posted Feb 03, 2001

Kafkaesque? Big Brother? Finding the Right Metaphor
Privacy from Companies
2/3/2001; 2:36:37 PM

'The battle of the metaphors is much more than a literary parlor game, said Solove in his article, "Privacy and Power: Computer Databases and Metaphors for Information Privacy." The way a problem is framed determines its solution, he suggested. And if lawmakers are to come up with adequate responses to the lack of privacy online, they need to fully understand the nature of the beast. In short, if they read books, they should read more Kafka and less Orwell.'

Excellent article! I've ranted about metaphors before and I will again, so I found a kindred spirit in this article.

I would like to comment on that paragraph, though. The choice of metaphor does not determine the nature of the solution. The choice of metaphor determines the understanding of the problem, which in turn determines the solution. With the wrong metaphor, one does not merely get a bad solution, one gets a whole wrong system, complete with wrong debates about which wrong solutions to put in place to solve the wrong problem.

The article does make a good case for Kafkaesque metaphors, but I still stand by my assertion that inconvenient as it may be, there are no appropriate metaphors for the Internet issues. They are too multi-faceted to be wrapped into a metaphor, even as approximations.


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