A philosophic teaser for “Interstitial space”
The private is broadly speaking a notion found in law and cultural norms. Still, there is a deeper meaning to it. For instance, when we recall various childhood memories: our favorite hiding place or the time spent with our parents (gazing at the sky or shaping clay). The private nature of these memories pertains neither to identity and property protection (like the way we speak about our Facebook page or our car) nor to human dignity and sovereignty (like when we talk about the government spying on us), but to what I intuitively dub natural privacy and the concept of interstitial privacy. What matters here is the relationship with other beings, with objects in themselves, and with space, the way in which knowledge and meaning are contiguous, and reality is both lived and represented. Privacy can be defined not just as a construct and cultural norm applicable only to humans, but as a real, physical state, through which we can describe the continuous, persistent, and defining way by which things make up reality.
Usually and commonly, privacy means that:
Each individual must be allowed to regulate access to his own things and matters (his own body, space, image, identity, etc.)
Interactions between individuals must be carried out in accordance to the previous point.
It seems that the two points of this definition are equally important. But that’s not the case. The part about interaction is more important – it is, in fact, a condition. Privacy wouldn’t have to be subject to norms if social interaction didn’t ask for it. Or, in other words, we must regulate privacy in order to regulate and homogenize social interaction. But is there a type of privacy to name and aim for if social interaction doesn’t call for its norming?
I indeed believe that the notion of privacy is based on a tacit understanding of life quality which doesn’t depend on social interaction but on the interaction with everything else. If our life is prosperous, we can distinguish, name, and norm parts of it as private, if our life is just a struggle to survive, we have very little to name and norm as private. When I say survival, I’m not referring to the social, cultural, and economic aspects of our lives, but to the primordial confrontation with nature. We can’t associate normative privacy with indigenous, archaic cultures. But, at the same time, we also can’t conceive that humans of such cultures don’t experience, don’t have some kind of representation of privacy.
Norming privacy is intersubjective and social in nature, while living and experiencing privacy is object-oriented, contingent. To understand privacy, we must understand objects around and how our insignificance faced with the absolute power of the Elements is annulled by our intimate relationship with them. This is the understanding of privacy that I will use here: not socially-normed privacy, but lived, experienced privacy.
One definition for privacy could be the following: privacy is a relation of proximity between objects, which doesn’t endanger their existance, but instead makes them thrive. It is a general definition that doesn’t fit the notion of normative privacy. For one thing, this definition situates privacy in the context of contingency. Privacy is not where the law places it, but where there happens to form a relation of wellbeing between things, and this happens rather by chance. We can’t see the house in which a child subject to domestic violence lives as his private space, but there where he might feel secure and free. Secondly, privacy is not subject-centered, is not unidirectional; on the contrary, it is object-oriented, multidirectional, and mutual. Let’s take as an example the balance of an ecosystem in which all life forms thrive due to the relations between them; in his way, each living being influences the private space of all the others. Thirdly, privacy is more dynamic and transitory than static and permanent. The house in which we live is a private space not because it is in our property, but because it offers us a feeling of emotional and material wellbeing and this is something that can change in time.
Survival and the threat of extinction condition and circumscribe the existence of privacy, forcing things, beings, and entities to create humoral, interstitial buffer zones. For the human subject, these are perceived as comfort zones created for him. Therefore these areas are seen as sterile zones in which only the human subject is active (this is the underlying assumption of our common understanding of privacy – normative privacy). But this is by no means the case. These comfort zones represent a negotiation with the things, beings, entities that are part of or come into contact with the human subject. Wellbeing and prosperity do not represent the end of the struggle for survival, but only its amelioration. The threat of global warming stands as a testimony of how important understanding extinction is for achieving wellbeing. If the negotiation with things is lost or avoided, by attempting to master, cancel, destroy them, we slip into a game/process of extinction, which, though at first glance we seem to control it, it pushes extinction in our proximity, increasing the chances of becoming subject to the obliterating power of the Elements, our very own extinction.
The negotiation that creates humoral space is a communication between objects – things, beings, entities. Its unit of measurement is the difference that each object brings to the whole through its presence. This difference is in turn codified differently than in the case of every other individual object. Each difference hosts other differences and is hosted by other differences in a never-ending flow.
The amelioration of the struggle for survival is realized when objects enter this flow of communication with other neighboring objects. Maintaining this flow leads to a prosperity/wellbeing that mustn’t be understood as the end of the road, as an aim in itself, but as the sum of the areas of interstitial privacy, which do not oppose a space of commonality, but are in fact the area of commonality passed through recursively by the differences generated by objects and by the multiplicity of their transmission. The persistence in time and space of interstitial privacy leads to a vital plasticity of materiality by means of the objectification of the flow of communication and its transformation into a new object – thing, being, entity.
Thus, interstitial privacy has a twofold existential inside-out, or object-oriented, role:
From a human point of view, interstitial privacy is the locus of knowledge and meaning, the locus of wisdom.
From an ontological standpoint, the areas of self-perpetuating interstitial privacy lead to fusions and the generating of new objects, new beings.
Privacy is in every place where we rather think about life, not death.