Prem Chandavarkar on Sat, 5 Dec 2009 21:02:53 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Handoko Suwono: Facebook paves its way to IPO

I agree - the question is one of transparency and not capitalism.  And this
happens because in current capitalism one unwittingly leaves an information
trail even through very mundane and routine activities.  So for example if I
purchase something with my credit card, I am offering information on who I
am, where I live, what I buy, when I buy, what my shopping patterns are, and
more.  Somebody gathers this data, analyses it and and then acts on it in a
way that will ultimately affect me in some way.  And I do not know what is
happening behind the scenes and how actions by some pretty powerful folks
are being targeted at people like me.

The 18th century English utilitarian philosophy Jeremy Bentham came up with
a design for prisons called the "panopticon".  In this design, the prison
cells are arranged in a circular configuration, and at the centre of the
circle is a watch tower.  The guard enters the watch tower from a hidden
staircase at its base, and the watch point is screened by louvers so the
prisoners cannot make out whether the guard is in his tower or not, or when
he comes and goes.  The radial configuration makes it impossible for a
prisoner to see the next prisoner in an adjacent cell, and they can only see
the watch tower (without the knowledge about the presence of the guard).
 Bentham argues for the efficiency of this design by pointing out that it is
not necessary for a guard to be there all the time.  The mere possibility of
being watched at any time without knowing whether they are being watched,
and the inability to communicate with adjacent cells, will automatically
force the prisoners to behave.

So are we all now living in a virtual panopticon?  It is crucial to note
that the key to the efficiency of the panopticon is the invisibility of the
guard in the watch tower.  Similarly if the mining and aggregation of data
happened in a transparent manner in full public gaze, the issue would be
very different.  But that is not the course that current capitalism is

2009/12/4 marc garrett <>

> Hi Michael,
> It seems to me that it is not capitalism at issue here, more those who
> introduce frameworks in the guise of something else - a wolf in sheep's
> clothing. You do not necessarily have to be capitalist to exploit
> others, but it helps :-)

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