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View Diary: The Surveillance State As Foucault's Panopticon (327 comments)

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  •  that may overstate (2+ / 0-)
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    serendipityisabitch, WB Reeves

    I don't have Foucault lying around here, but I don't think he is strictly indifferent to whether there is an observer. I know Bentham isn't. But it's tautologically true in some sense that if people behave as if they are being watched, it does not matter whether they actually are being watched.

    It seems to me that that observation would tend to strengthen Ray's argument, but also that there are other big pieces missing.

    "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

    by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:01:59 AM PDT

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    •  In principle, you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      serendipityisabitch

      wouldn't need any guards at all in the central tower of the panopticon for it to exercise its power.  It's the possibility, not actual knowledge gathering or observation, that exercises the power for Foucault.

      •  Bentham thought differently (1+ / 0-)
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        serendipityisabitch

        He argued that there should be as much actual observation as feasible, inter alia because "Experiment, venturing first upon slight trangressions, and so on, in proportion to success, upon more and more considerable ones, will not fail to teach him [a person supposedly being observed] the difference between a loose inspection and a strict one."

        Of course, parsing Bentham and Foucault on this point doesn't necessarily get us closer to figuring out current events.

        "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

        by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:18:07 AM PDT

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        •  Right, but we're talking (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch, CS in AZ

          about Foucault, not Bentham.  The situation is analogous to the myth of Santa Claus parents tell their children.  The child's belief that he's always watching allows the child to be disciplined even when the parents don't see his infractions or those situations where he has the opportunity to transgress parental rules.  

          In the context of contemporary events this is all relevant because it speaks to how the surveillance state is able to exercise control.  Do they exercise control through actually knowing?  Probably not because even of they can gather 99% of all transmitted information it would be incredibly difficult for them to examine all that data even with the use of super computers.  Any power they might exercise arises from our belief that they might know, leading us not to say certain things on the phone or email, avoid certain searches, etc.  in other words, we're the ones doing the regulatory work, not the NSA.

          It's like Kafka's parable of the law in The Trial.  The man comes to the door of the law hoping to discover the secret of how the law exercises its power.  Believing that the secret lies behind the door, the man spends his entire life before the door, imploring the guard to let him through.  As he lays dying, his life wasted, he begs the guard to tell him the secret.  The guard replies that The secret of the law is the door itself, the man's belief that there's something behind it, and nothing behind the door.  That's how the door exercises its power:  by us believing it.

          •  you and your Kafka ;) (1+ / 0-)
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            JosephK74

            Seriously, I agree with your general point, and the analogy seems helpful (although, full disclosure, I haven't actually read The Trial!). But I also think that Bentham made a good one: people may discipline themselves, but it is more likely if people are given some reason to think that they had jolly well better. That is in general. Specifically, it's possible that people self-censor for fear of the surveillance state regardless of anything they know about it; it's also possible that people will self-censor more now that they know more about it; as an auxiliary question, it's possible that TPTB wanted people to know more about it, despite any indications to the contrary. I'm not sure that the diary addresses any of these questions or Foucault very effectively.

            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

            by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:16:40 PM PDT

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            •  I think there are plenty of (3+ / 0-)

              reasons to problems with NSA surveillance, but I'm not sure that what Foucault discusses is one of them.  I think that most people assume that because data mining is so extensive it's also ineffectual or that they're unlikely to be targeted or noticed.  As a consequence, we don't form the sort of subjectivity Foucault describes under these conditions.  This is probably why people have such ho hum attitudes about it.

              I think the more pressing concerns is how this technology might be used to manipulate politicians and whatnot.

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