Julia Netter Speaks on Data Protection, the Digital Body, and Autonomy

Julia Netter, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Political Theory Project at Brown University, will give a research talk on the topic, “Liberal Theory and the Digital Body: Rethinking Autonomous Agency in Data Protection.”

The talk will take place on March 31, 2021, from 4-5:30pm via Zoom (link here). Please log into Zoom with your Virginia Tech email address. The talk is tailored to appeal to both faculty and students, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker.

Here is the abstract of the talk. The shift of everyday activities to online platforms and services, and the plethora of digital data that a modern person generates – both implicitly or explicitly – as they go about their life poses new challenges to individuals’ capacity to reflect on, and make meaningful decisions with regard to, the information they provide about themselves. In this paper, I argue that common liberal paradigms like consent and targeted regulation when applied to digital technology fail to provide meaningful orientation on how to approach the challenges of data protection. I claim that for liberal theory to determine what it means for a person to be an autonomous agent in the data-saturated online world, we must expand our conceptual devices, and, in particular, build upon a more nuanced view on what constitutes the individual person in the digital sphere. I develop the notion of a digital body, the collection of data that an individual creates deliberately and implicitly, and which – akin to a physical body – is a medium for others to act on the individual. The digital body allows us to reason about the prerequisites for and dangers to autonomous agency in the digital sphere, and provides us with a starting point for deliberating adequate means for protecting it.

About 90 faculty members and students attended the talk. Here are a few Zoom snapshots.

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