[-empyre-] the netopticon

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Tue Jan 11 08:59:48 EST 2011

Dear all,

I am very happy to see a discussion of the netopticon on empyre.  Being an
anthropologist, I worry about the everyday effects of surveillance in our
lives.  The netopticon has been at the fore of my thoughts in the last
couple of weeks due to its forceful irruption in my own teaching practices.

I teach both undergrad and grad courses, and one of my regular courses is
post-structural theory at the undergrad level.  Last semester I gave
students the choice of either turning in final papers, or doing other
things, such as short stories, plays, music or dance with the concepts we
discussed in class.  This time the students decided to create performance
pieces instead of producing final papers, and they asked me to record them
and then put the sketches up on YouTube.

The first sketch they did was on Foucault's Discipline and Punish.  Since
they did not want to get low grades on the exercise, they played it safe and
represented the panopticon, the church and the prison.  The students
standing in for the panopticon wore each a single eye on the back of their
collars.  All of us in the audience enjoyed the performances very much, and
then I duly started to edit and then upload the videos on to YouTube.  One
was about Foucault¹s panopticon, another was based on Judith Butler¹s Gender
Trouble, a third was an interpretation of Spivak¹s essay Can the subaltern
speak? And yet a fourth was based on both Butler¹s concept of citationality
and Donna Haraway¹s cyborg.  In the end, however, I uploaded only the one
addressing Foucault¹s panopticum (please see

It took all of 8 minutes for YouTube to send me a message, after I had
uploaded the video, telling me that I was violating the copyright of Warner
Corporation.  I was truly astounded, since the music the students played was
recorded by my camera from the air, and I had no idea anyone could find
whatever marker they put into the songs to indicate copyright.

YouTube's message said I don't have to do anything right now, but I might
have to either take down the video or they might eliminate the soundtrack.
I am thinking of taking the video down this coming week.  Since all the
sketches had music, I have refrained from uploading the rest, as their
soundtracks might also violate music copyrights.

It is truly ironic that a video picturing a performance of Foucault's
concept of the panopticon was immediately censored by the netopticon!


Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Professor of Anthropology
Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas
Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
Campus de Ciencias Sociales
Carretera a Tizimín Km. 1
Mérida, Yucatan 97305
Tel. +52 999 930 0090
gvcetina at uady.mx

On 1/10/11 3:39 PM, "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk>

> Hello all, hello Marc
> what if one were to choose not to see the ironies in the Surveillance Studies
> Network report
>  (...."surveillance society is better thought of as
> the outcome of modern organizational practices, businesses, government
> and the military than as a covert conspiracy. Surveillance may be viewed
> as progress towards efficient administration, in Max Weber's view, a
> benefit for the development of Western capitalism and the modern
> nation-state." )
> or the similar manifesto of the  PCSO Watch project (which has "declared that
> 'We are all Police now'")
> and took them at face value, arriving at the question you raise at the end and
> leave unanswered...
>> what does watching the watchers allow us to do?>
> Different agendas, same persisting power relations, and thus one wonders
> where (as Simon writes: "Wikileaks has, by turning the Panoptic gaze back upon
> the observer, struck a
> significant counter-attack in what might be considered an asymmetric
> info-war") the counter is.
> with regards
> Johannes Birringer
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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