Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationChicago, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9268
Approve DateApril 11, 2016
Project TitlePolan, Lake C., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'The Techno-Politics of American Privacy,' supervised by Dr. Joseph P. Masco
LAKE C. POLAN, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was granted funding in April 2016 to aid research on “The Techno-Politics of American Privacy,” supervised by Dr. Joseph P. Masco. This project explores the efforts of Silicon Valley-based technology corporations to protect privacy using design and engineering. It asks whether, how, and for whom privacy’s meaning and practice changes as, increasingly, we come to think of privacy as best achieved through information technology. During fourteen months of fieldwork among privacy and technology engineers, designers, and activists in the San Francisco Bay Area, the grantee observed how, as technologists seek to embed something recognizable as privacy in their products, they symbolically and materially “tether” privacy to the logics and tools of commercial software development. Further, Silicon Valley corporations frequently gauge the success of privacy solutions in terms of their perceived ability to contain or manage the destabilizing forms of logical and emotional uncertainty, which digital surveillance has attached to places (e.g., the home, the car), objects (e.g., computers, cellphones) and behaviors (e.g., surfing the web) long presumed by law or social norm to be private. The form of privacy produced in this context is thus gauged as much with respect to the emotions, expectations, and calculations elicited in consumers by technology devices as it is by the formal privacy-preserving properties of any particular technology.