Article Description
François Hollande's privacy plea and our relentless spirit of self-display | Josh Cohen In promoting total and permanent visibility, our culture closes down all the spaces in which the private self can flourish"Each of us in our personal lives can go through difficult periods and that is so in our case," said Franí§ois Hollande earlier this week, responding to a journalist's question as to whether his partner, Valérie Trierweiler, remained first lady of France in the light of his alleged affair with Julie Gayet. "But," the French president went on, "private matters should be dealt with privately and this is neither the time nor the place to do so."Amid the chorus of columnists, the flashguns of Closer magazine, and the high drama of Trierweiler's emotional collapse, who is listening to Hollande's solemnly understated appeals to privacy? In today's culture of permanent visibility, the plea of celebrities or politicians to respect their privacy becomes little more than an emptily ritualised scene in the unfolding farce.This is a shame, for there's something in Hollande's insistence that "private matters should be dealt with in private" that, for all its tone of evasive officiousness, is worth a little reflection. That private matters belong in private is a truism that appears to have lost its self-evidence. We live in a culture that asks us to share our deepest intimacies, from sex to grief, on social media; that encourages us to create and broadcast "lifelogs" displaying anything from our cholesterol intake and mood swings to our entire lives. The world morphs into an unending reality TV show, in which we abandon the sheltering anonymity of ordinary life for the incessant glare of the camera and its audience.To speak up for privacy in this brave new world is rather like appealing for temperance in a City wine bar – a futile attempt to convey the one message the crowd won't hear or understand. Hollande's insistence on a private life that needs to remain such makes sense only if we assume a shared notion of selfhood – essentially, that a public, perceptible face conceals a private, imperceptible self. Only, that is, if we take for granted that even when fully visible to the world, we remain at heart invisible, in the dark.In a culture of permanent visibility this version of the self is no longer a given. Individuals are reduced to the pictures we can take and the stories we can tell of them, at the cost of their singularity and complexity. Of course, you may have an inner life, but the increasingly common assumption is that it should be shared, dragged into the light. If this is my conception of the self, any claim the other makes for the shelter of privacy will in effect be meaningless, a line in a tired and cheesily predictable script. I won't recognise your feelings of intrusion, because I won't recognise that there's anything to intrude upon. If I can intuit nothing in you beyond the self you show the world, your objection to the cameras in your face, or your bedroom, is incomprehensible.Perhaps this culture of full personal disclosure heralds a new and welcome openness to self-expression, a benign antidote to the buttoned-up repression of preceding generations. In making our bodies and souls available to the world's inspection, we shine a light into the darkness of our private lives. But it's here that we stumble on a basic contradiction: exposed to the light, the private is no longer private. The more we drag private experience into public visibility, the more our emotional lives – our relationships to ourselves and to others – threaten to descend into a kind of shrill and unconvincing mimicry of real feelings. All we can see and hear in the latest political sex scandal is another compulsive repetition of the same old farce, with new actors in the old roles.The assumption underlying the drive to full disclosure of our own and others' inner lives is that we should know everything. Nothing from the near side of our lives to the furthest reaches should be kept from view. There's an unmistakable aggression lurking in this conviction that was made fully audible at the Leveson inquiry in the brutal makeshift slogan of visibility culture's unofficial spokesman, the tabloid journalist Paul McMullan: "Privacy is for paedos."What's the real object of this aggression? Perhaps what drives the unholy alliance of voyeurism and exhibitionism – the frenzied intrusions of the media as much as the relentless spirit of self-display – is the suspicion that there are places in the self where no telephoto lens or bugging device can reach. In other words, it's less the wish to know that fuels the ongoing assault of the televisual, personal or surveillance cameras than the rage against what remains unknown, in the dark. For human beings, Freud insisted, the suggestion that our knowledge of our own and others' inner lives must be scanty and uncertain can only be experienced as an enraging humiliation.There may be some explanation here as to why public protest following revelations of the scope of state and corporate surveillance has been so muted and uncertain. These offences against our privacy are all too continuous with the intrusive culture we live and breathe. It's hard to generate real outrage against a phenomenon with which we continue to be so complicit.From this perspective, the significance of the recent petition against mass surveillance by more than 500 writers lies in reminding us that the stakes of this debate are as much imaginative as legal, as much about what we are as what we own. "Surveillance is theft", the petition proclaims, referring not only to our personal data but to our rights over our inner lives.The British psychoanalyst DW Winnicott speaks of an obscure yet essential region in us that can survive only by remaining hidden, and whose natural elements are darkness and silence. This hidden spot is the source of our uniqueness and singularity, a fact authoritarian regimes know only too well, which is no doubt why they make such a priority of closing down all those spaces in which the private self can flourish. To attack privacy is to attack the very source of creative and imaginative life. In flooding us with light, in promoting our permanent and total visibility, our culture threatens to turn personal violation into an unnoticed fact of our daily lives.PrivacySurveillanceFraní§ois HollandePsychologyCelebrityFranceEuropeJosh Cohentheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
What your car color says about you Car color can act as a psychological shortcut that expresses how we want the world to think about us.
Comedians have psychotic personality traits Having an unusual personality structure could be the secret to making other people laugh.
Kids teased in pys-ed class exercise less a year later Psychologists found that kids who got teased during physical education calss were less physically active 12 months later -- whether or not the child is overweight.
Breakthrough in understanding secret life of prion molecules New research has uncovered a quality control mechanism in brain cells that may help keep deadly neurological diseases in check for months or
Obama Is Typical of Men His Age When It Comes to Friendships Obama is believed to not have many friends"”but he is where many men of his age are.read more
How vision captures sound now somewhat uncertain Contrary to previous research, researchers have found that neurons in a particular brain region respond differently, not similarly, based on whether the stimuli is visual or auditory. The finding provides insight into how vision captures the location of perceived sound.
Drugs that weaken traumatic memories hold promise for PTSD treatment Memories of traumatic events often last a lifetime because they are so difficult to treat through behavioral approaches. A preclinical study reveals that drugs known as histone deacetylase inhibitors can enhance the brain's ability to permanently replace old traumatic memories with new memories, opening promising avenues for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders.
Scientists discover two proteins that control chandelier cell architecture Chandelier cells are neurons that use their unique shape to act like master circuit breakers in the brain. These cells have branching projections that allow one chandelier cell to block the output of hundreds of other neurons. Defects in their function have been linked to epilepsy and schizophrenia. In work published, scientists identify two proteins that control the structure of chandelier cells, offering insight into how the cells are regulated.
The way to a chimpanzee's heart is through its stomach Researchers measured the urinary oxytocin levels in wild chimpanzees after food sharing and found them to be elevated in both donor and receiver compared to social feeding events without sharing. Furthermore, oxytocin levels were higher after food sharing than after grooming, another cooperative behavior, suggesting that food sharing might play a more important role in promoting social bonding.
Assessing others: Evaluating expertise of humans, computer algorithms Researchers used fMRI technology to monitor the brain activity of volunteers as they interacted with "experts" -- some human, others computer algorithms -- to predict the behavior of a hypothetical financial asset. Volunteers responded more positively to human rather than computer "experts."
Brain on autopilot: How the architecture of the brain shapes its functioning The structure of the human brain is complex, reminiscent of a circuit diagram with countless connections. But what role does this architecture play in the functioning of the brain?
Can Having Sex Make You Smarter? Recent studies suggest that sexual activity causes neurogenesis in the hippocampus.→ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Image perception in the blink of an eye Neuroscientists find that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.
Mental health of Spanish men worsened with economic crisis Experts and social organizations have warned of the negative effects that the economic crisis could mean for the health of the population. But it was not easy to demonstrate with data what is happening. A new, comparative analysis of the last two National Health Surveys revealed a rise in mental health problems in men, which contrasts on the other hand with a decrease in women.   
Discovery of quantum vibrations in 'microtubules' inside brain neurons supports controversial theory of consciousness A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in "microtubules" inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.
How metabolism, brain activity are linked: Study sheds light on why diet may help control seizures in epilepsy patients A new study shows a direct link between metabolism in brain cells and their ability to signal information. The research may explain why the seizures of many epilepsy patients can be controlled by a
Brain regions 'tune' activity to enable attention The brain appears to synchronize the activity of different brain regions to make it possible for a person to pay attention or concentrate on a task, scientists have learned.
Spirituality, religion may protect against major depression by thickening brain cortex A thickening of parts of the brain cortex associated with regular meditation or other spiritual or religious practice could be the reason those activities guard against depression – particularly in people who are predisposed to the disease, according to new research. Researchers studied 130 subjects and found that those who highly valued spirituality showed thicker portions of brain cortices that may protect against depression -- especially in those at high risk for the disease.
So comedians are prone to psychosis? Comedy is more complex than that | Dean Burnett Dean Burnett: Saying that there is a link between comedy and psychosis risks oversimplifying both science and comedyDean Burnett