The Return of Panopticism: Supervision, Subjection and the New Surveillance

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DOI: 10.24908/ss.v3i1.3317
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Abstract
This article revisits Foucault's concept of panopticism as it pertains to research on the new surveillance. Drawing on the work of neo-Foucauldian authors in surveillance studies the paper shows how the figures of the supervisor and inmate within the Foucauldian diagram suggest different directions for pursuing surveillance theory. On the one hand, there is a concern with processes of subjection and normalization that arise through the internalization of the gaze, while on the other there is a concern with processes of administration, social sorting and simulation that occur independently of embodied subjects. Foucault's model both allows for these twin concerns within the context of the new surveillance while serving as a source of further insight into the empirical nuances of contemporary surveillance relations.
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The Return of Panopticism:
Supervision, Subjection and the New Surveillance
Bart Simon1
Abstract
This article revisits Foucault’s concept of panopticism as it pertains to research on the new surveillance.
Drawing on the work of neo-Foucauldian authors in surveillance studies the paper shows how the figures of
the supervisor and inmate within the Foucauldian diagram suggest different directions for pursuing
surveillance theory. On the one hand, there is a concern with processes of subjection and normalization that
arise through the internalization of the gaze, while on the other there is a concern with processes of
administration, social sorting and simulation that occur independently of embodied subjects. Foucault’s
model both allows for these twin concerns within the context of the new surveillance while serving as a
source of further insight into the empirical nuances of contemporary surveillance relations.
Introduction
Recent world events following 9/11 and the expansion of the digital infrastructures of modern
societies have conspired to produce a surge of interest in the interdisciplinary field of surveillance
studies. The social and material practices of surveillance with its implications for the production
of social order and social control are receiving renewed attention as more pervasive forms of
institutional monitoring are being developed. Dataveillance (the collection, organization and
storage of information about persons) and biometrics (the use of the body as a measure of
identity) for instance have not only come into focus with the post 9/11 security consciousness of
state institutions but these technologies are now becoming a regular feature of the everyday lives
and culture of citizens. For many scholars these technological innovations fundamentally alter the
organization, practice and effects of surveillance relationships, making them at once more
dispersed, pervasive, fluid, and invisible. While the jury is still out as to whether this “new
surveillance” (Lyon 1992; Marx 1988) heralds more repressive forms of social control or
introduces greater capacities for negotiation and resistance, their appearance has spurred
scholars to revisit canonical metaphors, tropes and models for understanding the character and
significance of modern surveillance.
1 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
mailto:simonb@alcor.concordia.ca
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There can be no theorization of contemporary surveillance relations without some orientation to
the writing of Michel Foucault on discipline and panopticism. While there is certainly no lack of
scholarly output on the matter, this background is central to orienting innovative research in
surveillance studies. Indeed, this is one of the focal points of the earliest issues of this journal
(“Foucault and Panopticism Revisited”). As with the special issue on Foucault, the problem for
surveillance studies scholars has generally been whether the new surveillance conforms to a more
or a less panoptic social order than Foucault describes. While the discussion of this would seem
to relatively unproblematic; a matter of comparing empirical experiences of surveillance with
Foucault’s panoptic model of social control, there is nevertheless, some divergence in
interpretations of what is meant by the idea of panopticism. Consequently, while panopticism has
received a great deal of critical attention in recent work on surveillance, it is not unusual to see
scholars interpreting Foucault’s discussion in fundamentally different ways (Lyon 1993, 1994;
Norris and Armstrong 1999; Boyne 2000; Haggerty and Ericson 2000). While I agree with
many of the points made by these scholars, I am nonetheless, extremely wary of throwing the
baby of Foucauldian insight out with the bathwater of an overworked concept of panopticism.
While previous articles in this journal have been especially critical of the continuing relevance of
Foucault’s idea of the ‘panoptic’ (Yar 2003; Koskela 2003; Hier 2003) my intention in this
paper is not to ‘save’ Foucault so much as offer an interpretation of the analytical significance
and social theoretical stakes of two seemingly divergent interpretations of Foucault’s approach
to panopticism within the field of surveillance studies. In effect, different interpretations of
panopticism ground sometimes radically different understandings of the circuits of modern
surveillance. I approach this discussion with an eye toward preserving and reworking key
Foucauldian insights in light of the growing body of empirical research on contemporary
surveillance. My own interpretation is further informed through a conversation with the writing of
critical neo-Foucauldians interested in surveillance such as Vaz and Bruno (2003), David Lyon
(2001), Mark Poster (1996), William Bogard (1996) and Gilles Deleuze (1992). At the end of
the day I want to suggest that a ‘post-panoptic’ condition does not necessarily imply that we
must be ‘anti-’ or ‘post-Foucauldian.
The Fate of Panopticism
The discussion of panopticism, so often presented as the ultimate Foucauldian set piece, is
predictably a more complicated and nuanced tale than many literal and even historical readings
would seem to suggest (Lianos 2003). At the heart of the discussion is the exemplar of Jeremy
Bentham’s Panopticon. The specific history of Bentham’s infamous project is ultimately less
important than its use as a genealogical marker (Foucault 1977b). For Foucault, the Panopticon
is an architectural design or plan that signals a convergence of a historically situated political and
social ideology, a socio-material epistemology, and a pragmatics of social control and resistance.
In its most concrete form, the Panopticon is a socio-material template for institutional orders of
all kinds ranging from prisons, to schools, to factories, to hospitals.2 In its abstract form, the
2 While we are often reminded that Jeremy Bentham’s prison was never actually built, there are a number of
important historical corollaries that provide interesting insight. See: Werret (1999).
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Panopticon “is a diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form” (Foucault 1977:
205) but as William Bogard argues:
this should not be confused with an ideological formation or a representation
which masks the truth of social relations… It is an unstable historical formation,
neither universal nor the totality of social relations, but rather the form of a
changing amalgam of localized events and processes” (Bogard 1991: 327-28).
It would seem that in this sense the Panopticon as a diagrammatic object is somewhat nebulous
and while this makes it a perfect fulcrum for social theorizing it is arguably also prone to iconic
simplification.
The iconic value of the Panopticon stems in part from Foucault’s jarring description of
Bentham’s architectural plan:
At the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced
with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric
building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the
building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the
windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell
from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a
central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned
man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe
from the tower, standing out precisely against the light the small captive shadows
in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small
theaters, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly
visible (Foucault 1977: 200).
This vivid image has resonated both in academic writing and popular culture (Kammerer 2004;
Marx 1996), in part because of the idea of the building’s material capacity to enable total vision
and control. The panoptic structure seems to speak to the sense of helplessness individuals often
feel in the face of the overwhelming force of institutions (prisons, hospitals, schools, workplaces,
families) to determine life within their confines… the sense that there is nowhere to run and
nowhere to hide.
This material structuring of visibility is only one half of the panoptic equation. There is also an
important component of horror. As Foucault continues:
Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable.
Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the
central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never
know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that
he may always be so… the Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the
seeing/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever
seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.
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Not only does the panoptic machine make one visible but it also hides the operations (the
motives, practices and ethics) of the supposed viewer. To know one is being seen without being
able to see carries with it an uncertainty that becomes a source of anxiety, discomfort and
terror… Who is watching? Why are they watching? What will they do?
This seeming combination of structurally imposed visibility (one is always seen) and perceptual
uncertainty (but one cannot see) has led many commentators to focus on the centrality of vision
in the production of social control. Indeed, for some, this focus on vision has become a primary
source of critique (Jay 1986; Yar 2003). Yet, as Bogard (1991) has observed, Foucault’s
comments on the seeing/being seen relationship should be understood as a consequence, not a
cause, of the panoptic diagram:
If Foucault emphasized the importance of the gaze… it was always with a view
to other problems: first, of the standardization of multiple techniques the
concrete operations for partitioning space and ordering temporal relations (i.e.
imposing form on the multiplicity of human conduct), and second, of linking these
operations to the forms of discursive knowledge which direct the gaze and give it
its object (336-37).
Thus, the Panopticon is not a vision machine so much as an ordering machine; a kind of socio-
material assemblage for sorting and arranging social categories and individual persons so that
they can be seen and understood. It is this sorting process with its origins in early modern plague
management (according to Foucault) that produces the possibility of a certain kind of dominating
vision (Green 1999). Crucially then, in a world where vision is increasingly attenuated, dispersed
and mediated through communications technologies, it is to the prior panoptic sorting rather than
to vision that we must attend.
Two Panoptic Sorts
While poignant, the social-material architecture of Foucault’s version of Bentham’s Panopticon
produces a kind of double vision; two different and sometimes divergent stories of the
development of distinctly modern relations of surveillance, control and domination. First there is
the story of what goes on with the supervisor or inspector in the central tower and second there
is a tale of what happens to the person in the cell (the inmate, the patient, the worker, the
student). The story of the supervisor takes us to a discussion of techniques of observation,
information gathering, data management, simulation and what Foucault later describes as “a bio-
politics of the population” (Foucault 1978: 139-40). These are techniques aimed in part at
producing manipulable digital profiles of the inmate (a data image or databased self) enabling a
variety of deductive operations on individuals as elements of a known population. In surveillance
studies, the work of Oscar Gandy Jr. (1993) is illustrative of the focus on the supervisory
capacity of modern informated surveillance. The story of the inmate, on the other hand, takes us
to a discussion of techniques of the self and a focus on self-discipline, normalization, ‘soul-
training’, the ‘anatamo-politics of the human body’ and ultimately studies in subjectification and
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governmentality. Here, the focus is on the normalizing rather than the supervisory effects of
surveillance. Good examples of this can be found in the work of Mark Poster (1984; 1996).
The Panopticon metaphor structures the development of both kinds of stories, but in the writing
of critics there appears to be some frustration in the attempt to reconcile the two approaches
with empirical research and everyday experience (Boyne 2000; Haggerty and Ericson 2000). In
general, it seems that the more surveillance studies stress techniques of supervision, the more
individual agency is left under-analyzed; and the more techniques of subjection are elaborated,
the less recognition there seems to be of the role of supervision and administration especially in
regard to information infrastructures. In the sections that follow, I will expand on the separate
stories of the Panopticon, offering some critique and attempting to draw out their relevance for
understanding the new surveillance.
The Inmate
The well-cited punch-line of the panopticism chapter of Discipline and Punish suggests that the
primary objective of the Panopticon is:
to induce in the inmate a state of consciousness and permanent visibility that
assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that surveillance
is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the
perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that
this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a
power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the
inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves
the bearers (Foucault 1977a: 201).
All of this is supposedly a function of the relationship of vision established by the panoptic
machine. Faced with an uncertainty with respect to whether he is being watched, the inmate
begins to watch himself. That is, he behaves as if he was being watched and so is careful not to
attract the ire of the observer who he imagines is there. The inmate thus tows the line and
conforms to the explicit and even implicit rules of the institution; all because he imagines he is
being watched.
The effect that this produces is nicely summarized in George Orwell’s novel of dystopic
panopticism, 1984:
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at
any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in
on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they
watched everybody all the time… You had to live did live, from habit that
became instinct in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard,
and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized (Orwell in Sclove 2000: 22.).
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Accordingly, Foucault observes that:
he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes
responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously
upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he
simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection
(1977a: 203).
Even if we understand the Panopticon as a literal system and not an abstract diagram we can
begin to update the model to reflect the developments of the new surveillance. What is important
for Foucault’s version of Bentham’s plan is that the inmate be aware of the gaze of the
supervisor through signs of their presence. This could be the ominous tower with its shielded
windows signifying the presence of the guards but it could also easily be the even more insidious
sign of the CCTV camera or the orbiting spy satellite as material semiotic extensions of the
human eye (the moveable camera can track an object just as a human eye can further heightening
the anxiety that one is being watched by someone). In any case, it is the sign of presence of the
supervisor and not his actual material presence that matters here and in principle, this is what
makes it possible to substitute fake cameras for real ones and still achieve the same effects of
power (Norris 2003).
Despite the conceptual power and attraction of this argument Foucault does not write much
about this process in Discipline and Punish leading some commentators to consider the
discussion of this internalized gaze of the inmate to be more about what Bentham was thinking
than about what Foucault had in mind (Bogard 1991: 334). Nevertheless, for many sociologists
and criminologists it is the idea of a self-policing subject that has drawn the most interest (Cohen
1985). Yet, on close inspection at least as far as the discussion of panopticism goes there is
actually very little to work with and sociologists especially have access to more ample resources.
The discussion of the internalization of control by the inmate appears perhaps as one part Freud
(the application of psychic pressure by the super-ego), one part Parsons (internalization of
norms), and perhaps even one part Goffman (the performance of normative behavior in total
institutions). While Foucault might be credited with adding the important dimension of the
regulation of the body to discussions of normalization his model (or is it Bentham’s?) is ultimately
not sufficiently volunteristic to be plausible. Foucault himself later abandons all pretenses to the
‘internalization of control’ thesis (see Foucault 1993) implied by Discipline and Punish but
importantly, the relation between subjectivity and power remains. I will elaborate on this in
reference to the simple panoptic machine of Bentham’s prison plan so it can be explored further
in the context of the new surveillance.
The most obvious and important innovation of the panoptic machine is that it signals a shift or at
least an addition in the traditional operation of power. That is, from the exercise of an external,
‘heavy’ force (the material and resource intensive application of punishment) to a ‘lighter’ non-
corporal condition (Foucault 1997: 203) of “mind over mind” (206). The language here is mostly
Bentham’s and forms part of the utilitarian justification for his project. As Bentham saw it, the
Panopticon would be less resource intensive, less expensive and more efficient in its effects. Let
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the inmates be their own guards, the workers be their own supervisors, the students their own
teachers, the patients their own doctors and watch society flourish.
How could this work? The operational assumption can borrowed from Bentham and also
indirectly from Orwell; the inmate learns to conform to the rules of the prison to avoid retribution
for any transgression. As a result of the panoptic arrangement the inmate’s attention is focused
on ‘doing the right thing’ rather than on scheming further transgression. When combined with
other aspects of the disciplinary apparatus such as isolation, routinization and training the results
are populations of so-called ‘docile bodies’ that are mobilizable for a variety of social ends. As
Foucault lets the principles of panopticism extend outside the wall of the fictional prison we are
faced with the ominous prospect of what Gary Marx has called the “maximum security society”
and it is here that the simple machine begins to break down. David Lyon (1992) amongst others
has argued there are important limits to how far the society-as-prison metaphor can be
extended, especially in light of the new surveillance (not to mention in actual prisons, see Myrick
2004). I am sympathetic to Lyons’ general critique but I want to address two points in
particular, the issue of agency and knowledge as it pertains to the problem of subjection and the
issue of enclosure as it pertains to the problem of power and control.
Despite the various structuralist readings of Discipline and Punish that deny agency to subjects
(Lyon 1994) the story of the inmate is ultimately not a deterministic story, but rather a
volunteristic one, especially given its utilitarian roots. Even Bentham’s original model depends on
the assumed ability of the inmate to recognize that it is in their interest to act according to the
norms of the prison. Perhaps more important is that for the ‘lighter’ power of self-policing to
take hold the inmate must have some amount of knowledge specific to the situation. They must
understand the rules of the prison, they must be able to evaluate when an act is in conformity
with the rules, and they must be able to recognize the signs of the supervisors’ presence. At the
very least then, the simple Panopticon presumes a population of rational actors who share a
homogenous base of knowledge. While there are problems with this assumption, we can at least
see that structuring the seeing/being seen relationship alone is not enough to effect social control.
Under a purely structural-deterministic model, people who are blind, ignorant or irrational would
be immune to the effects of panoptic power.
We can pursue this point even further; an interesting ethnomethodological aspect of inmates’
agency is their potential to feign conformity (see for instance, Wieder 1974). While inmates need
to know what counts as an action in conformity with the rules in order for them to conform, the
same knowledge allows them to act only ‘as if’ they are in conformity. These inmates may simply
perform in a Goffmanian sense for the supervisors that they believe are always watching
(Goffman 1959; 1961). As far as the dominating gaze is concerned actions that conform and
actions that feign conformity will look the same and the inmate has not internalized the norms of
the prison at all. While one could argue that the effects of a genuinely conforming action and a
feigned one are actually the same (the inmate still performs the same acts) this argument would
nevertheless have to abandon all pretence to a theory of subjection thereby re-routing power
back to its heavier external modality (the visible signs of the guards’ presence, a system of
material threats and sanctions, etc…).
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What the capacity to feign conformity suggests is that self-policing can not arise from the threat
of retribution alone since such retribution depends on the visual detection of acts of
transgression. While the Panopticon makes all acts visible (in principle) it cannot distinguish
between acts that conform to the rules and acts which pretend to conform to the rules. If visual
detection is not possible then there can be no threat of retribution and the simple panoptic
machine fails. Note that as a simple penalogical model the machine also fails if it rewards
conformity rather than punishing transgression. In either case, conformity can be feigned to gain a
reward or evade punishment.
The point of this discussion is that in order for the simple machine to work inmates must
genuinely desire to conform rather than pretend to conform. How could we account for desire in
this way? While it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a social theory of desire, what
seems to be the case is that the source of desire cannot be the rationalized world of a society-as-
Panopticon but rather a more subtle and diffuse process of enculturation that would produce
subjects under less structured and regulated conditions. That is, the simple panoptic machine
alone is incapable of producing a genuine desire to conform. Bentham’s plan would simply not
have worked and his supervisors would have to rely increasingly on resource intensive ‘external’
force to maintain control.
When we replace the panoptic apparatus of the prison with a more plausible scenario of say the
surveillance of urban streets through the use of CCTV cameras (Koskela 2003) the agency of
those under surveillance is no less important and indeed becomes even more of a mitigating
factor. The population of most urban streets is much more diverse than that imagined by the
Panopticon. Their background knowledge varies along with their understanding of what counts
as conformity and what is a recognizable sign of the supervisors’ presence. It follows also that
the more citizens know about where the cameras are and what counts as appropriate behavioral
norms the more they would be able to feign conformity in the camera’s field of vision. Indeed,
we can even anticipate following Erving Goffman’s discussions of the con artist, that no one
would know more about the situation than the individual bent on some kind of transgression.
Perhaps even more pertinent to the post 9/11 security situation is that the individuals one hopes
to detect are the very individuals that have the best chance of evading detection, especially given
more and more automated surveillance systems incorporating fewer and fewer human
supervisors. Again, I wish to stress the double-sided nature of stories of surveillance as
subjection. The more one knows about how one is supposed to behave the more one is able to
conform, but by the same token one is also more able to feign conformity.3
Let us turn now to the problem of enclosure in the simple panoptic machine. If we theorize
panopticism in reverse, that is, how we get from the urban streets to the prison we can more
easily see how the panoptic prison is a mechanism for imposing order on the diverse agency and
irrationality of the general population. Panoptic discipline functions first by enclosure. It collects
and contains the population. Once contained, the population is divided, isolated (placed in
3 For this reason, it may be more appropriate from a security point of view for there to be no general
awareness that surveillance is occurring. Power and contro l are entirely external and resource intensive in
such cases but detection is also much more difficult though not impossible to evade.
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individual cells) and oriented to the signs of the presence of the supervisor (all cells are oriented
to face the tower). In addition, routinization and training homogenize the population giving
individualized agents the shared ability to recognize and conform to the rules (as well as to feign
conformity). Only once all this is accomplished can the Panopticon function and even then it is
impossible to speak of domination. In the Foucauldian framework the inmate can and does
always resist as this resistance is no less a function of panoptic power than the control of the
population (Foucault 1982).
It is precisely in the conditions of enclosure, isolation and training that the Panopticon is said to
break down as an appropriate metaphor for the modern surveillance society (Bauman 2000;
Boyne 2000). Where the Panopticon signals immobility through enclosure, the urban streets
signal mobility and the permeability of boundaries as citizens come and go at will. The population
is not containable and therefore it is not isolatable. Citizens cannot be held in place long enough
for the panoptic mechanism of ‘being seen without being able to see’ to work its magic. Citizens
have neither the time nor inclination to recognize the surveillance apparatus and what cultural
training there is is sporadic and incomplete, even norms as simple as the rules of the road are not
universally understood. All this leads to the sense shared by other critics that the Panopticon
model is analytically limited beyond the forced enclosures of ‘total’ institutions (Norris 2002).
And yet, as if anticipating this criticism, Foucault argues that the Panopticon is not after-all like
the plague stricken town (an important point in light of Elden 2003). In the latter case, power
“separates, it immobilizes, it partitions; it constructs for a time what is both a counter-city and the
perfect society; it imposes an ideal functioning, but one that is reduced in the final analysis… to a
simple dualism of life and death” (Foucault 1977: 205). The Panopticon however is “a way of
defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men. No doubt Bentham presents it as a
particular institution, closed in upon itself… But the Panopticon must not be understood as a
dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its
functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction… it is in fact a figure of political
technology that may and must be detached from any specific use” (205).
As a diagram, an idealization, and an abstraction the point is not whether society functions like
Bentham’s imaginary prison but rather whether, in any given context, power strives to be
panoptic despite actual obstacles, resistances and frictions. The simple panoptic machine of
Bentham is too static; it is a material enclosure into which people enter and leave (voluntarily or
against their will). Foucault’s argument however, is that panopticism is itself mobile, able to
produce the effects of enclosure wherever people might be found. Bentham’s panoptic
architecture is misleading in this regard, there is nothing about enclosure per se that requires its
conception in terms of a material structure, indeed, at times for Foucault enclosure is more a
property of the psyche than a concrete spatial arrangement. This seems to be the case for
instance, when he discusses his project in terms of a genealogy of the modern soul (Foucault
1977: 29) writing that “the soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy; the soul is the
prison of the body” (30).
While scholars such as Judith Butler have developed this idea into a psychoanalytic interpretation
of Foucault’s theory of the subject (Butler 1997), I am inclined to search for these enclosures
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elsewhere. While late modern populations are more mobile and exercise more agency than
Foucault seems to account for it also seems that the mobility and agency of populations is still
produced by cultural perceptions of where and when it is permissible or even desirable to move
and act. This late modern condition of high mobility is arguably one of relative enclosure not the
absence of enclosure. Even the highway, that paragon of mobility, is a space of enclosure
between the various off-ramps. Or in an airplane, even while hurtling thr ough the air, are
passengers not caught in a structure more immobilizing than any prison?4 These material
boundaries and limits are continually augmented by cultural discourses that reconstruct the home,
the workplace, the school, and the mall even as the distinctions between these spaces are
eroded. Once enclosed not just by walls, but also by the cultural perception of limits, isolation
and differentiation are possible; in front of the television or computer, at one’s desk, in one’s seat
or in one’s car. At these moments our gaze may be turned inward, to reflect on, to police or
even to calculate one’s behavior. All that panopticism arguably requires of us is segmentation
and differentiation, the marking of our passage from one spatial and cultural zone to the next.
What about the problem of heterogeneous knowledge in the general population relative to
prison-like enclosures? Segmentation and differentiation alone are not enough without their
recognition and understanding. One needs to know when one enters the space of a school or a
home in order to know how one is supposed to behave there. Reading with Foucault rather than
against him (Mathesion 1997), we can theorize a role for the synoptic machine of the modern
culture industries accounted for by the critical theory tradition. According to critics like
Mathesion and Baudrillard, our relation to modern media is synoptic not panoptic; it can be
described by a visual relation in which the many (an audience) observe the few (the television
broadcast) but one can argue that such a synoptic apparatus exists symbiotically with the
panoptic as a means of generating surveillable cultural enclosures.5 While it is beyond the scope
of this paper to elaborate on this point, one can draw on media theory to argue that the synoptic
function of media is to produce a more or less homogenous knowledge and culture that will
ideally be shared by ever larger and more diverse populations across space and time (even if this
is not the case in practice). An appropriate update to Foucault’s argument would be that
audiences for these media are enculturated rather than trained or disciplined in any formal sense
and audience behaviors are structured (though not determined) by the synoptic management of
perception, risk, morality, desire and truth. One need not necessarily leave the Foucauldian
frame altogether since the suggestion is that the media are primarily engaged in the production of
kinds of cultural enclosures that produce panoptic effects not at all dissimilar from the Benthamite
model.6
4 Indeed, as mobile enclosures, airplanes are perfectly surveillable spaces amenable to the latest
technologies.
5 One need only consider 1984 in which the propaganda machine of the State gets equal billing with the
Thought Police in Orwell’s dystopic ecology of domination.
6 See Hier (2003) for a more Foucauldian argument developed along these lines.
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The Supervisor
I have considered the story of the inmate at some length now let us turn to the supervisor. I find
Foucault’s panopticism chapter to be quite frustrating because while in the lead up to the
presentation of the Panopticon he patiently outlines precursory techniques of identification,
classification and evaluation developed as a means of plague management these become
effectively superfluous once the panoptic machine goes into operation and power shifts ‘down’
to the soul of the inmate. Why does Foucault initially focus so much on the supervisor’s capacity
to organize time and space, and generate knowledge when the point of the panoptic machine is
that power may function perfectly well without his presence? More specifically, if the mere threat
of the supervisor’s (or anyone else’s) vision is enough to induce conformity then why should the
supervisor bother to look let alone collect any data?
Some critics have suggested that Foucault may have gotten off track in devoting too much
emphasis to the internalization-of-control thesis of the inmate story. For instance, Lauren
Goodland (2003) argues that:
Foucault notices Bentham’s stipulation that ‘the persons to be inspected should
always feel themselves as if under inspection,’ but he virtually ignores its
supplement: ‘what is also of importance is, that for the greatest proportion of
time possible, each man should actually be under inspection’ so that ‘the
inspector may have the satisfaction of knowing, that the discipline actually has
the effect which it is designed to have’ and so that he can supervise ‘such
transient and incidental directions as will require to be given and enforced, at the
commencement at least of every course of industry’ (Bentham in Goodland,
543).
Bentham’s additional comments are helpful here for illustrating the important differences in
Bentham and Foucault’s interpretation of the Panopticon. The Benthamite response to the
question of “why bother to look?” seems to be a matter of added value. For Bentham
supervision is ultimately necessary only to direct the system, detect any transgression and to
make good on the promise of retribution. Without this, the inmate, worker, schoolchild, patient,
etc… would have nothing to fuel his imagination to keep himself in check. The supervisor’s role
in such a system is thus quite minor and easily automated such that “any individual, taken almost
at random, can operate the machine” (Foucault 1977: 202).
Foucault sees more potential in the machine than Bentham does. At one point, Foucault opines
that the Panopticon looks like a pre-modern royal menagerie where “the animal is replaced by
man, individual distribution by specific grouping and the king by the machinery of a furtive
power” (203). This has nothing to do with process of subjection in and of itself (since other
animals are by their nature exempt from the process) but appears in the discussion more as a by-
product of the structural management of visibility. The inmates, like the animals of the menagerie,
are lifted from the context of their natural lives. They are isolated and forced to be visible so that
they can be identified and compared to one another. It is in this way that “the Panopticon does
the work of a naturalist” (203). Moreover, the structural arrangement of inmates allows for the
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controlled intervention of experimentation. Experiments in medicine, penology, education, and
worker productivity are all possible because “the Panopticon is also a laboratory” (203-4).
What might Foucault be getting at with his comparison to the naturalist’s menagerie? One could
argue following Bentham that the supervisor’s roles as observer and experimenter are simply
crucial components for increasing the efficacy of panoptic control. Indeed, the laboratory model
of the Panopticon would be an important means of keeping the system dynamic by developing
better and more efficient protocols for training inmates to act in accordance with appropriate
norms. Certainly, this is one aspect of the machines operation but applied science is not what
Foucault has in mind. Instead, Foucault sees the Panopticon as a model epistemological device
for producing knowledge about the social world.
The Panopticon is thus a kind of scientific instrument like a microscope. Moreover, like a
microscope, the Panopticon cannot be reduced to merely a machine for seeing. On this point,
research on the sociology of scientific practice and visualization has much to offer. To ‘see’ an
object under a microscope requires the transformation of that object (Hacking 1983; Latour
1987; Gooday 1991). It is dissected, separated, isolated from the larger wholes of which it is a
part. It is then prepared for display, fixatives may be added, cross-sections taken, and so on…
the process is not at all ad hoc but the result of the application of skill in accordance with
detailed protocols. This is what allows the object to be compared to others and to a general
body of knowledge. The visible object is, in effect, a by-product of all these operations. In
addition, seeing an object under a microscope by itself is useless for the production of
knowledge. The acts of preparation, display and seeing are accompanied by acts of recording;
there is an accumulation of notes, labels, diagrams, images that account for the transformations
so that the object can be traced back to its source.
The situation is comparable to the inmates as objects of panoptic vision:
This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the
individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are
supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of
writing links the centre and the periphery, which power is exercised without
division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is
constantly located, examined and distributed (Foucault 1977:197).
Thus Bogard is correct to argue against Foucault’s critics that: “the diagram of discipline cannot
be uniquely identified with a micro-physics of the body, with techniques of training or
normalization, or hierarchical observation, but refers also to a mechanics of administration”
(1991: 334). On the side of the supervisor, there is actually a lot of work to do. In this context,
panopticism speaks to the capacity of individuals, institutions and states to know about social
groups and populations. This is not simply a matter of being able to see, but rather a matter of
arranging the material and social world in a way that allows for the display of social behavior
through the isolation and division of social beings as well as their organization and classification
through the discursive practices of the supervisor. For Foucault, the supervisor is not simply an
authority responsible for maintaining the system of control so much as he is a skilled
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administrator, a bureaucrat, a scientist, and a laboratory technician charged with marking the
connection between the individualized behavior of the inmate and knowledge of the general
social body. In this sense, not just anyone will do. The capacities and competencies of the
supervisor (or supervisory system) form an integral part of the panoptic structure, more so in
fact, than the walls of the prison. When the walls are removed but the supervisory capacities
remain we enter the condition of the new surveillance.
From this point of view, Foucault’s discussion of the supervisor in the Panopticon may actually
anticipate much of the recent scholarship on dataveillance. In principle, there is no reason why
one can not substitute the operations of a human supervisor for a system of computerized
monitoring as the basis for panoptic surveillance but for Foucault, this must amount to more than
simply placing a camera in the window of the tower. “What are required are mechanisms that
analyse distributions, gaps, series, combinations, and which use instruments that render visible,
record, differentiate and compare: a physics of a relational and multiple power” (Foucault 1977:
199). This is a tall order that calls for expert systems and indeed, it is precisely the computational
power of digital computing that allows for the panoptic administration of large, distributed and
mobile populations. Further, to the extent that digital mechanisms of administration can analyze
populations without the material enclosure of laboratory-like spaces we can certainly begin to
speak of a “generalized mechanism of panopticism” (1977:216). Foucault thus acknowledges
that the prison is an extreme limit of ‘enclosed discipline’ through ‘social quarantine’ perhaps
similar to the menagerie’s relation to the nature from which the animals have been removed. The
extension of panoptic principles of supervision beyond the structural limits of vision is precisely
what Foucault had in mind, it is but a hop, skip and jump from the eye, to the camera, to the
computerized database as instruments of panoptic supervision.
With respect to making sense of the supervisory aspects of a generalized panopticism,
surveillance studies has gone further than Foucault in demonstrating how information collected
from individualized persons is organized and manipulated to alter, manage or even control the
life-chances of those persons (Gandy, 1993). The simplest examples might be census data,
which is used to generate profiles of various populations that guide the development of
government policies. These policies, whether they be changes in the direction of state funds, the
opening or closing of public institutions, or the creation of new laws have definite effects on
persons independent of their knowledge. From census data we may move to insurance data,
credit information, marketing data, audience feedback, and so on. In all these cases, data
obtained from persons is managed independently and used to structure the lives of those
persons.
It is on this point that the critique of Foucault takes on its strongest form. As Anthony Giddens
(1990) has noted, modern surveillance can be characterized by ever increasing distances
between the observer and the observed. This simple surveillance relation has attenuated to the
point of non-existence with the implication being that surveillance operations of the supervisor go
on without any reference to the inmate at all. The form of control implied by this surveillance
operation is thus independent of the formation of the self-policing subject described in the story
of the inmate. As a consequence, surveillance departs from the Benthamite diagram and power
becomes quite ‘heavy’ again (this time with computers instead of humans) falling back on the
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capacities of institutions to make use of the information they collect (Norris 2002). In the end,
the story of the supervisor leads us away from diagrams of discipline and more toward what
might be called diagrams of control.
Societies of Control
Let us return to the panoptic prison fantasy. Certainly following Gary Marx (1988; Robins and
Webster 1999) we can extrapolate from a few guards in the central tower to some highly
efficient management and policing system, a kind of prototypical thought police, with an
increasingly sophisticated technical capacity for monitoring (through CCTV, infrared cameras,
electronic tags), data storage (high speed hard drives), networking (data conversion software)
and analysis (computers capable of advanced pattern recognition and multivariate sorting). But,
as many critics have already argued such a system is rendered operational only through the form
of material enclosure imposed by the prison walls (Norris 2002). Not only does physical
enclosure make constant monitoring technically feasible, but also self-discipline begins only when
the prisoner cannot imagine a means of escape. Once there is nowhere to hide, it makes more
sense to conform but as soon as the prison walls are gone, the system becomes more difficult to
manage.
At the same time, it is important to point out that this is not for lack of trying since the same
panoptic logic that envisions material enclosures also gives us the fantasy of prisoners roaming
throughout society with surgically implanted electronic beacons that could be used to direct spy
satellites. Panoptic discipline however, cannot operate through the technological fix alone
(despite post 9/11 security marketing). Without the enclosure of prisons, factories or schools,
subjects simply have an easier time imagining that they cannot be seen and as long as they
believe they are invisible their en mass behavior will be less orderly. Panopticism, as a totalizing
system, fails without an equally sophisticated cultural apparatus for reminding citizens that they
are being watched. Some scholars, like William Staples posit just such a ‘culture of surveillance’
that would bridge the gaps in the panoptic machine. Other scholars have issued what amounts to
a theory recall; the machine is just too faulty to make sense of the contemporary surveillance
landscape.
Gilles Deleuze’s (1992) critique of panopticism follows this latter trend while giving due credit to
“Foucault [who] has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure,
particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to
compose a productive force…” But speaking of western societies after World War II, Deleuze
argues that “a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we ceased to be.
We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosureprison, hospital,
factory, school, family” (4). As a consequence of post-industrial transformations in the nature of
production and consumption, even these discrete institutions are not after all, what we imagined
them to be. For Deleuze, there is neither a technological nor a cultural fix for this postmodern
social condition.
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The institutions of post-industrial societies are more unstable and fluid than what Foucault’s
model of disciplinary society augmented by culture industries would seem to suggest and the
effect of this is to decouple the imagined relationship between seeing and being seen; there is no
longer (nor was there ever) a direct line of sight in the production of panoptic space. This is an
argument that bears a strong resemblance to the focus of surveillance studies on the story of the
supervisor. Deleuze proposes that following from Foucault what we are dealing with is not
discipline but control. Discipline as a mode of power relies primarily on enclosures, be they
material, cultural or psychical. Control however encourages mobility in an attempt to manage the
wider territory and not just the social space of enclosures. Deleuze develops his model of control
as follows: “enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-
deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose
mesh will transmute from point to point” (6). While discipline stabilizes and objectifies bodies,
control modulates them. One way to understand this difference is that control does not act on the
body so much as the environment through which the body moves. Thus, “in societies of
control… what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a
password” (6). Signatures and numbers are used to mark and identify individual bodies and
therefore belong to a mode of panoptic discipline. Codes on the other hand, stand in for bodies
and serve as passwords for gaining access or not to social locations. As Deleuze remarks, “the
numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We
no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become
‘dividuals’ and masses, samples, data, markets or ‘banks’” (6).
The concept of the ‘dividual’ is fundamental here, in societies of control the individual is doubled
as code, as information, or as simulation such that the reference of the panoptic gaze is no longer
the body but its double, and indeed this is no longer a matter of looking but rather one of data
analysis. Deleuze’s very short and abstract discussion of the shift from disciplinary societies to
societies of control parallels the more empirically driven critiques of panopticism that point to a
shift away from surveillance as a primarily visual relation to dataveillance as a mode of ordering
information. In societies of control the surveillance apparatus does not act on bodies or minds
but on information about bodies and minds. In this respect, dataveillance corresponds to the
modulatory effects of power described by Deleuze: “the image of a city ‘where one would be
able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighbourhood, thanks to one’s dividual
electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given
day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each
person’s position licit or illicit and effects a universal modulation”(7).
This modulation is made possible by the capacity of digital technology to generate and
manipulate ‘data doubles’ of citizen-subjects. These are stable representations of identity such as
no visual enclosure could ever produce. The object of traditional disciplinary surveillance is the
body but in dataveillance the object of control is simply the digital representation of the body.
Consider, for example, the Iridium Authenticam Iris Scanner which is readily available for use in
personal security. As one magazine article on the Authenticam exclaims “with biometrics
you’re the password.”7 It is difficult to imagine a more Deleuzian tagline. The issue here is less
7 http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/11/16/comdex.biometrics.idg/index.html
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about sensory recognition (the ability of the iris scanner to see who we are) and more about the
stabilization and ordering of identity. Your biometric double, already programmed into the
machine is what allows you to pass (or not). In effect, you take on the identity defined by your
biometric simulacrum.
Information technologies act on identities (sometimes independently of perception) and literally
transform them into what Bruno Latour (1990) has called ‘immutable mobiles. Simpler to
arrange and control than actual bodies, digital identities are stable, transferable, transportable
and combinable entities. These are kinds of data images or data shadows. Roger Clarke (1993)
calls these entities digital personae, I have taken to calling them databased selves. More than
an identity, the databased self possesses a limited agency. It may act (supposedly on our behalf),
granting us entry to the gated community, and it may be acted upon by others in turn (to deny us
entry). It may have integrity as with medical information protected by law or it may sell itself to
the highest bidder. Databased selves also exhibit the capacity for growth as new data is
assimilated over time and by virtue of the systems in which they are embedded, they are capable
of long-term memory, risk-assessment, and the anticipation of the future. What makes databased
selves different from our actual selves is that databased selves are more easily accessible,
observable, manageable and predictable than we are. Databased selves actually meet the
Benthamite ideal better than the disciplined bodies of the Panopticon.
Mark Poster (1992) has perhaps developed the clearest articulation of what a Deleuzian reading
of Foucault along these lines might entail. Poster understands the shift to control societies in
terms of a kind of superpanopticism which he argues does not operate via external force or
internalized norms but rather in terms of discourse and the linguistic properties of digital
computation. Crucially, the story of the inmate is not abandoned so much as sublimated by
Poster. At the core of the superpanopticon is the computerized database; a sorting machine that
organizes and produces subjects. As David Lyon nicely summarizes:
the subject is multiplied and decentered in the database, acted on by remote
computers each time a record is automatically verified or checked against
another, without ever referring to the individual concerned… computers become
machines for producing retrievable identities (Lyon 2001: 115).
In decentering or doubling the subject (dividualizing in Deleuze’s terms), we are lead, as Lyon
continues to trace the story, to understanding surveillance in terms of simulation (Bogard 1996).
We do not produce our databased selves, the databased selves produce us.
How could this be? The icon for superpanopticism is neither the eye nor the camera but the
database or even better the form: the marketing survey, the census form, application forms,
medical forms, etc… The operation that occurs at the interface between a subject and a form
under superpanopticism is interpellation. We are interpellated by the form and the electronic
infrastructure of which it is a part. As Poster writes:
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the unwanted surveillance of personal choice becomes a discursive reality
through the willing participation of the surveilled individual. In this instance the
play of power and discourse is uniquely configured. The one being surveilled
provides the information necessary for surveillance. No carefully designed
edifice is needed, no science such as criminology is employed, and no complex
administrative apparatus is invoked. In the superpanopticon, surveillance is
assured when the act of the individual is communicated by telephone line to the
computerized database… a gigantic and sleek operation is effected whose
political force of surveillance is occluded in the willing participation of the victim
(Poster 1992: 94).
The diagram of superpanopticism is not a diagram of surveillance in the traditional sense, no one
is watching us and we do not perceive ourselves as being watched. We simply go about our
business while our databased selves are assembled, scrutinized and evaluated in much more
detail than the inmates at Foucault’s Mettray prison ever experienced (Foucault 1977: 293- ).
Yet, as the supervisory operations of the superpanopticon shift from actual to databased selves
Poster’s theory of subjection through interpellation runs into trouble. Once the database is in
place, it hardly seems to matter what actual subjects think or do since it is increasingly the case
that databased selves can simply fill out their own forms. More and more often we do not even
need to be asked for personal information as whoever needs it can simply consult the relevant
database. Roger Clarke (1993) has discussed the idea of active digital personae; these are
software programs enabled to make choices and decisions on behalf of a user. Rudimentary
programs already exist for filling in identity data and passwords for secure websites. As such
systems proliferate we begin to see large-scale bureaucracies act increasingly with no input of
data from subjects at all but if this is the case then how is interpellation possible? Interpellation
occurs when persons recognizes themselves as subjects of the call of another; when we
recognize our name, or in Althusser’s famous example, our hierarchical social position is
acknowledged and produced in the response to the policeman’s hail: “you there!” Without the
participation of actual selves how can there be any interpellation. It would seem that with modern
dataveillance, the grounded, embodied subject is increasingly left out of the story as the world is
automatically made and remade around us.
Yet, without something like interpellation in the model of the control society there can be no
subjection and a rift develops between the ‘docile’ databased selves and their increasingly
irrelevant and indigent bodies. There can be no recipe for social order here only more fantasy. In
order for superpanopticism to be a plausible model there must be an interface somewhere
between the embodied subject and the database; databased selves must somehow be attachable
to individual and collective bodies in the material world. Minimally, the subject must be able to
recognize him or herself in their databased double for interpellation to function and failing this
there must be some other means to attach material bodies to digital forms. Poster’s neo-
Foucauldian innovation moves us in the right direction but we need to probe further.
By way of conclusion then, I will suggest a possible direction for both theoretical and empirical
research drawn from the preceding discussion. Without abandoning the insights drawn from
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surveillance studies’ focus on the story of the supervisor and the development of the bio-politics
of administrative surveillance we need to continue to keep sight of Foucault’s later work on
subjection and the care of the self by focusing closer attention on what might be called
‘surveillance interfaces.’ These are the local, material sites where something like interpellation or
attachment takes place; where the subject recognizes herself in her databased double. This kind
of analytical focus recognizes the attenuation of relations between observers and observed while
still acknowledging the chain of social and material intermediaries that produce effects of power.
The interface of the computer screen, the camera lens, the telemarketer and even the simple
bureaucratic form remain critical components for understanding the character of contemporary
informated surveillance and it is in these contexts that we need to look a little closer at what
Poster means by the ‘willing participation of subjects.’
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Lyon (ed.). London, Routledge.
  • ... As Van Dijck (2014) observes, for some these data trails are seen as "a revolutionary research opportunity to investigate human conduct" (Van Dijck 2014: 198). Others fear "dataveillance" (Simon 2002: 2), a notion linked to the metaphor of the Panopticon, a hypothetical eighteenth-century design for a circular prison where a central, all-seeing watch-tower creates the impression of constant surveillance in order to promote a type of subjugation, or mind control by suggestion. Foucault described the Panopticon as a "a diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form" (Foucault and Sheridan 1977: 205), a symbol of the sorts of mechanistic oppression and social control that he argued were already widely institutionalised. ...
    ... As the popularity of games like Pokémon GO indicate, contemporary society is not captive, but mobile and fluid. Neo-Foucaultian theorist Simon (2002) argues that digital systems are now so pervasive that even large, distributed and mobile populations have effectively been contained by digital tracking and analysis mechanisms. As he also notes however, digital technologies have simultaneously distanced the relationship between observer and observed (Simon 2002: 13). ...
    ... Nevertheless, the individual experience, of datafication is often very different to its social and political context. As a result of this disjuncture the related theoretical debate has switched focus to instead investigate data doubles, those 'dividuals' (Deleuze 1992: 4) that emerge when people are no longer treated as conscious subjects, but instead objectified and manipulated as a type of data output, so that the method of surveillance becomes data analysis (Simon, 2002). ...
    Preprint
    In 2004, after observing the rise and fall of a global craze, Joseph Tobin along with numerous other commentators declared the Pokémon brand ‘dead’ (Tobin 2004: 253), but they were wrong. This chapter explores moral panics around Pokémon and Pokémon Go.
  • ... A too strong law enforcement also deprives citizens from their Human Right of revolution. A too strong surveillance also deprives citizens from their freedom of expression and freedom of thought, due to the panoptic effect [Simon, 2005], where citizens censor themselves, and change their behaviors, when feeling observed or monitored. Other secrecy are also required in order to prevent illegitimate discrimination based, e.g. on the user medical state, sexual orientation, or religion. ...
    ... Une application trop forte de la loi prive aussi les citoyens de leur Droit de l'Hommeà la résistanceà l'oppression. Une trop forte surveillance prive aussi les citoyens de leur Liberté d'expression ainsi que de leur Liberté de pensé, du fait de l'effet panoptique [Simon, 2005], où les citoyens se censurent eux-mêmes, et changent leur comportement lorsqu'ils se sentent observés ou surveillés. D'autres secrets sont aussi requis afin d'empêcher des discriminations illégales, e.g. ...
    Thesis
    Interactions on the Internet require trust between each involved party. Internet entities assume, at the same time, several roles, each having their own interests and motivations; leading to conflicts that must be addressed to enable security and trust. In this thesis, we use, and focus on, Keystroke Dynamics (the way a user type on its keyboard) in an attempt to solve some of these conflicts.Keystroke Dynamics is a a costless and transparent biometric modality as it does not require neither additional sensors nor additional actions from the user. Unfortunately, Keystroke Dynamics also enables users profiling (s.a. identification, gender, age), against their knowledge and consent.In order to protect users privacy, we propose to anonymize Keystroke Dynamics. Still, such information can be legitimately needed by services in order to straighten user authentication. We then propose a Personal Identity Code Respecting Privacy, enabling biometric users authentication without threatening users privacy.We also propose a Social Proof of Identity enabling to verify claimed identities while respecting user privacy, as well as ensuring users past behaviors through a system of accountability. Generation of synthetic Keystroke Dynamics is also considered to augment existent Keystroke Dynamics datasets, and, in the end, enabling sharing of Keystroke Dynamics datasets without exposing biometric information of real users.
  • ... These data-selves then become the focus of what Beer terms the 'data gaze' (Beer 2019). This is a form of surveillance in which the data-double (Bart 2005) is the object of surveillance rather than the embodied subject. Beer discusses the regulatory power of this data gaze, exploring who is empowered to make data speak and what is rendered visible or invisible. ...
    Article
    This paper uses the notion of the data-doppelganger as a theoretical lens through which to view the datafication of education. The data-doppelganger is the version of the self which exists in the significant quantities of data collected about both children and teachers. A psychoanalytic analysis of the literary genre of the doppelganger identifies the role of the double as a second self which completes the ego, expresses the repressed desires of the id, and regulates the subject as the superego. Using this psychoanalytic understanding of the double, the role of data in the policy document Bold Beginnings is explored. Data is found to hold a mirror up to the child, repositioning it as a normalised pupil; play can be understood as a dangerous, chaotic practice which must be suppressed and data functions as a regulatory device to objectify and control both teachers and children.
  • ... Par ailleurs, le paradigme libéral de la vie privée qui sous-tend le droit de la protection des données (Bennett et Raab, 2003) s'est inspiré notamment de l'image du panoptique de Bentham retravaillé par Michel Foucault (Simon, 2002). Dans un système panoptique, chacun peut être surveillé à n'importe quel moment, et la conscience de ce phénomène CJUE 16 juillet 2015 « ClientEarth contre EFSA » Aff. ...
  • ... These data-selves then become the focus of what Beer terms the 'data gaze' (Beer 2019). This is a form of surveillance in which the data-double (Bart 2005) is the object of surveillance rather than the embodied subject. Beer discusses the regulatory power of this data gaze, exploring who is empowered to make data speak and what is rendered visible or invisible. ...
    In this article, an evaluation of the English early childhood education context reveals children constructed as data. The complex, chaotic and unpredictable nature of the child is reconstituted in numerical form – a form which can be measured, compared and manipulated. Children are reconceptualised as data doppelgängers, ghostly apparitions which emulate the actual embodied child. The focus of early childhood education and care thus moves from child-centred to data-centred education. The author specifically focuses on the impact of this aspect of the performative regime on children who have English as an additional language – an under-researched area in the field. Foucault’s work on governmentality is used as a theoretical lens through which to understand the process of datafication. The author uses a composite child, generated from a number of children from her experience as a teacher, as a starting point for discussion. This reveals children as disadvantaged, as their home languages are no longer used to assess communication skills. Their data doppelgängers are not useful to the teacher as they are unable to demonstrate a Good Level of Development – a key measure of school readiness in English policy. The author argues that in post-Brexit-vote Britain, subtle changes to early childhood education increase disadvantage, promoting white, British culture and thus marginalising those from other cultures.
  • ... And although applying different custodian concepts to describe and analyse worldwide surveillance and control developments, e.g. 'panopticon' (Simon 2005), 'ban-opticon' (Bigo 2008), 'prepression' (Schinkel 2011), 'assemblage' (Haggerty and Ericson 2000), 'network' (Jones and Newburn 2006), 'web' (Brodeur 2010), or, more to the point, 'surveillance society' (Lyon 1994, Mathiesen 2013, it is fair to conclude that they all tell a story of governmental surveillance having become both more pervasive and intrusive, inescapable and often inequitable. ...
    Article
    It has become theoretical orthodoxy to point to and problematise a rise in surveillance. This article contributes to this debate. Following a still marginal yet budding number of studies that focus on the practical, quotidian level of surveillance systems, the article ethnographically examines the daily surveillance work of a number of Danish detectives. What is demonstrated is that whilst the Danish detectives openly acknowledged the need for further surveillance, they simultaneously often refrained from actually carrying out the surveillance practices needed. The article describes why that is. In doing so, it serves as a reminder of how the everyday reality of surveillance work may not necessarily be as effective as much scholarship on the matter may lead us to believe. Furthermore, it shows how these given Danish surveillance actors not only did not follow surveillance policies, they sometimes even actively opposed them. Contrary to the widespread idea that surveillance actors such as the police automatically appreciate new Orwellian opportunities, the Danish detectives commonly saw them as a hindrance to what they truly appreciated about their work. To them, an increase in police surveillance often meant a decrease in job satisfaction.
  • Chapter
    The extraordinary popularity of the augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go, fuelled widespread concerns about locative media play. Whilst media coverage helped to alert players to the potential risks of locative media game-play, the controversies also seemed to guarantee the game’s notoriety. Concerns regarding the commercial motives behind this equally creative media franchise have always been complex. In this chapter I reflect critically upon Hiroki Azuma’s argument that Japan’s intensely devoted media fans are vanguards of a future mainstream, postmodern consumer. Nevertheless, in an era of networked and playful media, meaning is emerging in different ways. Similarly, I would argue that the safety, or otherwise of locative media, is an equally complex adjustment that involves not only game designers, but also the players themselves, as much as the rules that govern behaviour in public places.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The origin story is an important element for any superhero/villain, as it provides context for a character’s seemingly out-of-this-world abilities. A radioactive spider bit Spiderman, and the Penguin was bullied in his youth. It can also be beneficial for surveillance scholars, inasmuch as it provides context for a once invisible but superhuman body of digital information that circulates as a proxy for us in digital milieus. This body is best understood through contemporary surveillance practices, yet metaphors of the panopticon and George Orwell’s 1984 proliferate in the surveillant imagination. I argue here that mapping an origin story onto a view of our data as a superhuman body not only creates a tangible representation of surveillance, but it also emphasizes and animates alternative surveillance theories useful for circulation in the surveillant imagination.
  • Article
    This study is the result of a rather unique approach to the MaRBLe programme. Filed with the desire to explore the relationship between academic writings on surveillance and elements of popular culture that concern themselves with the modern dimension of surveillance, the author sought the opportunity offered by this programme to illustrate such relationship in an unedited and pedagogical way. To do so, an audio-guide companion to one of the most illustrative episodes of Black Mirror pertaining to surveillance theories, i.e. Nosedive, has been developed. This episode displays what appears to be a rather fertile ground for the illustration of surveillance theories as it unfolds in a general atmosphere where the norm is to watch, as much as being watched. This paper, in the form of a written reflective note, is thus dedicated to the emphasis of this project’s academic and societal relevance through the display of a thorough literature review on the field of surveillance theory, as well as the methodological logic behind the project.
  • Chapter
    In Discipline and Punishment, Foucault implicitly rebukes Guy Debord by proclaiming that ‘[o]ur society is not one of spectacle, but of surveillance… We are neither in the amphitheatre, nor on the stage, but in the panoptical machine’ (p. 217). In our indefatigably surveillant twenty-first century, it would be impossible to contest Foucault’s claims regarding the potency of the panopticon, but is this necessarily exclusive of the power of the spectacle? This chapter will seek to answer this question in relation to Dave Egger’s novel The Circle (2013) and its film adaptation by James Ponsoldt (2017). The Circle also foregrounds the extent to which the wheels of Foucault’s ‘panoptical machine’ are greased by Debordian spectacle. Through close reading of The Circle, this chapter will offer a biopolitical reading of the intricate mechanisms of panoptic control at the interface between spaces of work and leisure, public and private spheres, bodies and machines, consciousness and communication networks.