Nora Henn, M.A.


PHD Project

The protection of privacy is an urgent issue in an information civilization based on data extraction architectures with increasing surveillance potential. Ubiquitous computing and ever more seamless and efficient socio-technical systems of data accumulation, behavioural prediction and modification allow for an increasing datafication and manipulation of the subject. In my dissertation project I analyse systemic incentives that contribute to an expansion of extraction architectures and reinforce underlying assumptions like the primacy of transparency, predictability and calculability. These values and their materialization in the technological architectures may conflict with privacy and autonomy.
In the liberal tradition there is a tendency to embrace the free flow of information as a means for optimized individual choice of a rational subject in need of perfect information. Privacy is mainly discussed as a form of personal autonomy that is evaluated by its contribution to or harm of classical liberal values like freedom of choice, speech and expression. In my dissertation I want to show that this concept is too narrow to capture the risks posed to an individual that is embedded in increasingly seamless extraction architectures. The emphasis of rational choice and efficiency might be shifted to one of meaningful agency which, as I want so show, is important to maintain autonomy in the networked sphere. Analysing the process of meaningful agency in an information environment I elaborate in how far an autonomous subject depends on certain conditions of privacy, indeterminacy and incalculability. My aim is to draw a multidimensional concept of privacy that is worth protecting, since it enables the subject to act meaningfully in an intersubjective process of self-actualization. This ability I conceptualize as a form of narrative autonomy that rests on four functional pillars of privacy.