Clothing is a privacy system

Some clothing we need. That’s the kind that keeps us warm, or shielded from sunlight, or from getting our feet burned or cut up. Some clothing we wear because we like the way it makes us look, or how it gives us a way to conform with social conventions, or to flaut the same.

But basically, clothing keeps us covered up. It hides what we call our “privates.” Also our love handles, pot bellies, surgery scars, cellulite, man-boobs, and tattoos we’d rather not show. Clothing can also enlarge or showcase our best features, or make our less-than-best look better.

In all cases other than the naked one, clothing gives us a means for doing what techies call selective disclosure — while just as selectively keeping some things undisclosed. Or, therefore, private.

What I’m saying here is that maybe, as we debate what privacy is, what it means, and how to deal with it through technology, business and policy, that the things that can teach us the most about privacy are the ones in our closets and drawers.

For fun, dig the best ad for clothing, ever: Barney’s Men of Destiny.

Bonus link.

6 comments

  1. Jim Pasquale’s avatar

    The Emperor’s new clothes, to those who darn. Great observation we’ve all come to expect from Doc.

  2. Christy’s avatar

    I couldn’t help but think of that obscure class of clothing, “clothes that make you look naked”, and the implications of the metaphor.

    http://www.indiaonrent.com/forwards/n/nude-clothing/res/8ukvr4.jpg

    P.S. hope the photo doesn’t offend

  3. Tony Fish’s avatar

    Interesting concept and got me thinking…. however it depends on where you are from (culture.) As a metaphor does this play to the supply side market of economics as the driver and not the intention economy ? Insomuch as someone sets the engagement rules and it is not up to the market (receiver) to set them, therefore they (terms, price, privacy, quality, delivery, guarantees) are controlled by the supplier?

    Still thinking do we want control or controls of privacy? *assuming that either are possible*

  4. johnbattelle’s avatar

    Agree. More thoughts along these lines here (The Rise of Digital Plumage, from a year ago):

    http://battellemedia.com/archives/2011/02/the_rise_of_digital_plumage_.php

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