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Member Since 13 Dec 2009
Offline Last Active Feb 13 2013 04:52 AM

Topics I've Started

The Internet: Panopticism 2.0?

29 November 2011 - 04:35 PM

Hello everyone,

It's been a long time since I've been remotely active here at TGL (if I was in the first place) and thus I'm coming back into the fold with a discussion about Panopticism in the Information Age (digital age, internet age, etc).


Panopticism is the social theory posited by Michel Foucault in the chapter of the same name in his book Discipline and Punish. The name Panopticism comes from Jeremy Bentham's prison, which he called the Panopticon. The prison was a circle of cells with large windows only facing the interior "doughnut-hole" and a central guard tower. The prisoners would not have visual contact with anything other than the central guard tower (outfitted with Venetian Blinds). Herein lies the architectural brilliance of the Panopticon. The construction gave the impression to every prisoner that he was constantly under surveillance from the central tower. And the surveillance from the tower was ambiguous due to the Venetian blinds which would lead to the prisoners being unaware of the presence of a guard. Bentham's idea is that this would turn every prisoner into their own subject. The prisoner would not be disciplined by the guard tower, but would think they might be if they misbehaved and thus normalized their own behavior. The crux of this is that they are the exercising oppressive power upon themselves. Foucault goes on to apply this to many other institutions such as the school and the factory. These institutions, and society as a whole, function as the Panopticon because they all promote the normalization of behavior through observation and the exercise of power through said observation.

(If you don't find this short, shallow explanation amenable here is the Wikipedia article. Alternatively, I have a short 2000ish word essay that goes more in depth if you'd like)


Now what does Panopticism mean in the context of the internet? The internet has been considered to have vast potential for liberation, and the revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa seem to support this. However, we've also seen the Panoptic nature of the net through various attacks by organizations seeking to normalize behavior (a tenuous recent example is that of the Kansas teen who seen as criticizing the governor was hounded to apologize from those who saw her actions. Although she didn't it is still and example of the swarming of discipline to those not normalized). Also, Facebook has fairly recently been thought to be giving information to the CIA and controlling the accounts of its' users (ownership over the content posted). In addition, Google's Page Rank system and various advertisements that show up from it stem from knowledge of the content we peruse on the net.

The above are examples of institutions engaging in Panoptic behavior (the school of the Kansas teen, the "factories" of Facebook and Google"), but what of what Foucault really considered the influence of Panopticism? The infiltration of the social body is the realization of Panopticism at it's finest. When the whole mass of humanity acts as millions of eyes constantly observing the other (or the individuals perception that that is the way it is) Panopticism becomes ingrained. In no other area is this more apparent then the Internet.

How so? The anonymous, faceless gaze of the masses allow for comments that "discipline" the original poster. If someone posts a video of them doing an act considered embarassing or engaging in an activity that isn't held in high regard by the majority, the reaction of the internet is to barrage the individual (or have the potential to barrage which is the true normalization. Lots more people could be posting really freaky shit, but they are (un)aware of the backlash from the majority) into not doing that action. I think there are stronger arguments depicting the internet as Panopticon but I don't want to proselytize I want to spark discussion, if this is something to even be discussed.


This is where y'all come in. Is this an accurate characterization of the internet? Could it instead be of the liberatory nature so espoused in science-fiction and social theory?

Last question: Is it exactly like Foucault's estimation of Panopticism, that just as Panopticism underwrote and created the framework for the liberties of the Enlightenment, the Panoptic nature of the internet will provide the framework for the liberties that it has been considered to provide?

Please share your thoughts. (Full disclaimer: I have recently finished a paper on this idea and I want to test my arguments against any potential new ones)

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

02 May 2011 - 05:27 AM

As mentioned, Osama Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in the last 24 hours. This event should have ramifications on both US foreign policy in regards to the Global War on Terror and the future of Al-Qaeda.

It is my opinion that his death will allow for the scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan to go ahead as planned, but there will still be continued presence in the Middle East to win the war on terror. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda will suffer a loss in leadership but will not lose too much. Al-Zawarhi and Al-Sadat (nos. 2&3) are capable leaders for Al-Qaeda and thus will be able to handle this loss without Al-Qaeda falling to pieces. What will be interesting is how this will affect (effect?) domestic politics, if at all.


Deleuze & Guattari

27 April 2011 - 04:33 AM

Hey all,

I have never been a very active member of TGL and am just now returning to the forums, but I am returning with a question, or rather, a set of questions. These questions primarily deal with the French philosophers Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. How do their thoughts on desire interact with the idea of the war machine? In essence, what does anybody know about DnG? If you know anything at all I'd be very interested in a discussion on the practicality of their philosophy. I have more questions but I'd rather they be in response to any initial knowledge that is laid out on this topic.

NOTE:Perhaps that^ is an improper way to couch what they do but, hey, I'm open to suggestion. Also, is this in the wrong forum?

Healthcare Reform in America

22 March 2010 - 03:50 AM

Well as of 11:45 pm EST Healthcare Reform has passed the House in 3 vote margin victory. Reconciliation has also passed in the House. Now debate starts in the Senate.  Any thoughts about the HC package?

Explanation: Albert Camus's Philospophy and General Discussion

13 December 2009 - 09:05 PM

I've recently read The Stranger and have just begun Camus' Myths of Sisyphus but I'm still unsure about the implications "the Absurd" creates. If Life is absurd what is the purpose with labeling it absurd?  :unsure:
(Yes, I realize that Camus shortly after publishing Myths disassociated himself with absurdist thought.)

Would it be safe to assume Absurdism is an extension of Existentialism?
I would like to use this thread to discuss these "implications" and possibly create better understanding of the philosophy. At present my philosophy "expertise" is a shallow understanding of Heidegger, Lacan, Zizek, and Rand.:study: That's code for "tell me all you know about the subject"