[-empyre-] Indra's Net

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sat Jan 29 01:40:09 EST 2011

I also think that the various strategies of resistance, the more I
think about them, are not without their own problems.  In reflecting
on Simon's discussion of anonymous in a parallel thread......  it is
interesting to think about how anonymity works as an appropriate
response to ubiquitous surveillance.

In order to be anonymous, you have to engage in blending in.  I live
in a small town that happens to have a medical marijuana dispensary
(two, actually).  But because of the nature of small towns (and the
large segment of the population that is freaked out about it), there
seems to be two strategies among those who use the dispensary:

One group believes that they should go into the dispensary as
conspicuously as possible.  They have their card and the appropriate
permissions from the state.  The best thing they can do is demonstrate
their identity and use publicly, to help mainstream the practice of
buying and using medical marijuana.  And hope that the community,
insofar as it recognizes them as members of the community, will accept
their behavior because they accept the people.

The second group believes that they should try to look as anonymous as
possible, because they are unsure if the legalization will stand, and
they are worried about what might happen to them if the police happen
to spot them or if their boss sees them or they run into a
disapproving person from their church or whatever.  They don't want to
be recognized as medical marijuana users (and some will travel to
neighboring cities to avoid being identified).

In both cases, these individuals have submitted their intention to
smoke pot to the central authority.  But beyond what the state of
Michigan says, they have to also consider what the local powers might
do with knowledge acquired the old fashioned way (looking) and what
federal powers might do with the state's records.  And so, either
there are two group survival strategies....  one relies upon strong
individual presentation nested within a hypothetical community of
support....  and the other relies upon aggressive strategies of
deindividuation to the point of anonymity.

While I don't begrudge people the peace of mind that comes with
deindividuation.  I do think that it can have the side-effect of
complementing the strategies of the panopticon.  Insofar as one can be
recognized, one must appear to be a law abiding citizen.  Insofar as
one can blend in all other things, one can avoid getting hammered on
the head.  It doesn't mean that the revolutionary desire disappears,
it only means that this revolutionary desire is sublimated and
repressed, channeled into more general forms of social rebellion that
seem to be as likely to attack the premise of the social itself as
they are to attack the mechanisms of power.


On Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 12:26 PM, Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk> wrote:
> 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.
> Best
> Simon
> 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.
>> _______________________________________________
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> Simon Biggs
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> http://www.elmcip.net/
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