Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (2nd Post)   1 comment

Posted at 7:46 pm in Psychology,Sociology

Below you may find the books that I read during the past week and some thoughts on privacy that I had while reading them.

Global Sociology by R. Cohen, P. Kennedy 2nd Edition (2007)

What is Global Sociology?

As social, cultural, economic, political and technological changes began to assume a global character, late twentieth-century sociologists had to adapt some of their ideas and perspectives to a global scale.

What is Globalisation?

“It refers to all those processes by which people of the world are incorporated into a single society, global society”(Albrow, 1990).

The authors identify at least 6 components of globalisation:

– changing concepts of space and time

– an increasing volume of cultural interactions

– the commonality of problems facing all the world’s inhabitants

– growing interconnections and interdependencies

– a network of increasingly powerful trasnational actors and organisations

– the synchronisation of all the dimensions involved in globalisation

I think that the World Wide Web phenomenon is also a factor that contributes to globalisation, as it offers universal access to knowledge, communication and interaction for all the people around the world.

What is Globality?

Whereas globalisation refers mainly to a series of objective changes in the world that are partly outside us, globality refers to the subjective realm. It alludes to the subjective, personal awareness that many of us share, and are increasingly likely to share – a common fate.

According to the authors, there are 4 major aspects of globality:

– thinking about ourselves collectively while identifying with all humanity

e.g. Many people articulate a strong conviction that everyone has certain rights as a human being. They express moral outrage when it transpires that these rights are being violated and demand that human rights are universally protected and enshrined in international conventions and laws.

In the same sense, on the Web everyone has certain rights that we need to focus on collectively and the right to privacy is one of them.

– the end to one-way flows and the growth of multicultural awareness

Today nations and cultures are more willing to recognise and accept cultural diversity.

Through the Web we have achieved  cultural interaction amongst different nations.

– the empowerment of self-aware social actors

(Reflexivity: All humans reflect on the consequences of their own and others’ actions and perhaps alter their behaviour in response to new information. Reflexivity is said to intensify as every aspect of social life becomes subject to endless revision in the face of constantly accumulating knowledge.)

Because globalisation has brought knowledge of other cultures into the heart of our daily lives, it has become yet another major force that fosters increasing reflexivity and individualisation. According to Rosenau,  ” today’s persons-in-street are no longer as uninvolved, ignorant, and manipulable with respect to world affairs as were their forbeans”.

The same applies on the Web, as there is a plethora of information available online on which everyone has access. However how does this situation affect privacy? Today different cultures reflect on one another through the Web; different cultures have different views on what is privacy and  on its boundaries, how do people from different backgrounds respect other people’s privacy?

– the broadening of identities

Today, no person or institution can avoid contact with, and some knowledge of, other cultures. But our allegiance to the particular local cultures in which most of us remain rooted at any point in time are altered by our comparisons with and understandings of other cultures

– the local or particular ceases to provide sufficient resources to enable us to make decisions about our lives and where we belong.

The Web plays an important role in the broadening of identities (we do not anymore only belong to one and only local culture). As our identities change, does our position on privacy also change? Do we consider less things to be private in comparison with the past?

What is Crime?

Crime covers a multitude of activities, some extremely violent and injurious to 3rd parties, others much less so. The word “deviance” is being used to describe “behaviour that is banned, censured, stigmatised or penalised” (Rock, 1996). While deviant conduct can include criminal behaviour, it also includes behaviour that attracts disapproval though it is not formally illegal, as well as activities that are on the fuzzy boundaries between the two.

What about privacy breaches? Should all of them be characterised as criminal behaviour or are there are cases, where they should only be disapproved? (e.g.  think of Facebook rape) Are there cases where the invasion of privacy is less important than other cases?

Social control today

In the wealthy contemporary societies, the capacity for surveillance has been considerably enhanced by technology. CCTVs are placed in many shopping malls and busy streets, while computerised databases and the internet have generated a new set of footprints that can be followed by a determined investigator. According to the authors, adults in the developed world have their details recorded on 300 databases, on average.

How do people feel about being continuously under surveillance (that refers to psychology rather than sociology)?This constant surveillance and control definitely invades our personal space and data. And who is responsible for controlling all this personal data? As soon as a person enters the world of the World Wide Web, he cannot anymore protect his/her personal data.

The Information Age and the World Wide Web

The arrival of the Web has raised a number of democratic possibilities. However, its decentralised structure has prevented business and the media from gaining control over it. Numerous attacks against people and organisations take place every day on the Web; taking action against them is not an easy task. Although there is a great deal of insecurity on the Web, that does not prevent people around the world to use it for their transactions and their communications, since it is a more democratic and less controlled media.

Psychology by  G. Martin et al. 3rd European Edition (2007)

Self and Identity

Knowledge about ourselves is very much like knowledge about other people. If someone asks you who you are, how would you respond? Social psychologists believe that we have many different selves that can be more or less discrete and come into play in different contexts. Higgins identifies 3 different selves:

the actual self (how one really is), the ideal self (how one would like to be) and the ought self (how one thinks one ought to be). The ideal self engages ‘promotional’ goals – we strive towards achieving the ideal, whereas the ought self engages ‘prevention’ goals – we strive to avoid doing what we ought not to do.

In that context how do we act when it comes to gaining access over one’s private data? Do we respect one’s sensitive data or do we breach their privacy? It seems that in this case the ‘ought’ self fails to prevent us from doing something bad.

Types of self and identity

Actual and possible selves can take many different forms. In particular, researchers distinguish between selves and identities that are grounded in individuality, interpersonal relationships and group and category memberships. Social identity theorists distinguish between the personal self (personal identity: self defined in terms of idiosyncratic attributes or personal relationships) and the collective self(social identity: the self defined in terms of group attributes).

Self esteem

People vary in their general level of self-esteem. Although low self-esteem can be dysfunctional, research tends to discredit the popular belief that low self-esteem is associated with social problems such as violence. On the contrary, violence is more closely associated with narcissism – high self-esteem in conjuction with a feeling of being superior and special.

In that sense, if we try to portrait the profile of a user that abuses a specific person’s privacy with personal motivation, thinking that this person may be a person with low self-esteem is incorrect.

Social inference

The most powerful knowledge we can have about people is causal knowledge – if we know what causes people to behave in certain ways then we are able to predict and influence what people will do. We need to assess the situational (stimuli in the environment) and dispositional (individual personality characteristics) factors.

Does that mean that if we understand the motivations that lead one person to invade another person’s personal space or data on the Web, then we will be able to predict and influence their actions?

People in groups/Prejudice

Human beings are unmistakably social creatures. A group is a collection of individuals who have a shared definition of who they are and what they should think, feel and do – people in the same group generally have common interests and goals.

Prejudice can be defined as a shared attitude, generally negative, towards a social outgroup, and thus towards members of that group purely on the basis of their membership in that group.

How is prejudice expressed online and how is it related to privacy? Often prejudice can lead to privacy breaches. There are cases in the history of the Web, where people’s prejudice against other people or groups has provoked privacy breaches.

In the following week I am going to continue reading books from the reading list that I have uploaded in my first blog and update the blog with new findings.

Written by az4g09 on February 26th, 2010

One Response to 'Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (2nd Post)'

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  1. Just some random comments/ questions about globalisation – the process of becoming interdependent in world society – it has been discussed in sociology in terms of large scale/transnational inequalities; theories of globalisation appear at macro level (look at the section in Giddens). Yes?
    So does globalisation as a concept/theory help us understand something like privacy – which by contrast psychologists might locate at the micro level of the individual?

    Is the web a product of globalisation or is the web a creator of globalisation?

    Don’t forget you can be critical of this stuff – the idea of this module is to crash these two disciplines against each other to see if they can help you do web science.

    Catherine Pope

    12 Mar 10 at 5:22 pm

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