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Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World // June 9-10, 2011 // Harvard University

Hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Technology is transforming privacy and reshaping what it means to be in public.  Our interactions—personal, professional, financial, etc.—increasingly take place online, where they are archived, searchable, and easily replicated.  Our activities in the physical worlds are digitized by the ubiquitous cameras operated by store-owners, government agencies and our friends, who post and tag pictures of us.  We share our location both deliberately, via social media updates, and inescapably, via our location-aware telephones.

Discussions of privacy often focus solely on the question of how to protect privacy.  But a thriving public sphere, whether physical or virtual, is also essential to society.  The balance of social mores and personal freedom in these spaces is what makes cooperation and collective action possible.

Design reflects a society’s beliefs about private and public life.  A city with welcoming parks, plazas and verandas expresses a public culture – and one where blank garage-door walls line empty streets does not.  Yet design is also an agent of change. New media are our new public forums and the design of their interfaces affects what people reveal, wittingly or not.  Design is essential in making legible the line between private and public, and in showing people the significance of the information they are revealing. Most importantly, in an era in which technology is collapsing the boundaries that maintained our privacy, we must understand how design can promote tolerance.  For as our world becomes more public, it is only with heightened tolerance that we can maintain the freedom we value in privacy.

This symposium will bring together computer scientists, ethnographers, architects, historians, artists and legal scholars to discuss how design influences privacy and public space, how it shapes and is shaped by human behavior and experience, and how it can cultivate norms such as tolerance and diversity.

Privacy & Security Lens: In spring 2011, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) will highlight a series of talks that will focus on issues related to privacy and security in digitally networked environments. Events associated with this “lens” will seek to foster discussion and explore novel solutions to digital security and privacy issues, and aim to surface and engage with some of the technological, legal, political, economic, and behavioral tensions at work within these topics. This cross-disciplinary initiative will build on current CRCS and BCIS collaborative efforts, and seek to bring multiple perspectives and approaches to these issues.

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