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And then there are days when things start to feel wickedly different…

A recent piece in The Awl on the new website, Is Anyone Up?, offers the latest ethnographic account from the grizzly frontiers of internet privacy. The site reposts nude photographs from social networking sites and has a huge following. If you end up there because someone posted something about you or you posted pictures of yourself, you are thrown into a world of micro-celebrity. The voluminous commentary can be vicious. And yet because the material was already technically public, there is nothing you can do to get it taken down.

The site’s founder comes across as both malignant and cautionary. He is remarkably crass about what he is doing, but then again so are we. Like Chat Roulette, Is Anyone Up? is like looking into the digital Id. And that Id consists of an immense economy of mutual observation, looking at ourselves looking at each other in ever more intimate ways. I was very hesitant to even post about this. My mind goes blank when it comes to historicizing something like it. This just can’t have happened before.

Sites like this will proliferate until we understand more about the reality of publicity in which we increasingly live and we take measures to provide more legal buffers (or breaks from the technology, but we know that never happens). For now, the site’s founder sees himself as providing a useful, if also harrowing educational service:

What do I have to defend myself against? It comes down to, you’re fucking stupid and I’m making money off your mistakes. It might sound rough, but how else are you going to learn not to do this again? It’s like you’re playing Russian Roulette like, oh, let’s hope this doesn’t get out.

And then this sign-off:

My site is an education on technology, how people abuse it. I think it’s dangerous to give any underage kid a cameraphone.

Education indeed.