Note — Nov 17, 2019

Reimagining Privacy Online Through A Spectrum of Intimacy

An essay by Caroline Sinders and Hyphen Labs, based on their Higher Resolution exhibition for the Tate museum’s Tate Exchange program. On the concept of gradients of intimacy, how privacy online is often an on/off switch, while the way it actually works offline is much more varied and contextual; on the need for places and ways to move within such a gradient. Building on ideas by Michelle Cortese and Edward T. Hall, they worked on four privacy and intimacy metaphors: the town hall, the park bench, the living room, and the loo. Very adjacent and useful to think upon alongside Maciej Cegłowski’s The New Wilderness where he introduced the idea of “ambient privacy,” the society level intersection of everyone’s individual privacies (see my comment and select quotes in Sentiers No.86).

The lack of privacy gradients in the design of our social networks, online communication platforms, and apps facilitates everything from harassment to violations of user privacy. […]

Privacy manifested through designing better channels of intimacy—like platfoms design that allows for the engagement of smaller groups (i.e. private Slack channels or Facebook groups) or settings that allow users to share information with less people—are as important for protecting users as privacy and security protocols. […]

Proxemics, a term coined by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, defines the relationships between a person and their identity, their surroundings, and the social norms of the community around a person or individual. There are four zones in proxemics: the intimate, the personal, the social, and the public space. […]