Panopticism In The Circle

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Around 13th century BC in Ancient Egypt, the scribes were learned men whose job was to note down and keep records of important happenings within the society, such as, keeping accounts of the Egyptian army, recording harvests, or writing letters for townspeople and other relevant tasks. This record-keeping was crucial to the efficient functioning and life of the community. Several millennia later, datafication is as vital. The advent of new technologies and widespread knowledge has facilitated the noting and storing of important data. On an individualistic scale, we may note down important phonebook contacts, keep (book) catalogues of our favorite bookshop, or simply mark birthdays of our loved ones on our calendars. On the government scale,…show more content…
The extent to which snooping is carried out, how it is encouraged and justified and how the information obtained is used, are all central to the novel's theme. Michel Foucault's theory of "panopticism" is synonymous with Virilio's stance on snooping. Panopticism is an exercise of complete power in the name of discipline. The inmates of the peripheral cells are always being watched and observed by the “guard” in the central tower. This surveillance mechanism is uni-directional. The “guard” is invisible to the inmates but the reverse is not true: the inmates are always visible. Even their tiniest movements are recorded. Quoting from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (in which the Panopticism theory is mentioned), the effect created by the Panopticon is “to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” And so happens in the virtual world. Every Web user is under constant monitoring and their actions recorded by the spider in the centre, who is the manipulator of the Web and its users. And this automatically creates a hierarchy of power that includes the “watcher” and the “one being watched”. And so happens in snooping. The “watcher” always has their gaze on the “one being watched” and automatically endorses the “watcher” with a power over the “one being watched”. A quote by John Dalberg-Acton quite fits the description of panopticism and hence,…show more content…
This simple concept could be explained in simple words. When a person goes to sit on a bench where another person is already sitting, the newcomer sits on the other end of the bench, because he wants his personal space and values the other person’s personal space too. This is an unspoken and innate moral rule. Then, in principle, we should be able to ‘copy’ this invisible boundary from the physical world and ‘paste’ it on to the virtual world so as to acknowledge the need for ‘personal space’ for people’s digital personae too. However, the dynamics of the digital world do not provide us that basic right to personal space. Corporations and institutions encourage people to upload their daily happenings so that they can snoop upon them. And it is mind-blowing once one realizes how sweetly and slyly they prompt people to reveal information about themselves as much as possible. It is all about human psychology. Promoting objectification and instilling in people a dire need for them to create an image of them self on the internet so that they could be viewed and “liked” by some people they know but a thousand others they do not, are just some examples that some institutions/corporations work on. They have also linked the need (or right) to privacy to the domain of terrorists and discourage silent Internet usage (silent here meaning, not revealing information about oneself. Information that actually has nothing to do with national

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