Secrecy's hour is almost done. Once, secrets were a way of constituting subjects: the spy, the homosexual, the paranoiac—all of them people with secrets. The secret was a form of social control; and a nexus of pleasure and power; and a re-mapping of the terrain…
Only someone with a secret can be a spy. Today, if there are still persons called spies, they are mere functionaries, nodes within networks of information. The existentially fraught spy (from Joseph Conrad to Samuel Beckett), the ignominy of betrayal, the hollowness of loyalty, all these are figures of the past.
Only someone with a secret can inhabit the hidden cities within or beneath the metropolis. It’s not just spying that’s over: the end of secrecy has meant the demise of homosexual cruising. Recognitions, invitations, assignations—these too have been replaced by, on the one hand, gay marriage, and on the other, social networking/dating/digital-cruising sites.
The secret's power emerged at a certain point in the history of the public/private divide. Today, new forms of expropriation of the commons have displaced that divide; secrecy itself is fading now. What forms of control, and what opportunities for rebellion, will emerge in secrecy's vacated places? What was secrecy, while it lasted?
A few proposed topics:
Literary historical: the gay gnosis of American literature, from Hawthorne through Melville to Henry James.
Luther Blisset, the Mechanical Turk, and other experiments in anonymity.
Note: We stole all this intellectual property from our friends in the late great Seattle Research Institute.