allan siegel on Sun, 13 Oct 2013 21:20:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> rules of the digital panopticon

People seem to be missing one critical aspect of the panopiticon and if you have ever been inside of a prison based on these principles, which I
have, the missing element is quite apparent. The central location of the observation tower created a type of one way mirror in which prisoners 
could be observed by the guards but the guards could not be observed by the prisoners. The operative principle was that prisoners could not tell 
when they were being observed and were conditioned to assume that they were under 24 hour surveillance. The theory was (and to some extent was realised) that prisoners would be forced to condition their behaviour because of the assumption that they were under constant observation.
This works fine if you assume that prisoners have no intelligence and that guards are strictly following the routines associated with
observation and surveillance. In fact neither is the case. So, a distinction needs to be made between the panopticon on paper, in theory, and how it worked in practice. I would assume, though I am by no means certain, that Foucault's essay relies considerably on the theoretical propositions.

Snowden would not be where he is today, nor would we have the revelations about the NSA, if he behaved like a good operative and followed the rules established by his intelligence managers.


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