Exploring Privates in The Public: The Illusion of Privacy

When: Orientation week at Parsons.

Today, in a class packed with people seemingly far shyer than I am but definitely more attractive than I am -- we sat in a poorly arranged circle and were told to contemplate space.

The space we consider public and the space we consider private. We did this in the typical class room setting, you know, with boards and lively class discussion (remember to add more quotes to “lively”) and then again in Washington Square Park -- a more publicly accessible area, you know, a fucking park.

“Take notes of your surroundings, observations and realizations!” - The liberal artsy teacher with a Netherlands-y accent said, as many of them do.

So, this is what I observed with regards to the difference between public and private space.

Public space is real. It is a construct of the physical world we inhabit. It is all-consuming. It is very much everything.

Private space is a fucking illusion. It is a construct of the mind -- a lie that we all willingly indulge in because we need it in order to feel functionally safe as individuals.

The truth is, every space you plop your body into, is a public space. Why? Because it can be penetrated by any other person, even if you put up a million keep out signs, a crocodile filled moat, a shit ton of those Super Mario missiles and lock yourself in a safe -- your space is still fragile, it can still be penetrated by force, by virtue of other people existing and inhabiting the spaces around you. Your so-called “private” space.

“My apartment is my private space.”

Is it really?

The sounds of a city being further built up around you still penetrates your private space. The sounds of your neighbors taking their out against their headboards still penetrate your space. Your parents surprise visits. Maintenance just doing their routine checks. A burglar who decided that you, yes you, are the lucky receiver of one of their break ins today! Woohoo. You are not safe! Nobody is!

The point is, no matter how private you feel, you’re still a part of a world that is free to engage around you and with you -- regardless if your headphones are in and you’re about to post a hilarious nostalgia-based joke on Twitter.

Speaking of which, you like the internet? You like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… the almost criminally convenient Google search? You want to know why it’s so convenient? Because of OUR information, baby! Our privacy. It’s nothing new. The illusion of being private transcends even the physical world.

Shit -- most of us, even myself, willingly give away our privacy everyday to build a following or audience for our art, our products, our future success. The people in this class are pursuing art and design, a glamorized industry, in which most success comes at the cost of all your privacy.

Alrighty, now for more visceral observations.

Washington Square Park - Private and Public Observations:

First impression of the space -- this park definitely displays the more public elements of space, as it should. It is a fucking park. Rather than people trying to find serenity and establishing their own private spaces, this park seems to be more of hub for people in groups, people on dates, people with friends.

Must be nice having friends… instead of being a total creeper sitting here alone on my laptop... staring at people like they’re all lab rats for my observations.

There is still hope for me.

People in this space are far more approachable and open to conversations with strangers. A huge reason for this is the location of the park. It offers photo value for tourists. It's surrounded by schools, making it a central meeting location for students. Two groups that are usually down to talk, meet interesting people and grow.

Observations continue.

1.) Looking around at the other Parsons students is amusing, from the outside they seem to have made this park into their private space. They view the public from an outside perspective in hopes of making astute observations and profound realizations. Shout outs to my fellow young minds!

2.) The asshole next to me gave me a strange look. He did this because I'm probably in what he considers to be his private space. Keep reading your book asshole.

(I guess this really solidifies my point that private space has little structural integrity -- I as a part of the public space can completely fuck up his private space. Why? Because no matter how private he thinks he is, he is in the public. More evidence to follow.)

3.) The focal points of attraction that seem to be displaying the most public interaction are the fountain and the arch. The outskirts of grass are where people attempt to build their private space. The shade plays a big part in this, making those areas inherently more comfortable and hospitable. It is a simple escape.

4.) Many people come to this park, specifically for public interaction, to play chess, to find an audience to perform in front of, to create art pieces in the ground using chalk.

5.) I had come here two hours before meeting the orientation group. There was a man sun-tanning. Since returning to the park, that same man is still here sun-tanning. That is the illusion of private space at it’s finest. To him, he pretty much lives in this park, it’s his space. He doesn’t care who’s looking. He is in his own world, only he isn’t. I’m looking at him. Anyone can. Solid body for a man probably in his late seventies though, can’t hate.

6.) The most successful attempt at constructing a private space is this dude who covers himself in bread crumbs and allows pigeons to sit/lay down on him. He is effectively creating a private space that isolates him from humans and  makes him irresistible to birds AKA present dinosaurs. I found this an interesting take on public and private interaction.

7.) A skinny vampiric looking guy came up to me and gave me a Genshinkan Dojo 1 month free membership coupon. He did this even though I was fixed to my laptop, in hopes of generating a private space. He broke through, as my surroundings are still public -- a point I have made a few times, I know.

Also, he is a kung fu master, so he has the strength to break through any boundaries. Including my personal attempts of using my laptop as a means to not interact with him. I probably give of the vibe of someone who needs to learn how to defend himself. Which is a misconception generated by my sweet and endearingly pinch-able cheeks. Make no mistake. I'm fucking ruthless on these streets.

8.) This location has an added layer of public activity as it seems to be a popular filming location. So, not only are you public in the space that is Washington Square Park but potentially, you are public on a world-wide macro scale, depending on wherever the video is shown/aired.

9.) Two people just ran up in front of me and began hugging super passionately. Super gross. They are so enamored by each other, that both of them have managed to block out all of their surroundings. Private space construct. 

Seriously, I’m literally sitting right in front of them. Staring directly at them. Have not broken my gaze. I’m beginning to look increasingly creepy. Still nothing. They have not noticed me despite glancing in my direction. That is how focused and in the moment they are. They are living within the contract of their private space as I uncomfortably observe them from the public space they’re really in.

Oh dope, the rest of the class said, "Fuck it!" and got ice cream. Dope.