Immanuel Kant’s essay “On the Common Saying: ‘This May be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice'” argues that theory is central to understanding the world around us and that, moreover, attempts to say that ‘theory doesn’t apply to the world as such’ are generally misguided. Part of the reason that Kant can so firmly advocate that theory and reality are co-original emerge from his monological rationalism, but at the same time time we see him argue that the clearest way to bring theory and practice into alignment is with more theory – rather than adopting ‘parsimonious’ explanations of the world we would be better off to develop rigorous and detailed accounts of the world.
Parsimony seems to be a popular term in the social sciences; it lets researchers develop concise theories that can be applied to particular situations, lets them isolate and speak about particular variables, and lends itself to broad(er) public accessibility of the theory in question. At the same time, theorists critique many such parsimonious accounts because they commonly fail to offer full explanations of social phenomena!
The complexity of privacy issues in combination with a desire for parsimony has been a confounding issue for privacy theorists. Nailing down what ‘privacy’ actually refers to has been, and continues to be, a nightmarish task insofar as almost every definition has some limiting factor. This problem is (to my mind) compounded when you enter online, or digital, environments where developing a complete understanding of how data flows across systems, what technical languages’ demands underlie data processing systems, and developing a comprehensive account of confidentiality and trust, are all incredibly challenging and yet essential for theorization. This is especially true when we think of a packet as being like post card (potentially one with its content encrypted) – in theory anyone could be capturing and analyzing packet streams and data that is held on foreign servers.
In this post I want to think, just a little bit, about the role of platforms and how I’m attempting to maneuver this space. This is aimed at better clarifying (for me) how this space is used, as well as to render its use more transparent (which is apparently a core facet of building successful platforms *grin*).
A few weeks ago I was linked to a blog page that discussed the role of platforms in opening up future publishing-related avenues. The principles of the post could be boiled down to the follow:
- Speak authentically;
- Speak regularly;
- Speak in an open, transparent fashion;
- Speak so that the development of ideas is clear;
- Speak so that you are demonstrating your authority.
Today I want to just briefly talk about the competition between Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s Blackberry. I’m not going to bother with things like the aesthetics or the ease of using one over the other. Instead what I want to talk about is how these devices are, and will (in the iPhone’s case) be used. I’ll, as usual, provide a bit of background and then get to what is the real issue with these devices: unless secured, these devices, and other like them, can reveal a substantial amount about yourself and others, enough that it would be a relatively simple task to assume your identity and potentially negatively affect others’ identities/reputations.
Packing Some Confidential Property
I’ll admit it: whenever I go anywhere, my Blackberry comes with me. I use it to track all facets of my life: my contacts (i.e. who I know, what I know about them, notes that I see as important about them), my calendar (i.e. what I do at almost all points of my day, who I’m meeting with, why I’m meeting with them), my email (i.e the communication that I have and think should be recorded for a later date), and my instant messaging (i.e my personal discussions that let me be me with friends). This is super-convenient for me. It also means that I’m carrying a device that would give someone who found/stole it a significant insight into my life and some insight into the lives of people that I know.
The University of Guelph will be moving to a new email provider in the next month or two and along with that movement will come (over time) a unified student calendaring system. I want to discuss the role of email, unified calendaring, and how they impact TAs.
Email is the best-known electronic tool amongst TAs. It has been used for years to communicate with students, set up meeting dates, and answer rudimentary questions. The benefit of email is that it allows for relatively confidential communications between TAs and students – others cannot read the message unless either the TA or student break confidentiality. Email is not terribly well-suited for drawn out conversations, however, nor is it very good at developing content amongst a series of participants. It does, however, allow students and TAs to be accountable for what they say, which can be helpful in times of grade challenges that were supposedly made through email. For this reason TAs should ensure that no student information is deleted for at least one year after the course.