5 October 2010
Jeff Jarvis on Tyler Clementi and technology
I do agree that the internet adds speed and reach and permanence to a mistake — that, as someone has said, it is a tattoo. But what this story really brings out is a timeless ethic of privacy (which is how I am framing the topic in Public Parts): Privacy is the responsibility of the person who receives information about someone. Once you know something about me, the weight lies with you as you decide how to use that information, whether to spread it, in what light. That came as close as I would to what Couric was aiming for and so this is the clip that made it onto the show.
I also said society bears responsibility in this story. That today anyone would still feel shame about being revealed as gay — full stop — and then would make such a tragic decision is our failing [my emphasis]. I told Couric that the gays and lesbians who have summoned the courage to leave their closet and privacy behind to stand before the homophobes — saying, “Yes, I’m gay, you have a problem with that?” — are the heroes who used their publicness as a weapon against bigotry. I made clear to her that I am not suggesting people should be forced out of their closets. But I do believe that the people who have chosen to leave have operated under an ethic of publicness. If the weight of the ethic of privacy lies with the recipient of information — you know information about me — then the weight of the ethic of publicness lies with the originator of information — I know something and must decide whether it would be of benefit to others to share it.
I think his points about the weight of the ethic of publicness and the ethic of privacy are very much worth attending to.
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