Under the Rose is (loosely) about the mechanisms and politics of our collective data, digital spaces, and information systems.
I have recently been talking and thinking about cryptography, identity, language models, privacy, agency and ownership over our digital world, and other topics in a fragmented but essentially connected way.1
Momentum seems to be swelling around what I’m calling the mechanisms and politics of our collective data. So many people are working on this through myriad lenses, mechanisms, and theories of change, from web3 to p2p to GDPR to data co-ops to differential privacy research. I believe that there is a lot that is unsaid about these topics; important connecting ideas and insights worth articulating.
This summer, I’d like to plumb the depths of this space—doing politics, economics and design-flavoured research, and learning the maths of cryptography—to produce some insights. This involves thinking about concepts like privacy, ownership, identity, power and knowledge. Please subscribe if you are also intrigued by this nexus, I’d love to share and talk about these topics with you.
What’s with the name?
“Under the rose”, or sub rosa in New Latin, means secretive or secretly.
Sub rosa literally means "under the rose" in New Latin. Since ancient times, the rose has often been associated with secrecy. In ancient mythology, Cupid gave a rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to keep him from telling about the indiscretions of Venus. Ceilings of dining rooms have been decorated with carvings of roses, reportedly to remind guests that what was said at the table should be kept confidential. Roses have also been placed over confessionals as a symbol of the confidentiality of confession. Sub rosa entered the English language in the 17th century, and even before then, people were using the English version, "under the rose." Earlier still, unter der Rose was apparently used in Germany, where the phrase is thought to have originated. - Merriam-Webster
Other fragmented topics that I put in this bucket: privacy preserving machine learning (including differential privacy and secure multi-party computation), blockchains, online identity systems—decentralised or not, biometrics, data co-operatives, data standards, zero-knowledge proofs, algorithmic auditing, copyright legislation, the politics of collaboration and trust…