Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Web 2.0 Version of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon Model

(Jeremy Bentham's 1785 Panopticon Model, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Pleasure, Resistance & Social Control

Web 2.0 continues to accelerate and transform the landscape of contemporary communication. Friends are able to stay in touch via social networks.

Distances are eroded. Old friends are reunited.
Acquaintances become friends. Romances are sparked.

...It's become a personal tabloid for Gen-Y. ...Your uncool if you don't have one and your uncool if you talk about it in the "real world." ...It would be odd to say that I " poked" you during dinner.

In 1785, the English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham illustrated the Panopticon Model. According to Wikipedia, "the concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the 'sentiment of an invisible omniscience.' Bentham himself described the Panopticon as 'a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example' " (2008).

In Michel Foucault's Discipline & Punish, Foucault used the Panopticon Model as an extended metaphor for modern "disciplinary" societies and its underlying motivation to "observe and normalize." Foucault believed that not only prisons but all "hierarchical structures," including the armed services, educational facilities and factories evolved out of Bentham's model.

Flash forward 30 years from Foucault and the current social networks of some Web 2.0 sites are similar to Bentham's Panopticon Model. Social networks allow for pleasure, entertainment and ease of communication. However, some of the sites also convey the key elements of social control illustrated by Bentham in 1785. ....Take my recent expulsion by Big Brother.

(A Web 2.0 Version of Jeremy Bentham's 1785 Panopticon Model, created by Tiner).

The websites that will continue to succeed in Web 2.0 and beyond are the ones that erode Bentham's Panopticon Model. Kudos to Myspace and Youtube for allowing open communication and not enforcing stringent social control on its users. ...Imagine if Youtube deleted a video, because an administrator thought that it was NOT funny or Myspace deleted the profiles of Tila Tequila or Forbidden for accumulating too many "e-friends."

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