Iain Bourne remarked that ‘society is made by knowing things about each other’. There were discussions of both privacy and transparency that really attempted to understand the nature of these knowings and relations between people. Nicole Dewandre argued that humans need both recognition and concealment. Marc van Lieshout spoke of privacy as a form of agency, an agency to be deployed for wellbeing. Discussions of transparency that followed on from Alison’s talk also read transparency in similar terms. Stefana Broadbent argued that within transparency are forms of concealment, and asked how we might design to guarantee concealment? Her crucial point was that being in public spaces can be about being concealed as much as it might be about being identifiable. For example, it’s common to exploit the anonymity afforded by large public spaces. Thus, the simple dichotomy between public / visible and private / invisible cannot capture the subtleties of interplay between privacy and space. These overlapping discussions of privacy and transparency move away from understanding privacy as a set of formal rights for the individual, and as Nicole described, point us towards a conception where both visibility and concealment necessarily become dimensions of all forms of interaction between entities such as individuals and organisations.
Can we unravel the interconnected thinking around privacy, transparency and visibility in order to make some stronger claims about the civic rights and responsibilities of both actors and agencies?