Privacy in the Public Sphere

As I read through my notes and try to decide what to blog about, I find myself continuously returning to the idea of our public and private life in the digital age. I find it especially interesting as other classes have touched on this idea as well. There is an apparent shift in the importance of individual values versus the importance of communal values.

“Western societies early notions of individual selfhood are now moving toward a greater emphasis on more relational notions of self-hood”. (Ess, 2014., p. 61) Our society is shifting from a focus on individual values to a focus on communal values. Why the shift? I have a few ideas.

Habermas touched upon the collision of the life world and the public sphere. These two worlds are colliding because it is inevitable in the ‘bare all’ technological world we live in. We are subjecting our information to the interpretation of our audience. Your life can only be private so long as you keep your information private. The emergence of social networking sites has resulted in an incredible amount of information being put on the internet to be used at the disposal of whomever happens to get their hands on it. Once you post information on a social networking site, you are leaving it up to interpretation of the reader (as well as creating a permanent digital footprint). Babe (2007) would suggest your message only to be of effect if it is understood by the reader in the way you intend the message to be understood. Considering your frame of reference, the information may be misinterpreted or misunderstood. In an ideal world, this misinterpretation would be impossible – a message would convey exactly what it is intended to convey. Unfortunately, due to barriers of communication, such as frame of reference and the chosen medium, this absolute truth is unattainable; but it does not mean we cannot try (what is truth anyway? – in postmodern sense) I believe the shift in the individual privacy to community privacy has emerged as a direct result of misinterpretation of information. If you wish your information to be well received by your ‘audience’ (followers, friends), you had better step into their shoes and try to imagine what it is they would like to see. Empathy is incredibly important in the use of rhetoric. As you empathize with them, and imagine what it is they would like to experience, you can create dialogue that persuades them to see a situation in a way that is mutually enjoyable for yourself and your audience. As the pleasure of your audience becomes more important, you are straying from your individual focus to that of the content of the community. Grierson alluded to the relationship between individualism and interdependence pg 107 babe 2007. There is interdependence between our community and ourselves. William Stewart explained McLuhlan’s idea of the global village as a society “interconnected by an electronic nervous system”. (2014) Interestingly enough, McLuhlan was right. He predicted the internet’s mass appeal to the world.

Babe, R.E. (2007). Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ess, Charles. (2014). Digital Media Ethics: Digital Media and Society Series.

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