José Ricardo Carvalheiro is Assistant Professor at the Communication and Arts Department, University of Beira Interior, Portugal. At LabCom reseach unit, he currently coordinates the project “Public and Private in Mobile Communications”. His main research interests are in media history, cultural identities and migration. He also has recently coordinated the project “Media, Reception and Memory: Female Audiences in the New State”.
Privatism Against Privacy? Technology and Culture of Mobile Communications
Mixing and confusing different meanings of the public/private dichotomy is something we have been warned against. On the private side of this rich conceptual pair, such caution is needed in approaching the ideas of privatism and privacy, for they refer to distinct aspects of the transformations affecting the private domain. On the one hand, the private has been said to expand over the public: civic disengagement and individuals focusing primarily on personal ties, leisure and career. On the other hand, it has been noticed that the private seems to shrink or disappear: increasing exposure of personal aspects of life and difficulty to keep personal data out of the reach of others, whether they are states and corporations or social networks.
In this paper, we face the conceptual distinctions between privatism and privacy, but we also try to explore and reflect upon their possible articulations in the context of mobile media uses in Portugal. Are the tendency to privatism and the threat to privacy opposed movements or rather they are two sides of the same coin? Is there a generational shift towards a lack of the sense of privacy and a general trend for the disclosure of the selves? In the use of mobile media, is privatism prevailing and imposing its impulse over concerns with privacy?
Drawing on a number of primary sources, quantitative and qualitative, in the Portuguese context, we pay attention to such questions as part of the research project “Public and Private in Mobile Communications” developed in Labcom.