Throughout the Global North there are discussions on the table for introducing what are called ‘three-strikes’ rules that are designed to cut or, or hinder, people’s access to the Internet should they be caught infringing on copyright. In the EU, the big content cartel is trying to get ISPs to inspect consumer data flows and, when copywritten content is identified, ‘punish’ the individual in some fashion. Fortunately, it is looking that at least the EU Parliament is against imposing such rules on the basis that disconnecting individuals from the Internet would infringe on EU citizens’ basic rights. In an era where we are increasingly digitizing our records and basic communications infrastructure, it’s delightful to see a body in a major world power recognize the incredibly detrimental and over-reactionary behavior that the copyright cartel is calling for. Copyright infringement does not trump basic civil liberties.
Now, I expect that many readers would say something along this line: I don’t live in the EU, and the EU Parliament has incredibly limited powers. Who cares, this: (a) doesn’t affect me; (b) is unlikely to have a real impact on EU policy.
A common element of the (various) streams of thought that I’m usually engaged in surrounds the question of identity. What constitutes identity? How is this constitution being modulated (or is it?) in digital spaces? What can past and contemporary theorists offer us, in response to these questions? What are the strengths of these responses, and what are their weaknesses?
Over the next six months or so, I want to begin taking up these questions more seriously. I plan to begin constructing an account in order to gain a better appreciation for both how granularly we often attempt to separate identities, and how at the same time those are often shared, surveyed, or otherwise modified without our ever being aware. My thoughts are that a core difference between ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ identities follows from the (relative) ease of surveying and modifying digital identities without the source of that identity ever being made aware. While unobtrusive surveillance is possible in an analogue space, there is an emphasis in the West on the development of homogeneous protocols that are intended to facilitate the diffusion of data across digital pathways, and this carries with it new ways of collating and modulating available dataflows. Continue reading