Saturday, 27 November 2010

Portfolio Task 1 - Panopticism

Choose an example of one aspect of contemporary culture that is, in your opinion, panoptic. Write an explanation of this, in approximately 200-300 words, employing key Foucauldian language, such as 'Docile Bodies' or 'self-regulation, and using not less than 5 quotes from the text 'Panopticism' in Thomas, J. (2000) 'Reading Images', NY, Palgrave McMillan.

The term panopticism means 'all seeing'. It employes the idea of not knowing when or where we are being watched so it encourages 'good behavior' as we feel constantly under surveillance. 

Panopticism employes discipline in many aspects of everyday life. With the ever increasing knowledge within technology it is safe to say you will most likely be under some form of surveillance if you step out of your front door. I will be focusing on computing and its invisible surveillance for this essay. A computer is a very personal object; a private place where you can do and search pretty much anything. A place where a persons inner most thoughts are often recorded in a digital diary or private conversations can be held over the internet. 

However, surveillance of computer activity can be tracked by the government and the police. Everything can be tracked with the right authority. You become an 'object of information, never a subject in communication.' From conversations to the amount of finger strokes per minute on the key pad, computers are a very clever technology and therefore can access a wide variety of personal information across the world. In Foucault's theory of panopticism he writes about how subjects of panopticism self regulate themselves as they constantly feel they are being watched by an opnipresent eye. 

“An omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the determination of the individual”

Firewalls and other 'virus protectors' show how secretive people want to be about their information. The fear of being watched and bank details being stolen for example turns people into docile bodies encouraging them into the retail market to help combat and stop the invisible gaze. “This surveillance is based on a system of permanent registration”. 

Having an omnipresent eye online I feel is very necessary and has enabled police to find out vital information for example following suspected terrorists actions and tracking down wanted pedophiles resulting in punishment and helping to make the internet a safer place. Having this invisible yet known power on computers makes users more aware of their actions constantly. Even though the chances are very slim that you are being tracked right now, there is still the consciousness therefore "
it is not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behavior.”

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