Introductions and the Sociology of Privacy

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    Ari, I look forward to your posts. Just based on your description, though, it’s not obvious to me that Maxwell was studying privacy. He seems to be studying an one example of how the possibility of observation by others can influence conduct. While this is one part of privacy, it’s not clear to me why it shows that Maxwell has a limited conception of privacy — as compared to a broad conception in general that happened to be studied in one small way with his study. More broadly, my sens is that pretty much everyone intuitively gets that the word ‘privacy,’ like the word ‘liberty,’ has lots of different meanings depending on the conduct. The question for lawyers is which meanings should receive legal force in which contexts. It’s not clear to me what “conceptions of privacy” have to do with answering that question.

  2. Ari Waldman says:

    Hi Orin, Thank you for your comment. You’re right in the sense that Maxwell did not go about his project to study privacy as such. He was studying sexual norms and publicity. Few, if any, sociologists study privacy; they study spaces, territories, norms, interactions, some of which evoke everyday ideas about private spaces and territories. My broader point, which I will discuss over time, is that sociologists are too quick to assume a definition of “the private”, wrap it into their work and move on, leaving unexplained why they chose to think about a given space as “private.” But you are correct when you say that Maxwell was not studying privacy explicitly. I do think we can go beneath his project and see his assumptions about privacy. Thanks for your comment!