Public-Private .. a hoax?

When a company opens its databases to users, as Amazon, Google, and eBay have done with their Web services, it is encouraging participation at new levels. The corporation’s data becomes part of the commons and an invitation to participate. People who take advantage of these capabilities are no longer customers; they’re the company’s developers, vendors, skunk works, and fan base.
Kelly, Kevin, 08.01.05: We Are the Web; in: Wired
Which is, of course, embellishment. However, there is more to it as an article in The Economist, titled
made recently clear. It raised the question if social media, shutting down websites, that they see as channel for hate speech, are in breach of the law by undermining “free speech”. Of course, it is easy to say that they have the right doing so and even the obligation. However, at second glance it is not as simple as that. In actual fact it turns out to be extremely tricky:
The meaning of the so-called rule of law is primarily protecting citizens against arbitrary action of the state. However, it is obligation of the state as democratic instance to guarantee freedom of speech, but also to agree in this very same function of being a democratic state on the limits of freedom of speech. It is about the limit given in the case of one individual or group infringing the rights of (an)other individual(s) or groups – the latter is the second dimension of the rule of law, namely the protection of individuals against each other. In other words, we are a bit in trouble, not least if we take as point of reference T.H.Marshall’s view on citizenship with the three dimensions: civil, political and socio-economic rights: the state, against which citizens have to be protected by the rule of law in case of unjustified state action has to apply the same rule of law in case of citizens that are in conflict with each other. The problem is that these citizens would, then, have the right to use the rule of law if they feel threatened or wrongly treated by the state. It seems to be an endless circle of recursive applications.

36721749 – wooden gavel on book with golden scale on table

The solution seems – at least in theory – that citizens are actually not simply individuals but already as such “social instances”. Thus, the rule of law can only be meaningful if it is intrinsically conjoined with the rule of democracy – obviously a non-juridically defined matter, to be valued in the same realm of praxis.
This, then, is also the problem when it comes to decisions concerning social media and the (not existing) obligation to publish information that is submitted by third parties: such “institutions” as facebook etc. are entirely private agencies. Thus we are confronted with some far-reaching contradiction: while they are in some way public (namely they are publicly traded), they are equally private and self-referential, defined by the one and sole motive of making business. Legally it simply means:
  • In the business-cases we are dealing with terms of use with reference of an exchange relationship, in principle focused on a mutual interest, namely the conclusion of a contract
  • However, in the case of publicness we are dealing with terms of mutual responsibility with reference of common interest which needs to be negotiated – which includes also the conflict of interest, the result of which is conclude by a treaty.
The kernel is, consequently, to look at the congruence and divergence of private and public. This emerges from business leaving the private realm, becoming public (and suggesting, like facebook’s Zuckerberg in the Washington hering, to be

an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all of the good that connecting people can do. And, as Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool for staying connected to the people they love, for making their voices heard and for building communities and businesses.

And it emerges if publicness claims to fulfill its “mission” by accepting the rules of private business (as we find it in so-called public-private partnerships).
Annunci

self-degrading academia

I am wondering … – if I should be wondering … – on different occasions I used the blog to describe issues from the academic world, and to reflect upon it. A kind of ‘series” looked into writing references for students and the way universities acted as business: externalize work, disrespect interest of students in learning and look how they fit into prepared boxes – if I am not mistaken this is the latest, and there are several links from there to earlier musings. Well, may be THIS PRESENT one will be the latest, a mail I received – a joke, SPAM, sent by mistake …? In any case hugely disappointing suggesting that to “meet industry expectations” is the primary and outspoken goal of a supposedly academic institution. Annoying to see that they abuse colleagues’ references as point of departure for SPAM-campaigns, looking for support. To be clear, I supported a student’s application – I definitely did not support the university’s programme In actual fact I discussed in several cases with students their choice, trying to make them aware of their steps, Faustian dimension which is not changed by the devil’s new clothes: blank business interest.

Here the SPAM letter:

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for serving as a referee and sending us the reference form for one of our candidates who applied to the Master of Science in Business Analytics [MSc(BA)] programme at The University of Hong Kong this year.

We sincerely appreciate the time you spent and the comments you provided to support the candidate’s application, which are critical for us to evaluate and select students who can best fit our programme.

Our programme office will continue to fully support the programme with the aim to meet industry expectations, maximise our resources, and enhance students’ experience. We would greatly appreciate for your continued support to the MSc(BA) programme. If you know anyone who may be interested in postgraduate education in business analytics, you can ask them to reach out to our team or learn more about our programme at our official website.

Thank you again for your support to HKU Msc(BA) programme.

Best Regards,

HsiaoPHui Lee (Dr.)  Programme Director Master of Science in Business Analytics The University of Hong Kong

Copyright © 2017  School of Business, The University of Hong Kong

Our address is  Room 304, Block B, Cyberport 4, 100 Cyberport Road, Hong Kong, China

If you do not wish to receive future email, click here.

A disgrace, indeed ….

Big Data – Publicness versus Regulating Quasi-Monopolies

A bit more than fifty years ago a panel discussion took place in Berlin, published in the book: Herbert Marcuse: Das Ende der Utopie. Vorträge und Diskussionen in Berlin 1967. The discussion took place in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Benno Ohnesorg. It had been one of a series of events, organised by the SDS (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund).

Interestingly we read in the TOC ‘Morals and Politics in the transition society’, going the to the relevant section the title reads ‘Morals and Politics in the affluent society’. The major topic is best looked at in terms of public spaces, freedom and responsibility. The presentation looks at digitisation, GAFA and BAT in the light of regulating private quasi-monopolist ownership versus regaining publicness.

The recording of the lecture can be found here.

forgotten rights

Well, toilets are not the most favorite topics: we all use them, but we usually do not talk about them.
Did I say we all use them? Actually I received the other day a mail, linking me to a website with the heading
An amazing and alarming figure. Much has been done, but a lot remains to be done, indeed.
But looking at what is actually done is not less alarming: the use of “public” toilets is increasingly also absorbed in the stream of privatisation, i.e. you have to pay in train stations etc.; last year I used such facilities in a coffeeshop (one if not the one of the most widespread places not only in Germany) and read something like:
I am cleaning this toilet without being paid by the owner. I appreciate your donation.
Yes, I remember the word donation had been used and that the lady had not been paid by the owner.
All this, by the way, gets an additional slant if we think that more and more people in the so-called developed countries are homeless – for them this kind of privatisation is another obstacle in their life.
And there is another additional remark that may usefully be made: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are supporting the UN-initative: the 19th November now being World Toilet Day. Do something good and talk about it … – why not: don’t do any harm initially, then there is not so much reason for doing good to repair the damage.