Panopticons in the facebook era

[Week 5] In the text Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, the cause of misbehaving is explored. Around 1785, Jeremy Bentham developed a prison plan where all the cells would be visible from a watch-tower. The observer would remain invisible to the prisoner so these can’t hardly know if they’re being watched or not from the panopticon tower. This device help transpose the idea of that having a chance of being watched some times into the concept of being surveilled at all time. Because the prisoner can’t really know when he’s watched, he behaved as he would be surveilled at all time.

While the organizational gain of such devices in a prison is clear (prisoner behave more appropriately), similar gains can probably be be made into other sphere of our life. It’s easy to imagine how quieter we may drive when we know we might observed by a photo-radar on an highway. While having everyone driving slower can still be seen as very good for the common health, such mechanism stills subverts our inconscious, by making us behave more because of the consequence than the initial morals that made us write a law enforcing such society rules.

Today’s technology bring surveillance to a whole another level, and an ever-growing number of systems makes us behave by their rules. Employers are monitoring the schedule and activity of the employee. Most public and private transport floats now embrace GPS positioning to keep an panopticon-like eye on their staff.

We might think that such surveillance haven’t affected yet our personal life, but it’s often easy to behave according to watcher’s interests on new social medias (like facebook). Other’s judgement are now present on our mind when we take simple decision like “who are you friend with” or “who will you invite your housewarming party”. It may not be a bad idea to force more transparency but other’s perspective become more important today as we see know part of our life is cataloged in a open book  .

It’s especially hard to exprimate opposition against such surveillance mechanism, because they’re existence is supposedly anchored in the will of common good. Who would oppose something good for a majority, that can only negatively impact some rebels dissidents?

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