Private Spaces: Experience of Privacy, Space, and its Boundaries after the Digital Revolution

By Ana-Maria Simionovici.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Walls create spatial sequences, connecting and separating spaces and the people experiencing them. In doing so, spatial organization traditionally plays an important role in creating or disturbing privacy. With the advent of the so-called digital revolution however, many disciplines focus on a kind of privacy that does not seem to have any spatial connotations: privacy of the web for example. One result is that traditional theories of privacy are being increasingly questioned. The current essay joins this discussion from the point of view of architectural theory. In this discipline, widely accepted phenomenological space concepts basing on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, which acquire their meaning from the active behavior and multimodal perception of the animate form of human subjects, depend on direct experience of physical landmarks and their placement. In the mean time experience of coded information about space, mediated by a mobile phone for instance, has also become an issue in the way we perceive, experience, and enact space. Consider two banal examples of how the widespread use of digital devices and applications has changed the way public and private spaces are established in everyday life. If you are looking for WLAN access at an airport, you might gravitate towards a big crowd of people. Sometimes, a high density of people translates into the quintessential public space but in this case chances are the travelers are either waiting for the boarding of the plane or simply hanging around because they get the best Internet reception at that location. On the other hand, if one sits alone in a café and wants to enjoy a cappuccino in peace, it is a good idea to appear preoccupied with the mobile phone. Most people will regard the phone as a “do not disturb” sign. The task of this essay is to take a close look at new notions of space that these practices propose, uncovering their impact on boundaries and consequently on spatial practices such as privacy. Taking Irwin Altman’s traditional privacy regulation theory and Daniel Solove’s more recent taxonomy of privacy as starting points, the aim is to argue for the urgent need to rethink privacy such that it will accommodate a new experience between subjects and private space, which goes beyond mere control of access to the self.

Keywords: Privacy, Space, Phenomenology, Architectural Theory

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.37-43. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 243.146KB).

Dipl.-Ing. Ana-Maria Simionovici

Visiting Lecturer, PhD Student, Institute of Architecture Sciences, Department of Architecture Theory, Vienna Technical University, Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Born 1979 in Bucharest, I studied architectural science and architecture in Toronto and Vienna and am currently a PhD student and visiting lecturer at Vienna University of Technology, Institute of Architecture Sciences, Department for Architecture Theory. My doctoral thesis inquires into “Architecture 2.0: Privacy in Dwelling Architecture after the Digital Revolution”, and is also partly concerned with the definitions of and relationships between self, space, and others. I am also the initiator of an interdisciplinary research program to the issue of privacy, which is presently undergoing assessment. Other scientific interests include interdisciplinary methods of analysis of space and aesthetics.