[-empyre-] Indra's Net

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Fri Jan 28 04:26:34 EST 2011

Actually, the term netopticon works quite well here as an augmentation of
the panopticon as it implies the networked, mesh-like and rhizomic character
of the surveillance culture you describe in your email Pat. I think this is
what Shoshan was trying to get at.



On 27/01/2011 12:36, "Lichty, Patrick" <plichty at colum.edu> wrote:

> The Age of the Transparent
> ³The global village is at once as wide as the planet and as small as the
> little town where
> everybody is maliciously engaged in poking his nose into everybody else¹s
> business.
> The global village is a world in which you don¹t necessarily have harmony; you
> have
> extreme concern with every else¹s business and much involvement in everybody
> else¹s life. It¹s a sort of Ann Landers column written larger. And it doesn¹t
> necessarily
> mean harmony and peace and quiet, but it does mean huge involvement in
> everybody else¹s affairs. And so, the global village is as big as a planet and
> as
> small as the village post office.²
> -- ³McLuhan on McLuhanism,² WNDT Educational Broadcasting Network, 1966
> "There are eyes everywhere. No blind spot left. What shall we dream of when
> everything becomes visible? We'll dream of being blind."
> < Paul Virilio
> Given Foucault¹s reflection on Bentham, I would like to say that his analysis
> of
> the Panopticon seems almost quaint by comparison when McLuhan and Virilio are
> taken into consideration.  The Panopticon assumes a sort of top-down Orwellian
> scenario of ubiquitous but uncertain surveillance.  The issue here is that the
> Panopticon
> exists, but like artificial intelligence and infopower, it did not turn out to
> be like
> 1984.  I have my picture taken several times a week by tourists, casual phone
> users,
> bank machines, friends.  Facebook privacy controls are useless, whether from
> social engineering or holes in the protocols, same for gmail.  Skype stores a
> database of all communications that you and anyone else have had for as long
> as you leave your history on.  WIRED Magazine ran an article chronicling a man
> who tried to go ³dark², but was found within 30 days.  People can have
> personal drones
>  operated remotely by iPhone that could snoop in offices or outside windows,
> a la the British movie version of 1984. Privacy online, and personal privacy
> have
> become a vestigial organ.  In short, anyone can watch anyone else if they want
> and (top down, bottom up) there isn't much that anyone else can do to avoid
> it.
> The issue here is that not only is UbiSurv (Ubiquitous Surveillance) a near
> fact
> in the First World, but British house fraus crowdsource monitoring security
> cameras from their homes.  This is the gesture ­ surveillance is no longer top
> down
> ­ it has become a culture of everyone watching everyone else and putting
> it on Facebook.  Make no mistake, command and control (C&C) still exists,
> but government has begun to privatize the gaze to the aforementioned
> crowdsourced camera watchers, almost like Galaxy Zoo for watching for
> transgression.  But on the other hand, we are not in control of what our
> friends take of us and put on Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, or there has become
> a lessening difference between the police box on the utility pole, the
> ATM camera, or the millions of iPhones aimed at us.
> What has emerged is not the Panopticon, but a large, disheveled, all
> encompassing Indra¹s Net of architectonic zones of surveillance ­ personal,
> corporate, institutional, military, but most important interpersonal.
> This is where the relation gets really interesting.  When the capturing
> gaze is not from C&C to the masses (one architectonic), but from person
> to person or from the person looking back at C&C, (which could be a
> tool of dissent), the relation totally changes.  We wind up in an uneasy
> landscape where transparency is ubiquitous and as WikiLeaks suggests,
> the preferred state of being.  And yes, I am suggesting that in the age
> of WikiLeaks, the only ontology is that of the transparent, they can be
> found to be at any time anyway.
> But my students seem not to have a problem with any of this; they relish
> this interconnectedness, they feel that privacy is a relic, so why cry for it?
> If no one is doing anything wrong, why worry?
> The issue today, in my opinion, is not with the Panopticon per se, but
> ubiquitous transparency and like surveillance in the age of the personal
> recording device and social media.  First-worlders have become Warholian
> people watchers on steroids, and personal privacy has become a myth.
> The questions are:
> Where are the densities and architectonics of this Ubiopticon?
> How are the vectors of gaze (dis)organized, and how can the aware individual
> play them like an instrument?
> What are the strings in the new Indra¹s net?
> Can it be disrupted or subverted?
> Thank you for reading my cheery missive, and thanks to everyone for having me
> here this week.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

More information about the empyre mailing list