Research Paper - Panopticism Dec. 2008

Research Paper - Panopticism Dec. 2008 - Julian Neri Jorge...

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Julian Neri Jorge Santos English 1010-03 November 6, 2008 Distribution of Power and the Panopticon “For privacy and freedom to survive, we’ll need a civilization that is mostly open and transparent.” – David Brin In Foucault’s theory of panopticism, the most efficient way to control an institution is through surveying the subjects by putting them in a place of constant visibility. Panoptic design is apparent in all institutions and in every branch of society, both naturally and artificially forme. 21 st Century technology has helped to increase this level of surveillance in American Society. As a result, people are more disciplined because they tend to have a hovering fear of being watched. Much of this technology has been used by a central power, such as the Government, but the Internet network remains free of absolute control. If the Government seizes control of the Internet’s functions, then a nearly ideal panopticon will be formed. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Patriot Act was put into place. This act increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records. While terrorists were the justification for the increase in surveillance, the Government sifts through many normal citizens personal information and communications as well. The Canadian art-rock band, the Arcade Fire, explained the increase of surveillance in post-9/11 America on their album Neon Bible. The song “Black Mirror” explains the panopticon that is formed in both large and small-scale society with: “Shot by a security camera, You can watch
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Neri your own image, And also look yourself in the eye.” (Butler 5-8). When people know that they can be watched at all times, they are inherently paranoid. People will act in a way that will please the figure in control, whether it is natural or not. With no room for error, people are more careful with their actions and therefore more disciplined. The government has an enormous amount of control over the people in America through surveillance. Through the introduction of new technology, the Government has an increasing area in which they can see, and it affects all citizens, not only the wrongdoers. The Governmental arm stretches much further because of the Patriot Act. Several systems in place, and some that are potentially in review, allow the Government to have more panoptic power. One proposition currently in review is a system known as the “Ring of Fire”. A product of the Patriot Act, the “Ring of Fire” is a surveillance system in New York City that will monitor all activity in and out of Manhattan with the intent to catch any suspicious activity, namely terrorism. People driving in and out of Manhattan will be aware of the fact, or mere possibility, that they are being tracked, and therefore correcting their actions out of paranoia. The Government may use terrorism as an excuse, but the installment of surveillance similar to the “Ring of Fire” corrects everyone’s actions. This is explained by Foucault as one extreme of the
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