First Monday

Letters to the Editor

From: Weibel,Stu
Subject: Personal Informatic Privacy (First Monday)
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 13:20:32 -0400


I just read your piece in First Monday on Personal Informatic Privacy, and I wanted to tell you I think its an important piece of work that deserves wide attention and discussion. I think you have nailed an important idea dead on the head.

I hope you will forgive me one small criticism, and that is your strongly pejorative selection of terms for the pigs and rapists. I don't disagree with the essence of the characterization so much as I suspect it limits the 'hearability' of the message. It assures a self defensiveness (and a consequent reaction) on the part of many that is unlikely in my estimation to promote productive discourse.

That said, I hope the ideas are discussed far and wide, and I thank you and the editors of First Monday for airing them. They touch on what are, in my own perception, the greatest risks of the digital age.



Stuart Weibel
Senior Research Scientist
OCLC Office of Research
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
+1.614,764.6081 (voice)

From: Steve Mann
To: Stu Weibel
Subject: Re: Personal Informatic Privacy (First Monday)
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 02:27:46 -0400

The issue of whether to take a mild or strong approach in scholarly discourse is something I have experimented with, and thought about at great length.

One of the problems I find is that ideas like privacy protection have been abstracted to the point of being made, along at least some dimensions, ineffective.

Indeed, the very establishments that attempt to threaten our privacy with software having built in surveillance, often themselves use strongly pejorative terms like ``software pirates'' and piracy. These terms are clearly of an exaggerational metaphorical nature, as if to suggest an equivalence class between:

  1. mass murdererers who might mark their territory by pouring acid on the hands and faces of their victims and tying them to life rafts, set adrift on the high seas;
  2. people who download a song from the Internet to see if they like it enough to buy the entire CD.

It appears, however, that exaggerational metaphors can sometimes get new results not obtainable by other means. The article borrows from the Reflectionist tradition of holding a symmetrizing mirror up to society. By short circuiting the Left's call for more government regulation with the Right's call for more corporate freedom, I hope to look beyond "covernment" (corporations plus government) and break through to a new kind of philosophy.

Contents Index

Copyright ©2000, First Monday

Letters to the Editor by Stu Weibel and Steve Mann
First Monday, volume 5, number 8 (August 2000),