[-empyre-] the netopticon

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sat Jan 15 01:27:09 EST 2011

Hi Christina & all,

Sorry for not getting back to this discussion earlier. It's always tough 
fitting things in, especially when we are quite busy at the moment, what 
with getting a 9 month project of a brand new furtherfield.org community 
site/platform underway, which will be ready for the world to enjoy later 
on today. As well as day to day running of Furtherfield's HTTP space, 
where we all work together with projects and networked platforms etc. 
But, it is equally as important for me to stay engaged with these 
discussions on the Empyre list. So here goes...

Anyway - I will start by responding to your comment at the end of your 
post, and hopefully weave other bits in along the way.

 >Does building a panopticon make us feel godlike?

Firstly, it depends on who is building and contributing to it. The 
panoptican, or rather netoptican (linking it to networked culture), has 
its main hubs of user interaction. A bit like big shopping malls where 
most people go to shop instead of smaller, local independent businesses. 
I view Facebook and Twitter a bit like McDonalds; a corporate version of 
user interaction where people feel comfortable and safe. The familiar 
'elation' of consumer experience is an effective factor bringing about 
an assured sense of shared (consumed) values, based around the notion of 
product protection, official signifiers - guiding mass communicative, 
located processes.

So does it make us feel god-like? I am not sure really. Because if so, 
we would have made more of an effort to built our own worlds together, 
and generally we have not, we have allowed others to build these 
networked structures around us. It feels more like a new type of 
neo-imperialism, colonisations of different cultures and resources to 
feed greater powers, and people's data input feed this continuum.

 >Facebook members/users find "broadcast" relating to friends to be
 >efficient.  Is this listserve an aspect of efficiency or
 >just group formation and maintenance and gift exchange of
 >thinking? In economics, efficient markets are ones where
 >the price is right (in multiple meanings of that term).
 >Is efficiency also a spiritual term where we believe that
 >if we remove inner  impediments to creativity we will
 >produce more and more fully with less inner friction?

JG Ballard said "Consumerism does have certain affinities with fascism," 
he argued. "It's a way of voting not at the ballet box but at the cash 
counter... The one civic activity we take part in is shopping, 
particularly in big malls. These are ceremonies of mass affirmation." J 
G Ballard: The comforts of madness. Friday, 15 September 2006.

In reference to your above text, I would add another civic activity to 
Ballard's shopping mall ceremonies, and that is mass on-line user 
activity on the Internet and social (media) networks and what is chosen 
for viewing on networked tv.

It is also worth noting the sensory patterns influencing our will and 
the processes involving repeatedly seeing and doing things which enhance 
a sub-learned inner manner (whether awake or not), inducing behaviours 
which could be construed as instinct, yet are more closely aligned to 
very basic forms of familiarity and contentedness. When repeatedly 
viewing and visiting the same hubs on-line, will becomes something else. 
Efficiency in managing to visit the same portal over and over again 
becomes more a reflection upon one's limitations of discovery. Dialogue 
becomes less a reason and focus, over-ridden by the function of a subtle 
pleasure enacted through a set of protocols. Moving into a minute 
(bit-rate) state of being, or point of (sub)presence, addictively 
choosing to cooperate to a rhythm of Pavlovian like mannerisms.

Just because people seem as though they are communicating with others 
does not necessarily mean they are. Communication is so readily observed 
by its facilities and less by its content or explorative and 
investigative reasoning; we become vessels to share out minor 
consultations, forming a node, body part of a larger set of 
frameworks/organs much of the time feeding its existence. With the 
uncritical assumption that we are empowerd but actually we remain in the 
dark, under a user illusion.

In a supposedly rhizomatic experience, what we end up doing is walking 
straight lines - going to the same places rather than journeying beyond 
the parameters that tend to define our activities. If we can move back 
to the panoptican, using Foucalt's example; we can consider the main 
hubs (or malls) as central resources and areas of human, networked 
activity. Gate-keeping systems of groups, organisations and 
corporations, existing within a larger framework of decentralized 
networks. Whether these hubs are Facebook or a 'predictable' on-line art 
organisation; basing its relationship by controlling their members 
through economical means as its main relationship with others, they do 
serve similar characteristics in the maintaining and collection of data. 
This data is their resource and power.

The combination of these various hubs relying on our complicit 
repeatedness to come back again and feed their efficiently designated 
areas of selected protocols, in which we adapt and grow smaller within; 
alongside our intense demand for extending quests for comfort. This 
becomes our panoptican, our reliance on the less complex and simplest 
mode of interaction polices us, into an arrangement of psychological 
subjugation through protocol and self-censorship - our minds become 
linear in contrast to a networked of variant system(s) of possibilities.

"Survellience and control are the same processes - behaviour is a 
waveform to be modulated". Matt Fuller. Media Ecologies: Materialist 
Energies in Art & Technoculture.

I am still reading through and thinking about the other bits of text and 
will respond to them later on.

Wishing you well.


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