Today, The New York Times (lead article in Week in Review) ruminated on a “cultural confusion about private and public” that has extended to architecture. We hope for thousands to visit our MySpace page while prancing around in glass houses—literally, thanks to an architectural trend leaning toward transparent living. The article offered lots of hand-wringing and sniffing about privacy’s long good-bye, complete with this singularly insipid comment from psychologist Sherry Turkle (important MIT professor): “I can be in intimate contact with 300 people on e-mail, but when I look up from my computer I feel bereft. I haven’t heard a voice, touched a hand, for hours or days.”
Honey, I don’t think the computer is your problem.
Let me clear this up: the concept of privacy as an inviolable right, as something we hold and are therefore able to relinquish (or wrap up tight) is long gone and this isn’t news. Every 15 year old who makes her YouTube debut already has a different definition than her parents. My oldest is 11 and he thoughtfully constructs various versions of himself to the kids he meets playing games on-line. I got giddy when my blog profile hits topped 100; he got real. “Seven million people have watched Gary Brolsma." (He's the namu-namu genius on YouTube and if you haven't watched, be number seven million and one).
Does this kind of transparency necessitate a lack of intimacy, as Turkle implies? A friend swears his younger employees are hard-wired differently than those over 30—they think, emote, create and structure ‘self’ in all kinds of electronic ways. Is this malleable and importable self less desirable than the fortress we used to be? I’m not so ready to mourn. Privacy and intimacy are sort of High End concepts that change over time, and I hate to condemn the inevitable.
Bereft, I look up from the computer--and there's John's hand sneaking toward my thigh. Again!