Counterpunch argues that the Facebook phenomenon is pretty much Bentham’s panopticon made real:
Facebook has ushered in a revolution, and a failed one at that. It is much like the panopticon – ‘all-seeing’, that surveillance device the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham pioneered in the nineteenth century for penal reform. Zuckerman shares more with Bentham than he realises: a desire to improve the quotient of pleasure in society; a desire to maximise the network for the common good. As Bentham commences his study on penal reform, he calls his device the panopticon ‘or the inspection house’.
The author, Binoy Kampmark, a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge, UK, goes on:
In 1975, Michel Foucault added his gloss to Bentham’s Panopticon Notes. For Foucault, the major effect of the Panopticon is: ‘to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.’ The prison inmate ‘is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.’
There are subtle differences. Members of the networks have become inspectors, just as they have become prisoners. People do ‘communicate’ with each other. It is a brilliant seduction: to give the means of surveillance to everybody in order to legitimise it. We see but we are also seen (at stages). We relinquish ourselves to others, but have the luxury of indulging in everyone else’s surrender of secrecy.
Personally I don’t buy it. Sure there are surveillant qualities but it is largely voluntary. And it is not new. When I was a grad student in the 1980s, I had a little script running on the VM mainframe computer that allowed me to see when any of my friends logged on. then I would send them a little “IM,” often startling and disconcerting them.
Today, we are used to far more. What could Facebook tell you anyway? Facebook is really part of something larger, the surveillant society/mentality which believes in trading surveillance for security. That’s the real issue.
…adding that clearly someone else has thought about this way more deeply than I have:
Filed under: Panopticon