Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Seminar 4 Position Statement: Prof Ben O'Loughlin, Royal Holloway, Univ. of London

The Right Not to Know

Royal Holloway, Univ. of London
Andrew Hoskins and I argue that the convergence of two shifts, one in the connective politics of conflict and catastrophe, the other in the connectivity of self, together generate the impossibility of claiming ignorance. A few weeks ago an open letter from a Syrian village was posted on Twitter in English: "[The] Assad regime is killing us and destroying our city. You are all responsible for our death. Your silence is keeping him strong”. Crisis mapping, satellite surveillance, citizen and professional news reporting, NGO reporting: the Syrian villagers assume we see and we know. Surveillance and sousveillance are conditions of this impossibility of ignorance. This impossibility is a defining challenge of the digital age partly because it manifests itself across the levels of real world politics, culture, technology and self – an entire ecology of knowing – that are often seen and treated as disconnected (and thus hived off for abstract enquiry). This is not the same as the right to be forgotten or the right to connect. A response requires something greater than the sum of these parts, hence we are asking what would a right not to know – notably a right that was not required of earlier media ecologies – look like?

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