ideas, quite
>>> brilliantly described, and many useful and fresh insights into our
>>> world. And I understand that these insights are designed to yield
>>> results; that they are in the service of justice and some form of
>>> revolutionary authenticity, or are intended to be, and I very much
>>> respect that. But the conclusions that are drawn seem to me so
>>> curious that i struggle to make sense of the disconnect. For  
>>> example:
>>>> Sean Cubitt wrote:
>>>>> We cannot achieve public good without sacrificing
>>>>> both private property and identity.
>>> and
>>>> Brian Holmes wrote:
>>>> The first key  point you make is that the individual sense and
>>>> performance of a
>>>> private self is now deliberately (if rather chaotically) produced
>>>> to fit the needs of global corporate oligopolies...(snip)... You
>>>> draw an important conclusion: the focus on the
>>>> performative self and its "properties" is repressive.
>>> and
>>>>> Sean Cubitt wrote:
>>>>> Thesis: Privacy was only ever the privilege of a small proportion
>>>>> of the
>>>>> world's population for a brief period in history. For about 150
>>>>> years, the
>>>>> European bourgeoisie enjoyed private rooms, private water closets
>>>>> and a life
>>>>> distinct from the life of the street. That period is now over,
>>>>> thanks to the
>>>>> development of always-on, ubiquitous media. The only people left
>>>>> with a
>>>>> direct interest in privacy are wife-beaters and tax-evaders.
>>> and
>>>> Brian Holmes wrote:
>>>> 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.
>>> What I find most problematic in each of these statements is the
>>> willingness to make bold statements about how other people live that
>>> are so at odds with the way real people really appear to live.
>>> Because the people I know do not have to sacrifice private property
>>> and identity to achieve public good. I will give you that  
>>> sacrificing
>>> private property is often - though by no means always - part of the
>>> equation, but identity is rarely disavowed where i find people
>>> achieving valuable public good. Surely I need not give examples.
>>> And the people I know do not seem to believe that the way they dress
>>> or think or talk or play music or have sex or eat or walk or run for
>>> mayor or play soccer or participate in listserv discussions – all of
>>> which involve the very intentional performance of identity – is
>>> inevitably experienced as repressive, as manipulative, as
>>> exploitation. Now, do many of them understand that our experiences  
>>> as
>>> consumers, as workers, as lovers and all the rest play out in
>>> relation to the visible and invisible architectures of 'global
>>> corporate oligarchies'. Yes, to varying degrees, they do. But are
>>> those architectures not ambiguously negotiated by thinking, feeling
>>> beings?
>>> Well, it depends on your perspective I guess. Obviously I think they
>>> are. Whereas, to my mind, the stance that you celebrate in the  
>>> Tiqqun
>>> writings, Brian, while entirely suitable for a self-centred  
>>> teenager,
>>> is not really a mature perspective that recognizes life's
>>> complexities or the more subtle forms of human agency. And I don't
>>> mean that as an insult because we need those youthful rants and
>>> ravings, the Jim Morrisons and the Brothers Karamazovs and the Sex
>>> Pistols etc., all of which one grows out of somewhat but which serve
>>> a very useful purpose. Like this quote from the Tiqqun text: How Is
>>> It To Be Done? (http://tarnac9.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/how-is- 
>>> it-
>>> to-be-done.pdf)
>>> "In a squat. In an orgy. In a riot. In an occupied train or village.
>>> We get
>>> together again.
>>> We get together again
>>> as whatever singularities. That is to say
>>> not on the basis of a common affiliation,
>>> but of a common presence.
>>> This is our
>>> need for communism. The need for nocturnal spaces, where we can
>>> get together
>>> beyond
>>> our predicates.
>>> Beyond the tyranny of recognition Which imposes recognition as a
>>> final distance between bodies.
>>> As an ineluctable separation.
>>> Everything through which ONE - my boyfriend, my family, my
>>> environment, my company, the state, the opinion – recognizes me is
>>> just that through which ONE takes me to be constrained.
>>> By constantly reminding me of what I am, of my qualities, ONE
>>> wants to extract me from each situation. ONE wants to extort from
>>> me, in every circumstance, a fidelity to myself which is but a
>>> fidelity
>>> to my predicates."
>>> But do you still feel this way as an adult? Really? And if I don't
>>> feel this way anymore is it because I have willingly sold out my
>>> youthful ideals, or because I am deluded about my supposed maturity
>>> which is really cowardice and conformity to the global oligarchy? Or
>>> is it because while I still respect the transcendent spiritual,
>>> sexual and social orgy, I also now (at my occasional best)  
>>> understand
>>> better its power and how to use it judiciously, not as an  
>>> egotistical
>>> imposition on others but as an enabler of transformative connections
>>> that are attuned to individual and collective needs, strengths,
>>> dreams and scars? That to me is the rightful maturation of this
>>> youthful freak-out-and-fuck-off energy. Because in my experience not
>>> everybody should take acid or be in an orgy, not every community
>>> needs a revolution. But we all need to grow and find our deeper
>>> selves.
>>> And the people I know do not think that privacy is passe or
>>> pointless. Has the Internet and surveillance culture radically
>>> restructured the practices of privacy? For many of us absolutely
>>> (though for many people in this wide world not), and clearly this is
>>> a vital trend and issue. But to actually argue that privacy is
>>> extinct and unimportant to anyone is just so bizarre. Sean, do you
>>> yourself no longer have a private water closet? You really pee in
>>> public?
>>> And the people I know do not think that their names or electronic
>>> signatures are the only difference between their identities. Let
>>> alone all the people in the world who have do not have electronic
>>> signatures at all. Does that mean they have no identities?
>>> OK, I understand that some of these positions may have been meant as
>>> speculative exploratory ideas. But if I have taken them at face  
>>> value
>>> it is because they were all presented that way as well-considered
>>> critical positions by very smart people.
>>> And again, to preempt at least some of the criticism that is coming
>>> my way, should anyone care to take these points up, I am (really,
>>> really) not an anti-intellectual or antagonistic to revolutions of
>>> the body or the spirit. On the contrary. But I do think that we need
>>> our ideas about how to achieve such ends to be grounded in our lived
>>> experiences in order to have any hope of their gaining popular
>>> traction and to not remain perpetually (and often gleefully)  
>>> marginal.
>>> Brian, from all of your posts I get the feeling that you must have
>>> had some really interesting experiences in various alternative
>>> movements in Europe over the years. And you are obviously highly
>>> passionate about both that past and its future. I wish you'd share
>>> more of that on this list. I'm sure it would be both fascinating and
>>> totally educational. In fact there are so many intensely smart and
>>> interesting people on this list I wish everyone would spend more  
>>> time
>>> talking about themselves – their important experiences, their
>>> mentors, their mistakes, their dreams, their challenges, their  
>>> gifts.
>>> And for that matter about the places they live, the people they  
>>> meet,
>>> the things they do, art they see and make. All the important  
>>> everyday
>>> stuff that feeds the ideas. I feel like I'm almost the only one left
>>> here who is more interested in life than theory, which I don't  
>>> recall
>>> being the case in the earlier years of this list. If I really am
>>> alone here in thinking that distributed creativity means more than
>>> distributed theorizing I will likely quietly depart one of these  
>>> days
>>> and stop bugging everyone, but I hope I'm not, because this listserv
>>> has generally been a fascinating place and has the potential to be
>>> much more so...
>>> Anyway, once again, from the tumbrel,
>>> John Sobol
>>> www.johnsobol.com
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