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New short piece in themed issue of XRDS on privacy

When giving a presentation at a conference, it is often very hard to determine whether anyone is really listening. Lots of tired faces in the room, not least when it's Saturday afternoon and the city of Paris is waiting outside the conference center, as was the case when I presented my paper at the Web Science 2013 conference earlier this year.

Sometimes, however, it turns out afterwards that in fact some people had been listening. One person who was still awake at that last session in Paris in May was my fellow PhD student Richard Gomer, who later reached out to me about publishing a short and more popular version of my argument in XRDS - Crossroads. For the uninitiated (as I was), this is the official ACM Magazine for students.

The Fall 2013 issue has the theme "The Complexities of Privacy and Anonymity". Richard, who was one of the editors of this issue, thought it would be fun to have a less technical, more social theory-oriented take on the theme, and I liked the challenge of making my argument in only three pages and without heavy referencing.

So here it is, published this fall: "What is Public and Private Anyway? A Pragmatic Take on Privacy and Democracy". In this piece, I argue that when private content is revealed on the web, it is not only a threat to our privacy, but can also spark public engagement. I provide the example of a recent case study of mine, which focused on the use of Facebook groups during a snowstorm in Denmark. In order to understand what happens in cases like this, I suggest pragmatist philosophy is more helpful than dominating understandings of the relationship between public and private.

You can read the piece for free online:  or download it as a PDF from the ACM Digital Library.