Ontological Friction

Details of the types of friction available plus examples of spatial and temporal privacy, specific to libraries

A theoretical model

Ontological frictions

Glossary of terms

Mindmap of ontological frictions


In “The fourth revolution” (Floridi 2014) doesn’t give us a systematic list of friction types, but what he does do is to provide a few examples of what might affect the informational gap (which he describes as a function of the degree of accessibility of personal data where the larger the gap, the lower the degree of accessibility to personal data). Using these examples, one can identify the following six friction types (the specific references below aren’t exhaustive, but intended to be illustrative):

  1. Sensory (if the students have excellent hearing, p104; whether the students have perfect sight p104)
  2. Spatial (whether the students have their own rooms, p103)
  3. Temporal (refers to a science fiction scenario regarding time, and to a device called a chronoscope p104)
  4. Technological (Floridi says that ICT’s “unquestionably and influentially affect informational friction” p105)
  5. Regulatory (“solutions to the problem of protecting informational privacy can be not only self-regulatory and legislative but also technological” p139)
  6. Contextual (Floridi discusses a number of contextual issues eg social contexts (p132), and public contexts (p141), but the primary reason for identifying contextual frictions as one of the friction types is Nissenbaum’s framework of contextual integrity (Nissenbaum 2010)

In addition, a further three friction types were identified from other writings on privacy:

  1. Obscurity ((Hartzog, Selinger 2013), (Hartzog, Stutzman 2013), (Selinger, Hartzog 2014), (Bishop, Butler et al. 2013))
  2. Information behaviour (where people make a calculated risk assessment as to whether or not to share information (Dinev, Hart 2006), (Petronio, Altman 2002); and because of the way in which peoples’ behaviour changes when they know or when they think that they are being watched – the chilling effect – (Penney 2016), (PEN America 2013)).
  3. Training & awareness (the difference that digital literacy training, including safe online practices, can make; as well as privacy training for librarians (Noh 2014), (Kim, Noh 2014)


BISHOP, M., BUTLER, E.R., BUTLER, K., GATES, C. and GREENSPAN, S., 2013. Forgive and forget: return to obscurity, Proceedings of the 2013 workshop on New security paradigms workshop 2013, ACM, pp. 1-10.

DINEV, T. and HART, P., 2006. An Extended Privacy Calculus Model for E-Commerce Transactions. Information Systems Research, 17(1), pp. 61-80.

FLORIDI, L., 2014. The 4th revolution: how the infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

HARTZOG, W. and SELINGER, E., 2013. Obscurity: a better way to think about your data than “privacy”. The Atlantic, (January 17),.

HARTZOG, W. and STUTZMAN, F., 2013. The case for online obscurity. California Law Review, 101(1), pp. 1-49.

KIM, D. and NOH, Y., 2014. A study of public library patron’s understanding of library records and data privacy. International Journal of Knowledge Content Development & Technology, 4(1), pp. 53-78.

NISSENBAUM, H.F., 2010. Privacy in context: technology, policy, and the integrity of social life. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Law.

NOH, Y., 2014. Digital library user privacy: changing librarian viewpoints through education. Library Hi Tech, 32(2),.

PEN AMERICA, 2013. Chilling effects: NSA surveillance drives US writers to self-censor. New York: PEN American Center, .

PENNEY, J., 2016. Chilling effects: Online surveillance and wikipedia use.

PETRONIO, S. and ALTMAN, I., 2002. Boundaries of privacy.

SELINGER, E. and HARTZOG, W., 2014. Obscurity and privacy.