[ISEA2011] Panel: Seda Guerses – A failed coup at­tempt with folk songs (Part III): Anonymity and the anony­mous in a cul­ture of shar­ing

Panel Statement

Panel: Sniff, Scrape, Crawl: Part 1

In dystopian de­bates on dig­i­tal pri­vacy, it is sug­gested that pri­vacy can only be pro­tected if we hide our per­sonal in­for­ma­tion or prac­tice con­trol over it. Un­der­ly­ing this im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal turn is the fact that “my data = i”. Fol­low­ing this line of thought, com­puter sci­en­tists, com­pa­nies and other ded­i­cated per­sons from civil so­ci­ety have pro­posed a num­ber of tools to un­link or man­age the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the “i” and the data bod­ies that in­di­vid­u­als leave be­hind. These can be cat­e­go­rized under the title “anonymity tools” or “iden­tity man­age­ment” tools. If used cor­rectly, the for­mer guar­an­tees to some de­gree the anonymity of users traces, while the lat­ter pro­vides the in­di­vid­ual with “con­trol” over traces left be­hind. We are not new to anony­mous traces and the at­tempts to con­trol what we leave be­hind. “Anony­mous”, for ex­am­ple, is also a term used to refer to works with­out au­thor­ship or of un­known ori­gin. A pop­u­lar form of anony­mous works are folk songs. They are melodies that travel, which get a new life blown into them every time they move in time or space. In­ter­est­ingly enough, the lack of au­thor­ship and ori­gin in­vokes ques­tions of au­then­tic­ity and ev­i­dence, as it is shown in the film “Whose is this song?” from Adela Peeva. This also be­comes ev­i­dent in the film “I Love Alaska” where the query po­etry of an “anonymized user” be­comes the script of a film at the edge of fic­tion and non-fic­tion. Anony­mous has also been re­vived re­cently as the label of a dig­i­tal an­ar­chist move­ment, ques­tion­ing the bound­aries be­tween the phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal. In my paper I will look at the strengths and weak­nesses of anonymity in each case, both as a tech­nol­ogy as well as a strat­egy. I will also delve into its re­la­tion­ship to con­trol, mean­ing how it evades and re­places dif­fer­ent forms of con­trol.

  • Seda Guerses is a re­searcher work­ing in the group COSIC/ESAT at the De­part­ment of Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing in K. U. Leu­ven, Bel­gium. Her top­ics of in­ter­est in­clude pri­vacy tech­nolo­gies, par­tic­i­pa­tory de­sign, fem­i­nist cri­tique of com­puter sci­ence, and on­line so­cial net­works. She has a keen in­ter­est in the sub­ject of anonymity in tech­ni­cal as well as cul­tural con­texts, the spec­trum being any­where be­tween anony­mous com­mu­ni­ca­tions and anony­mous folk songs. Be­yond her aca­d­e­mic work, she also col­lab­o­rates with artis­tic ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing Con­stant vzw, Boot­lab, De-cen­ter, ESC in Brus­sels, Graz and Berlin. You can find more in­for­ma­tion about her dwellings here: esat.kuleuven.be/~sguerses   vous-etes-ici.net

Full text (PDF) p. 1090-1092