The Digital Possessive:
Private Spaces in Public Space
In this talk, I argue that the rhetoric
of personalization so commonplace in todays digital culture is constitutive
of a distinct form of spectatorship that I call the digital possessive. This form
of spectatorship, one in which users construct private spaces through
which to access the public network, has emerged as a response to the
allure of data accessibility and the seemingly unbounded capacity of networks.
Consistent with a consumer culture that increasingly promotes possession over
ownership (i.e. home mortgages, car leases, and content services, such as Napster,
Netflix, and iTunes), the average user is becoming more comfortable with the idea
of temporary possession and occupancy. Within that context, her sense of dwelling
and privacy is enabled by her ability to order and maintain personally relevant
data in a familiar form. I explore the practical methods through which users create,
manage, and understand the nature of personal data within their private spaces,
arguing that the emergent private sphere is both productive and reflective of
the economic and social imperatives of the new web.
Eric Gordon is an assistant
professor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College in Boston.
His work focuses on technology in public space, perceptions of place in synthetic
worlds, and social software in teaching and learning. His book The Urban Spectator:
Emerging Media and the Consumption of the American City is forthcoming from
Wayne State University Press.