The Null Device


Danny O'Brien on how the pervasiveness of the internet is bringing about the end of the private register, i.e., of the sphere between public and secret. He uses as his example a private get-together of Californian technotopian types. The details were published on a private web site, where master sleuth Andrew Orlowski (the guy who heroically exposed the sinister influence of blogs and "googlewashing") dug them up and used them to pilliory this veritable Bilderberg conference on Segways on its puffed-up self-congratulatoriness.

But, the problem here is that no-one was advertising themselves as visionaries and geniuses. There was no advertising at all. The Wiki Andrew found was private: it wasn't written as publicity for the camp. Sure, the invite talked about "changing the world" and "smart people" - but these words have different meanings when you are trying to flatter and cajole your friends to come to your house for free. And when people say to one another "oh, you're all so smart", it's not a festival of mutual self-congratulation. It's what you say to people you've met who seem quite smart. Well, you do if you're not sitting fifty yards from them, arching your eyebrow significantly.
Somehow, though, that only makes things worse. Oh sure, they weren't telling the world that they were geniuses, the critics roar. They were meeting, secretly, to say it to each other. Without telling anyone.

Danny goes on to point out that on the web, things intended for a small audience of friends have a way of being exposed to the harsh light of public scorn, in exactly the way that face-to-face conversations over a few pints don't. Which is why things like britneyblogs and web journals attract so much mockery -- because they're not meant for the general public.

(Which ties in to my reason for setting up a LiveJournal, and the emerging separation of powers between this blog and the LJ; with LiveJournals, you get the very important ability to make posts which are friends-only, and invisible to anyone save for those in your list of friends (or a subset thereof), which saves you from shooting your mouth off about your small life and exposing your weaknesses/what a boring person you are to potential lovers/employers and/or millions of bored teenagers looking for "losers" to ridicule (ask Ghyslain Raza about that). Granted, it involves your friends having LJ accounts, but that's probably easier to arrange than setting up a password system on your blog and persuading them to indulge your paranoia and log in. It's still in the secret register, as Danny would say, but the secrecy is transparent to anyone who already has a LJ membership. (Btw, if you personally know me and want a LJ creation code, email/IM me.))

culture internet online privacy the private register 2

Chinese scientists create foetus with three parents (two female and one male). However, polyamorist group marriages in the West will have to wait a bit longer as such research is banned in the US and UK. Also, the foetus only contained genetic material from two of the parents; the third merely donated an egg. (Though perhaps some master-slave threesomes may not have a problem with such inequalities.)

biology china genetics 1