When you've got an open invitation to look at the contents of someone's hard
drive it's hard to call it peeping. Still, it's hard not to feel that you're trespassing,
crossing a line into someone's personal space. After all, we call them personal
computers, don't we? And it's not necessarily that we have something
to hide. Over the years I've tried to examine the fluidity of the borders
between the public and the personal that has come about from our exposure to the
internet, and without plunging into that issue here, certainly the fact of someone
maintaining a personal blog in a public space is an obvious example of the blurring
of those boundaries. On a perhaps simpler, but also more fundamental, level, the
very fact that our computer screen can simultaneously bring us both the Word document
that we're writing and the newspaper that we're reading can cause more than just
a bit of confusion.
But experience has shown that there isn't much that's personal on these personal computers. To tell the truth, there isn't much of anything on them. It seems that, even though numerous attempts have been made to encourage this, relatively few elderly people have the stamina to actually sit down and type their thoughts and recollections into a word processor. Those of us who can type almost as quickly as we talk may find this somewhat surprising, but we're in quite a small minority. So nobody complains if I take a look at what's there, move things back to where they belong, unzip an inadvertently zipped document, and in general intrude into what I've learned not to relate to as much of a private space.