Data protectionists should read Luhmann: About the defiant refusal to lose control
“The loss of control must not be accepted,” proclaimed Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger defiantly in a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “When Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘The medium is the message,’ he meant that every technology expresses how it stimulates people’s intellect, which senses it appeals and which expectations it neglects. The belief in a loss of control that can no longer be stopped is a self-abandonment. The post-privacy approach gives the wrong answer to the new challenges, because it relies on indifference and thus ultimately on intellectual surrender. Data protection advocates and consumer organizations are by no means waging final skirmishes of withdrawal, but rather slowing down the data collection frenzy of states and large corporations, ”explains the FDP politician.
From Gunnar’s son
From Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s point of view, data protectionists and consumer organizations are indispensable helpers in protecting civil rights, even against a supposed technical superiority: “Of course, there is absolutely nothing to be said against innovative business models. But when a few corporations such as Google or Facebook amass unmanageable mountains of data and information on millions of people, from which personality profiles can be created and which enable deep insights into private matters, then that is worrying. The associated abundance of power threatens to concentrate on a few large private companies that operate across borders, which makes democratically legitimized control more and more difficult, ”said the minister.
Apart from the usual platitudes about supposed data octopuses from overseas, the defiant attitude of the liberal lady towards loss of control is sandpit level. There is no goal, no program and no utopia behind this word. It simply describes the normative power of the factual. The Justice Minister should not only read Marshall McLuhan, but also the works of the systems theorists around the sociologist Niklas Luhmann. Since the introduction of writing, there has been an overstrain due to new media possibilities, explains Dirk Baecker: “Plato looks to Egypt and fears the bureaucratisation of the Greek polis and the cooling off of human communication if one begins to look at writing and thus a mechanical memory aid leaving. The opposite was the case. The Greeks invented philosophy in dealing with writing, and the early modern era invented the world of emotions in dealing with letterpress printing ”.
After all that has been seen so far, this society will adjust its social structures to heterogeneous networks and its culture to the processing of speed. “Heterogeneous networks take the place of the more homogeneous functional systems as we know them from modern society. We are faced with improbable clusters, with strange knots of stories, milieus, people and organizations, with antics that thwart society without knowing where they come from and where they are going. Our culture will say goodbye to the rationality of modernity even further and instead make friends with a complexity with which one has to seek contact without being able to count on understanding, ”says Baecker. Social networks are the game form of the next society. Here everyone can try out what it means to communicate in the medium of networked computers. They are as important as computer games. Communication, interaction and perception are newly interconnected, new sensitivities and new terminology are studied.
The computer screen is the only interface that links us to the depth of computers and their networks. “Google is making us smart, if we only make sure that we only started thinking about the intelligence of network effects since Google, and only since Google have thought that the probability distributions of the world are less of the normal distribution of Gauss and more follow Zipf’s power laws, ”explains Baecker. But what politicians, data protectionists, company bosses and other people’s educators do not want to accept is the loss of their power of interpretation, which Niklas Luhmann clairvoyantly anticipated even before the triumphant advance of the Internet:
With computer communication, the input of data and the retrieval of information are separated to such an extent that there is no longer any identity. Anyone who enters something does not know what is being extracted on the other side. The authority of the source becomes dispensable, it is annulled by technology and replaced by the unknown of the source. Likewise, there is no possibility of recognizing the intention of a communication and raising suspicion from it or drawing other conclusions that could lead to the acceptance or rejection of the communication. Modern computer technology dismantles the authority of the experts. Almost everyone now has the opportunity to check the statements of scientists, journalists, entrepreneurs or politicians on their own computer. The way in which knowledge gets into the computer is difficult to verify. In any case, it can no longer be translated into authority – and what will we get as a result, dear Federal Minister of Justice? LOSS OF CONTROL! And that is exactly what drives the political bobbies, authoritarian thinkers, whipers and debate tamers to the ceiling.
You don’t need to exaggerate the Internet or pour it into Web 2.0 ideologies in a cultic way. You don’t have to canonize the internet either. Hardly anyone can foresee or influence where the cultural catastrophes of computer communication will end. That’s what makes the whole thing so appealing. The internet works like a restaurant, according to the philosopher and publicist Ludwig Hasler, who greets you at the entrance with the affiche: “Here your table neighbor cooks for you!” The professionals are on leave, the laypeople take over – not just the kitchen, the media too, commerce, the social network. The layman is – loosely based on Max Frisch – a person who interferes in his own affairs. “The Greeks called him idiotes, the Romans idiota: he lives for himself, trusts his experience, doesn’t care about the finesse of theoreticians. The apostles acted as ‘idiots’ against deluded world scholars and obdurate scribes. Francis of Assisi called himself a simple-minded idiota. Luther found that the uneducated ‘silliness of the layman’ is more receptive to divine messages than the imagined cleverness of those who know. The ‘praise of folly’ had long been intoned when Erasmus of Rotterdam sang about it: The humanist mocked educational arrogance, played life against school, common sense against dogma, laughter against seriousness in ink, declared folly to be the only source of social and private happiness ” says Hasler.
Plebiscitary tendencies never had a comparable chance of organizing themselves. “The traditional line between experts and amateurs falls on the web,” summarizes the philosopher Hasler. The privacy advocates and people’s educators won’t change that either.