In his writing on Panopticism, Michel Foucault opens up with describing the architectural workings of the 18th-century disciplinary structure. Foucault describes it as an “annular building” with an observation tower in the center, with every cell windowed facing the tower (Foucault 18).
An idea of the panopticon is to instill a norm of self-surveillance – should you find yourself in one of these individual cells you have no clue who is in the tower at any given moment. You cannot yourself see inside the tower, but they can see you. This results in the act of self-surveillance.
How exactly does that tie into technology? Technology is the panopticon of our era, and it has made the act of self-surveillance the norm. Whether it be thinking about the Patriot Act or the FBI surveillance memes or even being aware of the relative ease of someone hacking into a device and monitoring your every move, we have become so accustomed to the probability that someone else is watching that we find ourselves in our own cell of a technological panopticon.
This was something that was on my mind when rereading Panopticism and thinking in particular about technology. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I cannot decide that for you. As usual, I am simply laying down the rules of the road and some definitions – you do with it what you will. Stay safe, stay hydrated, and I will see you all next week.