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Author: Andrew Schroeder
Title: Total Information Awareness as a Slogan for the Left: Towards an Open Source World
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Spring 2004

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Source: Total Information Awareness as a Slogan for the Left: Towards an Open Source World
Andrew Schroeder

vol. 4, no. 1, Spring 2004
Article Type: Essay

Total Information Awareness as a Slogan for the Left:Towards an Open Source World

Andrew Schroeder


Much of the contemporary Left has made a strategic mistake in its blanket refusal of the concept of Total Information Awareness and its oppositional reaffirmation of the basic primacy of civil libertarianism during the ongoing US "war on terrorism." I argue that the Total Information Awareness program indicates, perversely, a "path not taken" for the contemporary Left. This path is the refusal of "privacy" itself as an organizing social principle and the concurrent reconstruction of politics based upon an ethic of generalized disclosure, understood as being radically democratized and extended throughout the social body as a means of horizontal regulation.

[Computerization] could become the dream instrument for controlling and regulating the market system, extended to include knowledge itself and governed exclusively by the performativity principle. In that case it would inevitably involve the use of terror. But it could also aid groups discussing metaprescriptives by supplying them with the information they lack for making knowledgeable decisions. The line to follow for computerization to take the second of these two paths is, in principle, quite simple: give the public free access to the memory and data banks.
Jean Francois Lyotard, 1979 (67)
My feeling is that it's possible to have varying levels of transparency in society, and what makes a society both democratic and desirable is not so much the degree of transparency but the degree to which it's symmetrical and similar for everyone. So if there's a world in which my personal details are more available to people and I have less privacy, I'm willing to accept that if the same standard applies to corporations and the government and celebrities and whoever else is in a protected status right now.
Jaron Lanier, 2002

Targets of Opportunity in the "War on Terror"

It is easy to believe that the US-led "war on terror" has been little more than a feeding trough for right wing extremists. At times it seems that everything on the Hoover / Cato / New American Century wish lists has been ordered in timely fashion by the Bush Administration. International treaties have been systematically undermined. Political prisoners have been locked up indefinitely without trial. Taxes on the wealthy have been merrily cut to the bone. And the culture wars have been re-declared on all manner of marginalized groups. Some of the Right's momentum has slowed with the rise of worldwide protest over the ongoing occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, but not so much that one can dismiss altogether the feeling that history is steaming rapidly down the wrong tracks toward points unknown. This epic narrative of decline, however, corresponding authentically to the feelings of many, can also be extremely counter-productive for those of us trying to create a better, more equitable, and more just world. It tends to produce incessant depression, disengagement and general atrophy of the political imagination. If we on the worldwide Left want to retain or regain our political initiative, inspiration, and leverage in dark times we will need to search out targets of opportunity even in areas where we fear that none may ever be revealed.

The Terrorism (formerly Total) Information Awareness program, or TIA for short, is a case in point. Conceived some time ago by the information office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but only constituted as an actual government agency in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks and the passage of the Patriot Act, TIA was DARPA's ante on a world where the technological and legal limits to intelligence and law-enforcement profiling appeared to fade before their inquisitive eyes. Its funding has since been curtailed by Congress and the scope of its actions limited but, as Matthew Brzezinski of the New York Times Magazine recently put it, "Congress didn't completely shut the door on the T.I.A. ... Agents can still look into the lives of foreigners, and its functions could be expanded at any time." Despite the Congressional slap, the agency retains a remarkably high level of support among Democratic and Republican politicians eager to top each other on their "homeland security" credentials, especially during election season. Total Information Awareness remains very much on the national political agenda, regardless of its current name.

The basic idea is alarmingly simple: use high-speed relational databases to track the "information signatures" of persons who potentially could be considered high risks for acts of terrorism against the US. An "information signature" is a temporal pattern of consciously selected decisions and transactions recorded as digital data within and across technically unrelated databanks: financial, medical, governmental, etc. It does not exist prior to searching but only comes into being when those databanks can somehow be related to one another. Surveyed as an entire "body" of data, an "information signature" theoretically offers up a statistical basis for risk management professionals to make pre-emptive assessments of possible future actions. It's not exactly the "precogs" of Minority Report, but it's traveling in the same company.

The neo-Orwellian overtones of TIA are clear and unmistakable. Critics of the system have compellingly conjured images of a world where the federal government's insatiable array of super-secretive intelligence agencies have acquired both the rights and the capacities to survey your credit card statements, read your email, pore over your psychological case files, open up your medical and legal records, acquiring pretty much any formerly "private" information they desire, all without your knowledge, or your consent, or even a legal warrant. Authorization for such actions comes mainly through deployment of the ultra-malleable and often incontestable category "terrorist," drawing in many ways from the corporate world's deployment of less physically violent but still painful and personally "invasive" informational identity categories like "credit worthiness" and "insurability." Each of these banal and entirely artificial categories has taken on dramatically greater social salience today insofar as each frames both possible models and real locations for the application of informational power to individual lives by constructing a sphere of control over unrealized future possibilities which acts as a material force in the present on the basis of constructed relations between electronic data culled from the past. According to this kind of account, Jeremy Bentham's panoptic eye of power, the one that Michel Foucault described so chillingly as a spreading social force during the 19th century, ostensibly stalks the 21st century in the spectral guise of the Total Information database.

The primary response of many progressives, libertarians, and even a motley assortment of conservatives, to this rapidly developing situation has been to reaffirm their support for traditional political liberalism, and on those grounds to oppose the imminent threat to basic civil liberties and individual privacy rights posed by TIA. This strategy certainly has its merits. Their basic arguments go something like this: unlimited, centralized and government-controlled relational databases undermine due process rights by dramatically lowering the standards of proof necessary for law enforcement intrusions upon individual lives. At the same time, they erode post-Watergate prohibitions against domestic spying, undermine encryption standards that form the basis of most network transactions, and create a general social chilling effect by moving us steadily towards an assumption that individual privacy will always be at risk of violation, regardless of the subject or the circumstances. In this hypothetical post-TIA world, privacy is no longer really a "right" at all, and the material loss of that right exacts an incalculable price on the present and future possibilities of democratic self-government. For additional technical support, it is worth noting that these are the same arguments made by the lobbying arm of the Association for Computing Machinery, which composed an incisive and influential open letter to Congress calling for the end of Congressional funding for TIA in January of 2003.

Relatively more theoretically sophisticated versions of these arguments, like the one put forward by Susan Willis in a recent issue of New Left Review, argue against the dangerous psychological and political oversimplifications involved in literally equating the messy, performative, and textually polysemous lives of individuals with their deceptively clean "information signatures." According to Willis, although TIA lags behind its bio-technological brethren in this project, it shares their appetite for controlling the physical "real" by translating it into informational "code." In terms of TIA itself, her logic follows that the increased social surveillance and control associated with centralized relational databases depends upon a retrospective displacement of the physical body by the data body. It is the historic emergence of the "data body" as political subject, not the deployment of surveillance technologies themselves that is the more fundamental problem. Under conditions of informational capitalism the shadowy "data body" substitutes for the physically embodied "real." The physical retains a phenomenological social presence but that presence serves mainly as a cover story for the operations of power, which increasingly have been displaced into global circuits of information and data flow. According to this argument, the experience of physical "reality" ceases to matter much in the material production and distribution of political and financial power. The new political terrain of the "data body" makes the technologies of virtualization newly available for deployment in the service of hierarchical authorities that have in turn been newly "liberated," from their slow and clumsy dependence on industrial applications of power to the flesh, perhaps in ways analogous to the informational "liberation" that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposes for the US armed forces. Along the way traditional defensive shields for us "residually" corporeal citizens of liberal democracies, like civil liberties and rights to privacy, are rendered practically ineffectual, literally anachronistic, and potentially irrelevant. This situation is deemed politically intolerable, a cybernetic harbinger of democracy's end.

At the same time, it is also worth noting that popular outrage over systems like TIA, and thus by extension over the emergence of the "data body," is nothing new. In fact, it already has a well-rehearsed script. Almost since the moment Larry Ellison first pirated the set theory of Edgar Codd, back in 1979, to form the intellectual kernel of the Oracle Corporation, pioneering the mass commercial application of relational database technologies, a sense of popular fear and dread has mounted over the shift of nearly all record keeping practices into electronic forms. As Alexander Cockburn recently put it, "For most practical purposes, Total Information Awareness got here years ago. Police reports, criminal records, mortgage records, credit history, medical history, former employment, DMV data - either lawfully or with artifice any competent private investigator can get the skinny on you" (1). Linkage of relational database technologies with the Net, allowing even radically dissociated databases to be connected at blinding speeds in complex relational structures across time and space only has stoked this fear. Critical discourses surrounding "identity theft," push technologies, pervasive and ubiquitous computing, data mining, and corporate surveillance have seeped out steadily from the paranoid underground into mainstream popular culture since the onset of Net-mania in the early 1990s. Symptomatically, books like Reg Whittaker's The End of Privacy already have declared that the alliance between liberalism and post-structuralism, witnessed in the convergence of neo-Orwellian and Foucaultian critiques of centralized surveillance, largely has been superseded by the bizarre new materialities of a privatized, anonymous, and socially dispersed "dataveillance." In those terms, the only thing really remarkable about DARPA's formal announcement of the TIA program was that it re-combined older anxieties over centralized government surveillance with the souped-up technological power of relational electronic "dataveillance."

The Absent Commodity

Without dismissing legitimate concerns over unwarranted intrusions by the state and corporations into the everyday lives of citizen-consumers, I would like to propose another means by which we who remain committed to the radical project of democratic self-government might start to think about the problems cropping up around relational "dataveillance" and the TIA program. The strategy I will outline here takes "Total Information Awareness" as its slogan rather than simply its antagonist and emerges only when we take notice of a curious pattern of omissions within many of the key arguments against the new powers of the database, the data body, and their accompanying programs of social virtualization. In our rush to protest and roll back the impact of relational databases on "personal" privacy, we may be losing more than we gain. We may be overlooking significant alternative, even utopian, social possibilities. The strategy I will describe here maintains that the well-rehearsed and sometimes persuasive critiques of "dataveillance" have allowed the object world of commodities to slip from view. Given the real centrality of that commodified object world to the formation of contemporary subjectivity and citizenship, this is quite troubling. These critiques have clustered around an effort to simulate the rights of the corporeal citizen in a world where corporeality has been virtualized on a massive scale. As a result, the most fundamental questions about whether or not we really ought to be defending the concept of "privacy" at all have largely escaped serious treatment. Unrealized democratic modes of social production and regulation have lain fallow in what ought to be their most fertile historical moment.

Take, for instance, the now-classic argument made by Mark Poster in his 1990 book The Mode of Information. In his chapter on "Foucault and Databases" Poster argues that the relational database is the mode of repressive "self-constitution" proper to a mode of capitalism in which the fluidity of commodified information has rendered obsolete all previous modes of managing social scarcity and thus of producing value. Although generally approving of the dissolution of property into the unbound digital fluidity of a potentially post-scarcity economy, he notes that the dominant forms of selfhood so constituted by that emergent social order are not actually experienced by most people as the freely performative and de-centered subjects of so much post-modern theory. In its place he discovers a split subject, installed and ordered through the evasion of the physical "real." This dual condition of the "mode of information" echoes the concept of the "data body" and amplifies for Poster the significance of Foucault's basic model of surveillance by making its subjects into the unwitting authors of a dispersed social control system in what he calls a "participatory panoptic" manner. As he puts it: "We see databases not as an invasion of privacy, as a threat to a centered individual, but as the multiplication of the individual, the constitution of an additional self, one that may be acted upon to the detriment of the 'real' self without that 'real' self ever being aware of what is happening. The figural component of databases consists in such self constitution" (98). The "mode of information" thus resembles nothing so much as a form of multiple personality disorder. But, the notion of personal "privacy" as an essential space for the "real" to be defended against "invasion" also constitutes a condition of possibility for Poster's own discourse. Remove that ground and one undermines his argument.

Perhaps unwittingly, Poster makes his own personal experience of "invasion" into a universal symptom of an entire mode of power. That experience turns out to be quite telling, as it involves the shock registered in the mind of the author as he sits down in an auto dealership to purchase a car, only to discover there a vision of his own "data body" splayed out on an anonymous computer screen like a cold corpse awaiting the forensic scalpel. "Before my eyes, sitting in a place I had never been with a salesperson I had never met, in a few seconds a list of all my credit transactions had spewed from a printer, including education loans and minor matters I had long forgotten" (70-71). The crisis of privacy is experienced by Poster as a personal violation insofar as it becomes for him an instance of the psychological uncanny, one in which the sequence of discontinuous and "forgotten" entries in various disconnected databanks is suddenly re-experienced as a continuously incarnate public memory circulating in unanticipated ways outside the domain of his conscious control.

A large number of similar stories have been recounted frequently in debates over the violation of privacy. They usually are interpreted in ways quite similar to Poster's, enough to approach the status of social mythology. Yet rarely is the actual moment of violation or "invasion" interpreted in all of its dimensions. At stake here is not simply the story of an individual psyche's personal violation, but a story of social transactions in which the consumer-citizen, understood as an objectified data body, actually shares many of the properties of the object he or she is about to acquire. Each is shadowed by "code." From a certain macroeconomic point of view friendly to Poster's own, commodity exchange appears less like a process of subjective acquisition and object fetishism, with all of their sticky phenomenological trappings, than a de-personalized interaction between patterns of data. The shift in viewpoint is crucial for understanding the exchange process from the standpoint of informational capital. Exchange, particularly within the terms of Poster's "mode of information," is largely an informational process experienced subjectively as a physical process. On one side lie intricate patterns of credits and wages, while on the other lie vast networks of production, knotted and intertwined at various points with calculations of future consumption and thus of the potential productivity of consumer data bodies. Under such conditions it seems odd that only Poster's personal data body, rather than all those "other" bodies implicated in the situation as a whole, should register the shock of the uncanny. In particular, we should note that the object of his consumption, the automobile in this case, also possesses its own "data body." Despite this, it never occurs to Poster that this "other" data body ought to arise as a topic for discussion or analysis at all.

In rushing past the moment of uncanny self-awareness headlong towards his "participatory panoptic" critique, the information encoded in the commodity is lost to view. This erasure occurs, practically unnoticed, despite the prominence of place that the commodity object holds in his particular narrative. Mark Poster, our putatively radical democratic intellectual, never actually demands any data in return from the commodity object in exchange for the "gifting" of his own. In fact, he goes almost entirely in the other direction, narrowing the dawning awareness of his implication in extensive cross-referenced data networks down to the point of minimal comprehension - that of the transaction itself - rather than re-positioning the moment of informational and financial exchange in relation to a dynamic system of social production where physical and informational moments continually inter-penetrate and co-implicate one another. In this alternate description he might have discovered that the moment of exchange, much like the automobile itself, is merely what Manuel De Landa has called a "phase transition" (15) in an assemblage of materials and codes whose histories are just as dense as Poster's own but which remain shielded from the view of the consumer across the duration of production, distribution, and consumption. Relations of information largely make up the value of the commodity, yet these informational relations remain largely unavailable to the contemporary consumer-citizen. Poster never specifically inquires into a politics of value production, and thus the thought never seems to cross his mind that the commodity object might become the proper subject of "invasion" under conditions where the consumer-citizen obtains rightful access to the history of exchanges and production decisions leading up to and beyond the moment of exchange. Instead, the commodity object drops from view, in abject deference to the fears of the privileged "private" consumer subject. "Mark Poster," private consumer and metonymic subject of his own self-imposed narrative, becomes an unwitting participant in his own "violation," blinded to the conditions of production and deriving perverse pleasures from the sensations of his own data body being penetrated anonymously and passively, never once demanding reciprocation from the commodity object. As Slavoj Zizek might say, he has learned to enjoy his symptom.

I recount this close reading of Poster's text at some length not in order to take him personally or exceptionally to task, but because his omission of the commodity object from his influential discourse on databases and privacy has become common to the point of being practically paradigmatic. From a slightly different and more recent angle, consider the equally influential argument put forward by critical legal theorist Lawrence Lessig in his chapter on digital privacy rights from Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Although differing in fundamental ways from Poster's position on the database as the locus of social control in the age of fluid digital property relations, Lessig repeats Poster's schema for the structure of relations between corporeal bodies and concepts of privacy under informational capitalism. Once again, the commodity object drops from view, albeit in different and unexpected ways.

Lessig also argues that the basic issue involved in digital privacy is control over data bodies. He names this the problem of "controlled use" and effectively analogizes it to legal codes regarding corporeal searches and seizures from the history of US constitutionalism. "Controlled use" of data is a problem literally called into being by the emergence of the data body, an effect of the rupture between contemporary digital data storage and the traditional imperfections of human memory. As Lessig puts it: "Today's monitoring is different because the technologies of monitoring - their efficiency and their power - are different. In the 1790s the technology was humans; now it is machines. Then the technology noticed only what was different; now it notices any transaction. Then the default was that searchable records were not collected; now the default is that all monitoring produces searchable results" (151).

Lessig's solution is to use both software code and legal code to shift towards a situation where privacy can be understood as a property relation, not as a liability relation. Potential users of data would be forced to negotiate over access rights to the property of individual privacy prior to use, much like any other physical object, rather than placing the onus of redress onto the subsequent actions of a person whose privacy may have been violated at some point in the past. We might as well call it "pre-emptive" privacy control. Lessig's approach would treat personal data analogously to corporations' or the government's treatment of their own "confidential" business data. In other words, Lessig's solution to the problem of the "uncontrolled" data body is to give the physical body, and the codes pertaining to it, the power to regulate the terms and conditions of his or her own data body, as if it were a sort of physical body, via the legal metaphor of commodity trading. This is similar in some ways to Neal Gershenfeld's vision of a privacy "slider bar," where individuals might make specific and contextual decisions about exactly what sorts of information to reveal just as they now make decisions within their web browsers over whether or not to accept "cookies." In a world of pervasive, networked computers one might simply change the settings on one's data body in much the same way one changes the settings on Microsoft Windows, giving and receiving more or less data depending upon the situation. In Lessig's hypothetical digital future, personal privacy invasions would take on transaction costs that they do not now incur. They would become expensive, whereas now they are quite cheap. Furthermore, the transactions themselves would be made potentially knowable in ways they are not now to the individual objects of invasion. By making the data body overtly into a tradable commodity, rights to privacy theoretically could be guaranteed by laws similar to the ones governing the rights to private property, which are at the moment the set of rights most dedicated to the erosion of privacy rights in the first place.

This is a very clever turn, as far as it goes. But it is not clear how far that might be. What Lessig specifically does not consider is the possibility that the rights to property protecting commodity producers and traders might not only be extended to include ordinary consumer-citizens, but also turned around and used against the producers and traders themselves. Lessig's solution only goes part of the way. There must also be possibilities for two-way information exchange - not only from those seeking information on the individual consumer-citizen, but vice-versa as well. The conditions for such an interactive exchange can exist only if and when the individual consumer-citizen is empowered by software code and legal code not to be the object of inquiry, and thus always on the defensive, but the subject of it as well. Thus, the new informational subject must not only become property, he or she must have access to verifiable knowledge of the conditions by which property - his or her own and others' - is produced, distributed and exchanged. As it is, Lessig only imagines conditions of objectivity for the individual's data body, and doing so, much like Mark Poster, he drops the object world of commodity production and exchange from his critique.

We could go on, taking up more of the major theorists in turn, but we would find more or less the same pattern in effect each time. By dropping the commodity object from considerations of digital privacy rights, theorists of the relational database have thus far missed out on an astonishing set of opportunities to take advantage of the dissolution of personal privacy. Fortunately, countless opportunities still remain to construct a new, radically democratic politics based not upon rearguard struggles to re-assert a simulation of the corporeal private subject under threatening conditions of digital data collection and high-speed relational searches, but rather upon the emergence of counter-private subjects beyond the modern binary of public and private. In proposing TIA, the US state has offered up, almost perversely, an opportunity to re-think our objects of political desire in some strikingly new ways that are far more commensurate with the post-private world in which we currently live. But, before offering any practical proposals for what the outcome of such opportunities might look like, the task of articulating an effective conceptual basis for a politics of counter-privacy remains.

Progressive Counter-Privacy

As Gilles Deleuze once wrote of the impending "Societies of Control," "there is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons" (3). In that same spirit, the basic terms for a new politics of progressive counter-privacy can be detected lurking in the shadows of modern political discourse, only waiting for their moment to emerge as a renovated and viable set of ideas, practices, and strategies. The outline of such a politics takes shape in between some of the major concerns of the international Left since the 19th century: the Marxist critique of private property, the liberal critique of private speech, and the feminist (more recently queer) critique of private citizenship. I will selectively scan these lineages for the ways that they open up ideas and resources for use in the service of what I am naming a politics of "progressive counter-privacy." Since some of these arguments pertain to long-standing debates on the international Left over problems of economic centralization and modern political democracy, some of them inevitably will sound familiar. Along the way, however, I will resist what normally is understood to be privacy's opposing and generally positive antinomy - publicity - in order to emphasize certain other conceptual moves that evade and dissolve, rather than invert and repeat, the modern binary between public and private, in order to evade in turn the seemingly insoluble modern problematic of the "public" social welfare state as the main horizon of the Left's political imagination.

Karl Marx understood early in his writings that an attack on privacy, both in its forms as private property and as bourgeois individuality, was central to his general critique of political economy. As he put it, in the form of a tongue in cheek aside to an imaginary bourgeois in The Communist Manifesto:

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. (27)

According to Marx's critique of political economy, the central function of private property and of individuality under capitalism is to guarantee an unequal accumulation of capital along class lines. The so-called sacrosanct "privacy" of private property and of private individuality, realized materially in the fetishized commodity object, is merely a thin veneer covering the actual conditions of capitalist production. Industrial labor already had been largely socialized and collectivized by modern industrial combinations by 1848, but the products of capitalist industrial production were diverted into massively unequal conditions of private, "individual" consumption only for those able to afford them.

The key move that Marx made here, and which he developed at some length in his later writings, notably in the sections on value in The Grundrisse, was to say that the ideological construction of a "right" to private property was not a prior condition for the growth of capital, but in fact a retrospective and concrete justification which guaranteed and upheld as a universal principle the particular class dominance of a form of property which the organization of modern industry already had abolished for the vast majority of humanity. Not only is this probably the best and most concise critique of modern "development" discourse still available today, it remains a vital resource for any future politics of progressive counter-privacy. In those same terms, however, we should note clearly that, in contrast to the conventional notion that the "socialization of production" necessarily means "public" or "state" ownership of capital, at no point did Marx defend an opposition between "private" and "public" goods or their associated forms of production. Nowhere did the term "public" figure into his writings at all. What he did instead was to urge the dissolution of the bourgeois form of "private" property and its attendant class function as a retrospective ideological legitimation and legal guarantor of class power under pre-existing conditions of socialized production, reformulating property itself more directly in accord with the actual socialization of production brought about by capitalism. Rather than a reassertion by inversion of the categories of bourgeois society, Marx described a negative dialectic aimed at its total subversion.

Marx's critique of private property has echoed through countless social struggles over the past 150 years, but unfortunately it is the historical interpretation connecting the critique of privacy with "state" ownership of the means of production that seems to have won the day. Its victory has re-written Marx's argument. There is no need to rehash the exhausting legacy of internecine warfare over whether his social predictions or his vision of a post-revolutionary society turned out to be right or wrong. There are, however, a number of interesting and exciting contemporary voices to be heard that draw upon his negative dialectical insights in light of the startling changes currently underway in the global economy.

The American historian James Livingston, to take but one among many possible examples, has recently argued that the history of 20th century corporate capitalism has been centrally marked by a shift in macroeconomic relationships between production and consumption, described by Martin J. Sklar as the shift from capital accumulation to capital disaccumulation. According to this view, corporate capital, in an effort to control the business cycle and recover rising rates of profit in the face of massive social unrest during the late 19th century, initiated a revolutionary shift in its own basic structures, one which built socialism into the very fabric of capitalist societies and in the long run threatened to abolish capitalists themselves as a relevant social class. Social domains formerly understood as purely "public" or "private" merged steadily into one another, with dramatic implications not only for corporations but also for dominant ideological formations such as the notion of a "separate" domestic sphere for women. Private capital came to depend upon public regulation, just as the "public" state became irretrievably enmeshed in the relations of private capital and "private" identities became newly subject to "public" scrutiny. Relations between production and consumption were likewise inverted, centralizing commodity consumption rather than savings and re-investment out of profits at the heart of corporate capitalist growth rates, installing the very ambiguously "private" media, advertising, and "information" sectors as the new cutting edges of economic growth.

We know this bizarre and rather recent historical creature by the labels of "welfare capitalism," "consumer society," or the "mixed economy," but by Livingston's terms, we may in fact already be living in something like a post-capitalist society, even if we have not yet extricated ourselves altogether from proprietary-capitalist social relations or realized materially the more dramatic possibilities of our current historical moment. As Livingston puts it, paralleling Marx's intellectual footwork:

Corporate capitalism enlists socialism as a component or condition of its development because it requires continuous reform, regulation and manipulation of markets, not adjustment to anonymous laws of supply and demand; because it enlarges the public sphere of 'self-government' ... by enabling a 'dispersal of power from the state to society ... and because it points beyond class society by reducing the scope and significance of the capital-labor relation in determining social relations as such. (6)

All of the prior historical conditions associated with capitalist political economy systematically were called into question by the corporate reconstruction that occurred around the turn of the 20th century. Or in other words, the early 20th century shift from proprietary to corporate capitalism abolished the antinomies of modern capitalism by separating ownership from control, transforming the nature of "private" property into a distributed network of bureaucratically managed institutions and, in turn, liquidating the self-contained, individual, private owner as the central figure of the capitalist political imagination. Corporate capitalism, understood as a complex assemblage that includes an engagement with socialism, effectively abolished fixed distinctions between "public" and "private" property, as well as "public" and "private" personalities. Private properties and subjectivities came to include the public and vice versa. The fact that we still use these terms in their oppositional form simply means that we have not yet caught up with the changes that made these distinctions obsolete.

Livingston returns us to Marx's dialectical insights into the political construction of value within far more precise historical coordinates. This leads him to re-view the rise of corporate capitalism not as a shift in modes of production that leaves a transhistorical set of repressive social relations intact, but as a far-reaching and fundamentally cross-class social revolution whose terms capital could not dictate in full because capital did not control its dimensions. By Livingston's reckoning, over the course of the 20th century certain far-sighted social and intellectual movements, such as feminism's blurring of the personal and the political or Pragmatism's insistence on the thoroughly social construction of meaning and selfhood, have attempted to articulate new forms of social subjectivity commensurate with the general social transformations wrought by corporate capital. These are not intrinsically "post-class" formations, but, as Judith Butler aptly describes, fundamental revisions of class politics under post-private conditions, where the material relations of selfhood have been spread out across the length and breadth of society. We live now in the aftermath of proprietary capitalism, but we as a global society simply have not yet realized nor taken full advantage of the remarkable new set of social possibilities unleashed by its fall.

Although Livingston never discusses digital technologies per se, his unorthodox historical account sounds suspiciously close to the claims made by British cybertheorist Richard Barbrook at the height of the net-boom in the late-1990s. In his widely circulated articles, "The Californian Ideology" and "The Hi-Tech Gift Economy," Barbrook argues that the Internet functions as an "actually existing form of anarcho-communism," or the unanticipated and still rather poorly understood social and technological embodiment of the dreams of the 1960s transnational New Left. As Barbrook tells it:

Despite originally being invented for the US military, the Net was constructed around the gift economy. The Pentagon initially did try to restrict the unofficial uses of its computer network. However, it soon became obvious that the Net could only be successfully developed by letting its users build the system for themselves. ...From its earliest days, the free exchange of information has ... been firmly embedded within the technologies and social mores of cyberspace. When New Left militants proclaimed that 'information wants to be free' back in the Sixties, they were preaching to computer scientists who were already living within the academic gift economy. ("The Hi-Tech Gift Economy" 3)

These sorts of claims bind him with Livingston's comic narrative of corporate capitalism and make Barbrook useful for the articulation of a counter-private politics. Whatever one makes of his particular prognoses, Barbrook's argument, with its co-mingled flavors of "new economy" hype-mongering and "new left" utopianism, is that the antinomies we have come to rely on in our political lives, between, say, capitalism and socialism or the private and the public, have been effectively abolished by social and technological architectures such as the 1990s version of the Internet. Using the language of "symbiosis" Barbrook emphasizes that "free" information on the Net continually intersects with the commodity form, much as "private" capital cannot escape its inter-dependencies with the state. In no case can the antinomies of privacy and capital be either bounded or fixed. This is not to say that all attempts to constrain or commodify the circulation of information on the Net are inherently predestined to failure, but that the network architectures which made possible things like distributed file sharing and the Open Source code movement can be understood as one of many signs that we already live in a post-private and increasingly post-capitalist world.

Tiziana Terranova, the best recent critic of Barbrook, has taken Barbrook to task precisely on the questions of commodification and the labor relations of the new digital classes. Her objection is essentially that the apparently "free" labor and property relations that mark the most advanced sectors of the "new economy" ought to be understood as controlled experiments in social valorization during the age of "immaterial labor." She derives the concept of "immaterial labor" from Italian autonomist writers like Paulo Virno and Antonio Negri, and uses it to classify the new affective relations of workers in the "informational" sector of advanced capitalist economies. "Immaterial labor" designates all those areas of work such as design, programming, and writing, where the production and circulation of value has been divorced from the mass factory and alienated from the production of the commodity object. Her definition thus derives even more directly from the work of Maurizio Lazzarato:

On the one hand, as regards the 'informational content' of the commodity, it (immaterial labor) refers directly to the changes taking place in workers' labor processes... where the skills involved in direct labor are increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control (and horizontal and vertical communication). On the other hand, as regards the activity that produces the 'cultural content' of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as 'work' - in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion. (Terranova 39)

The effect of her using the concept of immaterial labor against Richard Barbrook is to claim that he has mistaken a mutation within capitalism for a line of flight from capitalism and thus misrecognized the Net's challenges to privacy and property as signs of an impending post-capitalism.

Yet, Terranova also bases her critique upon some equally questionable premises. Following a strict Autonomist line on the "social factory" and the "general intellect" she asserts that contemporary informational capitalism no longer has an exterior or "other." Therefore, every attempt at an alternative social formation is already an experiment in the reconstitution of value within capitalism. Accordingly, there cannot any longer be such things as the absorption or co-optation of counter-hegemonic or sub-cultural subjects, for these subjects have already been formulated from the start within the advanced capitalist matrix of value. All pathways in her argument lead to the same destination, insofar as the ideological separation between immaterial labor and material production is understood as being materially immanent to the social production of value.

In their book Empire, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt respond directly to this use of Autonomist ideas, in ways that are very useful for the recuperation of Barbrook and the advancement of a politics of progressive counter-privacy, by claiming that the theory of immaterial labor reinstates the concept of production into the analysis of contemporary global and digital economies but at the price of an ethereal abstraction, as though actually accepting the divide between corporeal and data bodies that it claims to subvert. Instead, we might begin to think about the material doubling of each body, corporeal and informational, as an incomplete set of social interactions stretching across the production networks of "individualized" subjectivities and commodified objects. In the aftermath of capitalism, the concept of personal "privacy" might be shed like an outmoded skin. In this way, too, we might come to understand that locating an "exterior" to capitalism has been rendered irrelevant not because capitalism has been completed and totalized, but because we now live in its aftermath, faced as a result with a dizzying array of emergent contradictions, casting about for new political languages to describe our field of possible actions and limitations.

Among the more compelling languages for describing these sorts of dizzying discursive conditions has been the "public sphere" discourse arising from Jurgen Habermas' Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. The debates emerging from his work remain so important for concepts of counter-privacy that they simply cannot be avoided. Habermas' neo-modern project has fed into any number of vital attempts to render governmental and corporate business practices subject to transparent, rational scrutiny, and thus ought potentially to be considered a valuable resource for any project of progressive counter-privacy. In many ways though, Habermas' description of the ideal "public sphere," as a freely discursive space admissible to all and designed for the production of rational concepts of the common good able to act as "soft" checks on the exercise of arbitrary power, is also an exemplary tragic narrative of decline standing in direct converse relationship to Livingston's and Barbrook's comic interpretations of 20th century corporate capitalism. In a way, his lament is for the decline of a "physical" speech-oriented critical politics, supplanted by the assemblage of disembodied "informational" virtualities. After all, Habermas did make much of the case for the salience of "public sphere" discourse on the basis of his lament that "public" and "private" had become blurred to the point of indistinction primarily due to the growth of the corporate capitalist culture industries over the midsection of the 20th century. Animating his elaborate theory of communicative rationality we find repeatedly the specter of a public-private category collapse and a related sense of his proper political ambition being nothing less than the re-enforcement of "public" and "private" as separate and distinct spheres.

The matter of Habermas' unrepentant discontent over the collapse of public-private category distinctions, and his subsequent attempt to rebuild them, lingers like a haze over all attempts to make progressive political use of his ideas. Socialist-feminist critic Nancy Fraser, one of the most insightful of Habermas' interpreters, has taken him to task on precisely this point, and uses her critical angle on his work to spin-off the remarkably popular theory of "multiple publics" that now animates a surprising slice of strategic discourse around counter-dominant queer, feminist, racial, ethnic, and class politics in the advanced capitalist world. Yet the path by which she gets to the theory of "multiple publics" ought to trouble us just as much as Habermas' original argument. Its basic conceptual incoherence leads Fraser into a practically un-navigable discursive fog as she glosses the fundamental problem of "inter-public" communication. Even worse, Fraser cannot escape this set of problems because she has set herself the task of retaining the language of "public-private" distinctions under revised historical and theoretical terms, despite her admonition that critical theory "needs to take a harder, more critical look at the terms 'private' and 'public'" (88). The best one can say about this strategy is that it speaks to its readers in ways they seem to have found meaningful and conceivable enough to make some very creative and often politically valuable uses. However, if Fraser would merely give up on each end (both private and public) and return instead to re-think her initial problematic, jettisoning the fatally convoluted theory of "multiple publics," she might actually accomplish many of her visionary political aims without the conceptual instabilities currently built into the structure of her argument.

To understand the basic problem with Nancy Fraser's theory of "multiple publics," and the consequent reasons why a politics of progressive counter-privacy needs to evade the so-called "public sphere," we need to look closely for a moment at her critique of the Habermasian notion of the "public." During her widely-cited article, "Rethinking the Public Sphere," Fraser broaches the subject of what she calls "subaltern counterpublics" as a way to emphasize the means by which non-dominant groups institutionally form ideas that may begin as marginal or "private" but through a process of social struggle become the concerns of all, or at least of large numbers outside the original group itself. This is important to her argument insofar as she claims that under conditions of social inequality conditions of general "publicness" will tend to work to the advantage of those who benefit from social inequality. This excellent theorization of the major lessons to be drawn from recent historiographical re-interpretations of "actually existing" discourse conditions within modern bourgeois democracies leads her immediately into the problem of figuring out how "subaltern counterpublics" somehow avoid becoming merely "private" enclaves in a widening competitive network of "publics". Or, in other words, it leads to the need for a theory of "inter-public" communication among a "multiplicity" of competing "publics." Multiplicity is her answer to unitary power structures benefiting the few at the expense of the many, just as "communication" between "publics" is her answer to the dilemma of enclaving and ghettoization.

Despite her pleas for clarity, the terms that Fraser uses remain quite vague. In particular, her call for "inter-public communication" neglects to theorize or define what sorts of spaces might constitute the inter-mediate, communicational realm. Whereas the notion of "subaltern counter-publics" ostensibly defines spaces for the formulation of discourse and the production of identities, the space in between publics appears to be a vacuum. Where are these "in between" spaces and how do they function? On this topic Fraser maintains a deafening silence that threatens to undermine her project as a whole. In trying to preserve the shelf life of Habermas' idea she succeeds only in producing another muddle. For, if one really looks closely at her idea, it looks quite a lot like a theory of universal publicity operating in the name of counter-universalism. Right idea - wrong conclusions.

According to Nancy Fraser, almost everything is public in one way or another - only not in exactly the same ways at the same times. In the contemporary world, virtually everything "private" has become "public" in some key respects, and vice versa. Private capital is "publicly" regulated. The domestic violence movement and the wireless web camera have rendered "private" homes rather "public" spaces. It should be quite obvious that what Nancy Fraser proposes is not actually a theory of "multiple" publics requiring something called "inter-public communication." Instead, she is proposing a theory of a universal but segmented publicity. This idea could in some ways mesh well with Livingston's and Barbrook's readings of contemporary capitalism, and in turn with progressive counter-privacy. Yet, Fraser seems to be just barely keeping up with the pace of history. The events that authorize her interpretive labors also render the concept of "publicness" to be almost entirely meaningless. Almost unintentionally, it also renders the concept of "privacy" meaningless, insofar as it has been literally expunged from such a segmentary world. Therefore, the problem of fuzzy terminology in Fraser's article actually highlights the historic category collapse that Livingston and Barbrook celebrate and of which Habermas despairs. By those terms, an incomplete, jerry-rigged, and internally contradictory rhetoric of "multiplicity" can be no match for the boundlessly fluid, post-private political spaces in which we currently live.

In contrast to the singular Habermasian "public sphere" and the theory of "multiple publics," a political theory of counter-privacy would re-emphasize the effective merger between public and private realms as the signal condition of political space in our times. Drawing from Habermas and Fraser, a politics of progressive counter-privacy emphasizes the vital role played by the discursive interactions of ordinary people in the regulation of the state and capital. However, it also rejects the idea that the perpetuation of the rhetoric of "publicity," even in a revised and updated version, actually aids that sort of regulatory power in any significant way given the ongoing collapse between "public" and "private" realms. It resists calls for "public" controls insofar as the rhetoric of public control inescapably re-inscribes the critique of privacy within appeals to the state without effectively responding to the complex linkages with "private" capital that currently constitute the form of the advanced capitalist state itself. Instead, it targets the assertion of privacy as a necessary and effective right, seeking to undermine claims to privacy made on behalf of the state and capital in the same way that similar and probably unstoppable demands are currently being placed upon consumer citizens to allow for intimate access by large institutions to their economic and political lives. Neither public nor private can exist as viable concepts without some theory of their mutual necessity and co-dependent constitution. That idea leads in turn to the practical necessity to subvert each concept if one is to subvert either. In place of Fraser's conceptual waffling around the ill-conceived notion of "multiplicity," and in accord with the comic historiographical frame for corporate capital offered by contemporary thinkers like Livingston, Barbrook, and from a slightly different angle the type of queer politics articulated by Michael Warner, progressive counter-privacy risks a glimpse beyond "public" and "private" in order to build new political categories and new social identities that no longer are dependent upon modern structuring binaries for their power and their vision. In that way, perhaps, we might someday stop fighting the endless and largely futile rearguard struggles for protection of individual privacy rights, and instead begin to assert the radical democratic possibilities immanent to our strange new historical moment.

Universal Commodity Coding and an Open Source World

Despite its usefully catchy title and its political notoriety, the Total Information Awareness program is not the only or even necessarily the best tangible symptom of the passage beyond modern relations of public and private. A somewhat better and possibly more socially significant one might be the recent corporate desire to universalize "radio-frequency identification" tags throughout the global consumer marketplace. An offshoot of experimental pervasive computing research, the "radio-frequency identification tag" strikes one at first glance as yet another in the long line of information technologies claiming to fulfill what Paul Smith has described as the classical capitalist dream of a frictionless marketplace (188-264) The idea is to install tiny and very cheap 2-way radio transceivers, linked to the Internet, into every consumer product so that the product itself could become informationally legible in real time to a corporate network attempting to track complex chains of production, distribution, and consumption. A technologically updated and quite vocal "data body" would be grafted onto each piece of consumer flotsam and jetsam, so that each "physical" commodity could be shadowed at all times by its informational double, theoretically evening out supply and demand fluctuations by allowing capital to have constant access, or "total information awareness" if you will, to its commodity object life-blood. According to a recent story in The New Yorker, Wal-Mart has already ordered its top 100 suppliers to have such tags installed in their products by no later than 2005 (Surowieki 36). Wal-Mart's unsurprising enthusiasm for radio-frequency identification tags, coupled with its overwhelming power within global retail markets and supply chains, probably means that this technology will become commonplace throughout the global economy well before ordinary consumer-citizens are really prepared for them. It is just a matter of time. Some critics of relational databases already have begun to take notice of this impending problem and quite predictably have cited concerns over the "privacy" of individual consumer decisions amid the faltering abilities of consumers to retain control over their unruly "data bodies."

Yet, what if we applied the concept of progressive counter-privacy to the same problem? What other sorts of ideas or strategies might be generated? What if we began to see the "data bodies" of commodity objects as a key step along the way towards abolishing the "private" character of private property? One might begin such an alternate argument by claiming that we already have well-established precedents from the history of modern health and safety regulations for believing in the need to provide basic information about commodities to consumers. The logic of that idea is that whereas the ownership relations of commodity production may as yet be contractually "private" the consequences of commodities in the world at large are something that many people have an interest in regulating. One of the best-known instances of such regulation was the creation of mandatory food labeling in the form of an agreed-upon set of nutritional categories and a list of ingredients. The attempt to put a "union label" on certain products was another such instance, from the standpoint of labor and production, as was the creation of the "recycled materials" sign for environmentalism. For a number of historically contingent reasons, nutritional labels won the rights to relatively detailed data presentation that eluded the more generic labeling won by unions and environmentalists. There was no necessary reason, however, that this had to be so. In fact, as recounted in Andrew Ross' recent edited collection No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers, a number of organizations have proposed far tougher labeling standards for products indicating the nature of labor conditions for a particular product so that consumers might exercise their "soft" purchasing power to avoid those products produced with the use of child labor or under sweatshop conditions. All of these are important regulations which pale, however, in comparison to the remarkable new possibilities for horizontal social regulation opened up by the emergence of technologies like the radio ID tag, and the necessarily attendant high-speed, networked relational databases required to make the tags functional as virtual "maps" of production, distribution, and consumption.

The very same technologies that Wal-Mart wants to use to manage and control the "data bodies" of its commodities and its consumers also could be made to work for the sake of the consumers themselves if Wal-Mart and its suppliers were refused exclusive "private property" rights over the information produced by their embedded radio ID tags. If such a refusal were to happen we might see, in addition to the installation of radio ID tags, the creation of a universal, interactive commodity code, rendering the "data body" of every commodity object instantaneously available for knowledge and interpretation on a distributed social basis, as something like a "right" accorded to every consumer citizen of the world. The level of missing information about the production of even the most banal everyday commodities is relatively astonishing, and in any event currently subject to continual re-investigation by concerned parties, mostly activist groups and journalists dependent on insecure funding and media channels for the distribution of their findings. Instead of these meager resources we should have a right to know, instantaneously and as a normal conditional of consumption, what factory produced our goods, under what conditions, and through which supply chains. In the future, we consumer-citizens of the world ought to demand as our fundamental right the ability to know exactly what is in our commodity objects, where they came from, how they were produced, and by what means they were marketed and distributed. In that event, ordinary consumer-citizens could at least weigh a more usefully complex and humane set of social factors during consumption than those prescribed by the scions of neo-classical "free" markets. We no longer should participate in what will seem in retrospect like the organization of consumption into blind and extremely one-sided bargains.

What would such an interactive identification code look like, and how would it operate? Essentially it would take the information stream already being produced and organized by producers and distributors and provide an access point into the entire life history of the commodity's "data body." The commodity thus would re-appear as a tactical location in the battle over digital "privacy" rights. This sort of information undoubtedly would be contained in relational databases that would need to be searchable on a distributed basis by anyone able to access the database. For instance, if one bought a piece of meat from the grocery store, one could have instantaneous access, possibly via wireless connection on the spot, to the history of the animal that provided the meat, including where it was raised, what it was fed, how it was killed, how much the workers who killed the animal were paid, how long it took to raise the animal, and how long it took to bring to the grocery store after it was killed. The "source code" of the animal, conceivably down to its DNA, transformed into the commodity-object "meat," the animal's "data body" and not just its physical body, would be made viewable and interpretable by each potential consumer and by aggregations of consumers joined into self-organizing groups to make such data streams increasingly "user friendly." In a similar way to Lev Manovich's assertion that the technology of the hyperlink should be understood as an externalization and automation of the subjective mental process of making nonlinear associations, making viewable and interactive the "data body's" "source code" would render external and searchable on a distributed basis the research methods normally involved with sophisticated forms of investigative journalism. All of our commodified object world could be outfitted with a kind of search engine. Like the intelligent nodes of Howard Rheingold's hyper-logistical "smart mobs," key points of contestation across the social field of informational capitalism would become newly pliable to democratic interventions in a variety of unforeseen ways extending from the production of ecologically sustainable materials to a distributed and "always on" form of factory oversight.

Exactly how much and what kinds of information would be included in such a democratic relational database should remain highly debatable, but to a greater and greater degree the question of whether or not ordinary consumer-citizens ought to have a "right" to view much larger portions of the "source code" of the products they consume should not. Moreover, this is not really an ethical question related to the normative features of a so-called "public sphere," but an immanent feature of our new informational economies. Whether we have the ability to access it or not, the information is still "out there." The only real question is who gets to use it and how. To paraphrase Jaron Lanier from the epigram that began this essay, the real problem is not the relational database, or even surveillance as such - the real problem is unequal transparency. Consumer and activist groups have begun to fight back against this sort of problem by demanding blockage against things like spam email and telemarketing, or by filing specific lawsuits against specific corporate offenders, much like post-Watergate reformers demanded the specific legal provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Rarely, however, has a concerted effort been made to render the general process of production, distribution, and consumption transparent to all on a permanent and real time basis. What Wal-Mart demands, it must receive in return. What Wal-Mart knows should be known by all. Such a possibility is only one of a litany of possibilities which should become manifest once the reactive defense of privacy rights becomes more of a calculated trade-off than a political absolutism.

Perhaps the best recent example of a tangible movement and social ethic committed to such complex, calculated trade-offs is the Open Source software movement. Its astonishing successes in the production of "free" or shared software composed of broadly knowable and changeable code have been chronicled quite capably. Yet, its conceptual limitations are as instructive as its practical victories. While some of the luster has been lost from Linux itself, due in part to its partial commercialization, Open Source continues to foster a spirit of combative and largely progressive counter-privacy from the limited precincts of the programming world. As Bruce Sterling reported from a recent gathering of the Open Cultures conference, "Come 2003 ecommerce is all spam, fraud and piracy, with the shadow of copytheft eclipsing revenue. Open Cultures aims to finish the job. They'd like to see free software evolve from a nifty way to program computers into a broad wave of social reform. It's Solidarnosc for the technosphere" (81). This spirit exemplifies the concept of progressive counter-privacy and fully endorses the notion of open access by users to all forms of digital code. The main drawback is that it retains anachronistic links to the notion that "code" is primarily a "software" phenomenon. Such links preserve a fetishistic attachment to the idea that "software" operated on silicon processors has some sort of essential or intrinsically "real" value. That is to say that in its current incarnation open sourcing retains the categorical split between physical and data bodies that advanced informational capitalism itself seeks to abolish. This, however, is not a necessary retention. Open sourcing as an idea and an ethic can be disarticulated from the province of digital code and itself distributed across virtually the entire social domain.

Open sourcing, when pried loose from its fetishistic attachment to computer software, argues that commodities are not actually as "private" as their legal form of ownership might suggest. Capital's concept of "privacy" is a social convention, enforced by power, which bears little relationship to its actual organization. To strip capital of the illusion of "privacy" is to recognize that the commodity form, and thus the consumer-citizen as such, already has been socialized in any number of ways. But we subjects of capital have not yet effectively learned to act upon this immanent possibility. Open sourcing differs from the older notion of "consumer protection" insofar as the notion of "protection" implies that consumers are an external force, somehow extrinsic to capital, and in need of care on the basis of that extrinsic relationship. On the contrary, open sourcing urges us to rethink so-called "private" consumers as immanent contradictions of capital, outside the narratives that capital wants to tell about us. Thus, consumers and commodities are actually neither public nor private. In the example I used earlier, a consumer of the product "meat" ought to have a right to know the "source code" of that supposedly "private" commodity, the practical knowledge of which would render the act of consumption itself a post-private affair. Consumption would be actively re-figured as an intelligent node within the general reproduction of capital (the network of slaughterhouses and genetics labs and oil companies and feed grain subsidies and advertising houses and fast-food restaurants, etc.) and thus a node capable of re-acting in a socialized and networked manner within the process of general reproduction without exclusive recourse to an artificially "public" central state for guarantees of "consumer protection." The same could be true of all elements of our commodified object-world. Following this line of argument, the vast global network of capital itself could be rendered increasingly "interactive," which is perhaps just another way of saying, "negated."

Rather than an "open source" software movement, then, we might in its place demand an Open Source world - beyond the modern physical/informational and public/private divides. As Jean-Francois Lyotard once rather infamously put it, the path to democratic freedom in the digital age lies not in the reconstruction of modern top-down, meta-discursive, "public" political controls, but rather in the opening of the databanks to all, and thus in the negation of modern privacy and publicity as such, across both capital and the state. Although most of the prescriptives in this essay have concerned the regulation of capital and the formation of the post-private subject, the same ideas lead directly back to the state and to the TIA program. An "open source" state ought to be made genuinely open to widespread popular investigation. In other words, it should be informationally socialized. Citizens ought to have the tools (legal, ideological, and technological) to act as distributed investigators into the totality of the state's actions. If we choose to, we ought to know, for instance, exactly how the state is spending its money, what interests are represented, what meetings were held - exactly who consulted on the Cheney energy commission, if you will - and what those interests stand to get out of their involvement. This traditionally has been the province of the journalistic "fourth estate," long since sullied by sensationalism, conglomeration, and the excesses of Fox News, but the time has come when investigation and reportage can be spread meaningfully and powerfully across the length and breadth of the social body.

Socially distributed investigation into the affairs of capital and the state also conveniently forms the possibility of an alliance between the ideas of civil libertarians and the concept of progressive counter-privacy. The policy aims of civil libertarians in the area of state reform substantially overlap with those of progressive counter-privacy. The main difference is that progressive counter-privacy extends the critique of state secrecy into all areas of society and reformulates its conceptual basis for extension in order to avoid the political pitfalls of invoking rights to "privacy." In terms of the TIA program itself, an "open source" political movement would seek to limit its functions, open its doors, contract its resources, make it difficult and costly to operate, and, maybe most significantly, let every person who has been a subject of inquiry know that they have been a subject of inquiry - including information about exactly what was searched - in order to correct for the power imbalance of the state's surveillance monopoly. It would recognize that concerns over "privacy" are largely concerns over power, and act accordingly. It would not, however, retreat into the rear-guard construction of an imaginary and putatively inviolable zone of individual "privacy" because such a zone is not only an impossibility, it is a diversion of attention from the more pressing issues of unequal social power. Were those issues, such as the concealment of production and the cloaking of government activities, to be addressed on their own terms, there would likely be little need for the absolutism of individual rights to "privacy." Following this alternate route, Total Information Awareness might cease to be a tool of the powerful, the wealthy, and the secretive, and instead become a slogan for a new, radically transnational and post-modern Left. Against the War on Terrorism we should now emphatically demand Total Information Awareness.

Andrew Schroeder is an Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh. He received his Ph.D. from the American Studies Program at New York University in 2002. He is the author of the recently published book, Tsui Hark's "Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain" (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004), and is currently working on a range of projects concerning the history and cultural politics of digital technologies and media productions between the US and Hong Kong. He can be contacted directly at

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