Master-Workshop «Unprivacy»

by Armin Blasbichler

In a recent interview with the «Spiegel» Tim Berners-Lee stated, that the privacy of the individual must be respected and the data captured cannot be abused for commercial purposes and praises Edward Snowden’s revelations as they raise awareness about these problems and about the Internet and its integrity. He claims the right of not being spied, tracked or surveilled whatsoever.


A concept of privacy, built on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the fierce progression of information technologies unleashing unthought-of possibilities in the production and the exchange of information, seem to have become incompatible. We have entered a cyber-physical realm of modes of communication and societal organization we cannot withdraw from anymore.

The public sphere of 21st century and the peculiarities of the freedom of the individual require a reconsideration. The precursor of the global theatre – the global village, foreshown by Marshall McLuhan in the early 1960’s is already a reality. A village has no need for an intelligence service. The permanent state of belonging to everyone else goes along with seamless interference with one’s privacy. Anonymity – the kinsman of freedom, becomes impossible.

It is the moment to recall that the concept of freedom we are used to has its origins in western reasoning and has paved the way to democracy, the markets, science, technology and the arts. Now this core-asset itself is at stake. If we understand the inner logic of the production and exchange of information, the commodification of identities, the strategies of the profiteers, then we can identify who wins and who loses. Despite the anxieties related to the loss of control over one’s personal information, a disputed concept of privacy represents a great opportunity to reevaluate what matters and what can be dismissed. Between obstinate resistance and meekly immersion, there must be smarter options. The global theatre is only one of them.

Critical design agency and art practice equip people with tools, artifacts, strategies, scopes, concepts and clues to appreciate what is valuable and vital for life. Many design professionals are involved in industries concerned with data processing services and products. Information is the key material of the 21st century. Designers are the hubs between technology and life. It is time to take a stance.