The Problem of Privacy in Capitalism and the Alternative Social Networking Site Diaspora*

  • Sebastian Sevignani Unified Theory of Information Research Group, Austria
Keywords: Social networking sites, privacy, private property, surveillance, Marx, ideology, fetishism, critical Internet studies, alternative media


In this paper, l examine the alternative social networking site Diaspora* from a Marxist standpoint. The investigation focuses on privacy, and contributes to a better understanding of this issue within the context of capitalism in general. First, I describe Diaspora*’s way of production by pointing out its alternative character as part of the free software and copyleft movement. Second, dominant theories of privacy related to individual control, exclusion, and property are introduced. Third, the problem of privacy in capitalism is described wherein dominant concepts of privacy will be contextualised on behalf of a critical political economy analysis that refers to the Marxian concept of ideology critique, Marx’s differentiation between a societal sphere of production and a societal sphere of circulation, and his analysis of capitalist fetishisms. Fourth, taking into account the problem of privacy in capitalism, the alternative potential of Diaspora* is evaluated. Finally, a brief outline of a Marxist theory of privacy is proposed.

Author Biography

Sebastian Sevignani, Unified Theory of Information Research Group, Austria

Sebastian Sevignani

studied media and communication, philosophy, and theology at the University of Salzburg. He obtained a master’s degree in communication studies in 2009. From 2007 until 2010, he worked at the University of Salzburg’s Department of Communication Studies as a scholar in the Media Economics Research Group. He has started working on his doctoral thesis, which focuses on the problem of privacy in (informational) capitalism. Sebastian is a member of the Unified Theory of Information Research Group (UTI) and of the working group “Public Policy and the Regulation of Surveillance” of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology Action “Living in Surveillance Societies (COST Action IS0807)”. He is a member of the editorial team of tripleC: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society.

Marx is Back-The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Comm. Studies Today, ed C. Fuchs & Vincent Mosco