Laurier’s new project explores the concept of privacy in a modern world

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Communication studies professor Judith Nicholson has brought a new research project to the Wilfrid Laurier University campus. The project focuses on a ‘Privacy Booth’ which has been set up in the concourse.  The project’s goal is to understand students’ views of privacy and to educate other young adults on the topic.

The Privacy Booth is open for anyone to enter, at which point a video recording begins.  Participants are encouraged to share anything they wish on the topic of privacy. These videos are later sorted through, edited and made available to adolescents.

The stories shared by students in the booth have been diverse. Some students explain the ways that privacy affects them personally, while others look at the ways governments impose on our privacy. Other students choose to do nothing more than take a selfie.

“Almost everyone has a story about a moment when privacy was breached,” Nicholson stated, claiming that this peer-to-peer storytelling is a way to make sense of privacy among young people. Nicholson went on to explain that this method creates an unfolding pedagogy that allows education to happen between students outside of the classroom.

“It encourages us to think about the question ‘what do we give up?’ in order to participate in a digital world,” Nicholson commented. She feels that it is important to think about privacy in a world where material private spaces are disappearing. Nicholson also claims that there has been a shift in privacy itself, which is why it’s important to offer a medium to voice student opinions on the matter.

According to Nicholson, the booth is a conjunction of public and private. While it creates a sphere of digital privacy, the data is released into the public realm.

Nicholson has worked with a number of others on the project. Collaborators include faculty from Laurier’s Brantford campus, the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto.

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