Re: [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities

Flora Sapio wrote:
Since a couple of months I have become engrossed in Panopticism. I have just
read some news about Microsoft "plans" to file a patent for a system which
monitor the brain activity of its employees, and thought that they may be of
interested to the subscribers of this list. Here are some links about them,

I think you draw a plausible connection between Microsoft's
patent and Panopticism.

You might want to look further, though.

The Panopticon is an environment in which guards have
the advantageous and asymmetric lines of sight --- guards
/can/ see anything; prisoners know they /can/ always be
seen; therefore, guards need not /actually/ see everything.

Ok, but there is something new on the Internet and the Web:
a modern refinement of the Panopticon that Foucault would have
had trouble foreseeing:

On the modern web, surveillance is hidden more often than
it is hinted at. Whether it's web "cookies" or the publication
of personal data on social networks or the tracking of buying
habits -- user's are discouraged from awareness of how they are
surveilled or what can be done with the information.

One trivial example of the use of this information is to modulate
what advertisements are presented to a user.

In this modern case, hidden surveillance is used to monitor
"response" which in turn is used to modulate "stimulus"
(e.g., to select ads).

So, there are inversions here in practice -- yet they constitute
a refinement of how "Power works on bodies" (so to speak):

Surveillance is changing from an exaggerated threat to a hidden
ubiquity. Surveillance is not aimed to coerce obedience to rules
but, instead, to refine more subtle and subliminal means of control
People are not imprisoned into the web -- they are seduced into it
for "fun" or required into it for "work".

Yet, in the end, the basic feedback circuit of surveillance and control
is just being refined.
In that sense, the new found interest in Foucault's analysis of
the Panopticon is behind the times. It might be helpful to
trace out the next shifts that have occurred, since Foucault died.

Here is one article from the Guardian. It is a little bit
naive and paranoid on a few points but basically paints the
right picture (in my opinion):


  • Re: [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society
    • From: Clare O'Farrell
  • Re: [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities
    • From: Andrew Cady
  • Replies
    [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities, Flora Sapio
    Partial thread listing: