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

On Wed, Jan 16, 2008 at 11:15:50AM -0800, Thomas Lord wrote:
> 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 would 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.

I think that to consider this in terms of panopticism is a little bit of
a stretch. In Foucault there is already the concept of population (or,
I guess, more precisely, the concept of the concept of population) which
strikes me as much more appropriate to the situation. That is, the
concept of a population and the concept of a userbase are functionally
quite similar from the standpoint of the entity administering the
one or the other--which is one in which panopticism is not an option
(in general). I suppose you could call that standpoint "statistical
administration"; it is quite distinct from panoptic administration, as
in the former, one neglects exceptions and directs attention towards
and attempts to influence masses, generally through an invisibility of
power, while in the latter the entire mechanism is designed to detect
exceptions through visibility of power. (This is just as you said.)

(If you haven't encountered "population" in Foucault, "The Birth of
Social Medicine," IIRC, serves exactly to introduce it.)

In any case the Microsoft patent reminds me of this passage from The
Ecstacy of Communication:

Barthes already foresaw this for the car, where the logic of
possession, from the projection inherent in strong subjective
relation is substituted by the logic of driving. No more power,
speed, appropriation phantasies linked to the object itself, but a
potential tactic linked to its use -- mastery, control and command,
optimization of the game of possibilities, which the automobile offers
as a vector, and no longer as a psychological sanctuary -- resulting
in the transformation of the subject himself into a driving computer,
instead of the demiurge drunk with power. The vehicle thus becomes a
bubble, the dashboard a console, and the landscape all around unfolds
as a television screen.

However, one can conceive of a subsequent stage to this one, where
the car is still a performative instrument, the stage at which it
becomes an informing network. That is, the car which speaks to you,
which informs you spontaneously of its general state and yours
(eventually refusing to function if you are not functioning well), the
advising, the deliberating car, a partner in a general negotiation on
life-styles; something (or someone, since at this stage there is no
more difference) to which you are wired, the communication with the
car becoming the fundamental stake, a perpetual text of the presence
of the subject vis-a-vis his objects -- an uninterrupted interface.

  • Re: [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities
    • From: Thomas Lord
  • Replies
    [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities, Flora Sapio
    Re: [Foucault-L] The Panoptical society: Microsoft plans to monitor groups activities, Thomas Lord
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