I sense my thesis will address the issue of what constitutes the private and public. Social networking and social networks can be particularly problematic when it comes to defining what is a private or public space.
As Patricia Lange points out, a number of scholars draw the private and public divide without defining what is meant by these terms. Warren and Brandeis’ (actually it was the judge, but we’ll let that slide) said that privacy was the “right to be let alone”. Perhaps this was an easy way to define privacy back then, but defining the notion of a private space is a complex undertaking.
Lange argues that spaces are fractal in that there component parts take on the nature of the context in which they are situated. She provides the example of a home which, to the community is a private space, but within the home there are both private and public spaces. Lange refers to Gal (2002) who proposes that spaces can be defined as both private and public dependant on the perspective of the observer at the time of the observation. In other words, what is a private space at one point of a day may become public at another – a public toilet is no longer a public space when in use.
Lange suggests YouTube videos are posted in a similarly fractalised manner as publicly private (where people post videos that are potentially available to a very wide audience but use the software and coded tags as a way to make the videos fact difficult to find and view except for close friends) and privately public (where people post public videos but actively hide or disguise their identities in the movies and/or their profiles). One such example provided by Lange is that of MadV who actively takes steps to disguise his identity both in the video and an his profile but presents videos that have broad appeal to a wide audience.
In the context of research into the issue of sovereignty between organisations and employees, much of the parry and thrust of the debate must occur in the realm of what constitutes a public space. Does a blog intended for the writer’s family and friends become a public space because it can be found – albeit with some effort – by members of a wider audience? And what rights do companies have to dictate what is said inside walled gardens, such as Facebook? If a person takes active steps to disguise the identity of the subjects of the blog or the writer?
Gal, S. (2002). A semiotics of the public/private distinction. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 13 (1), 77-95.