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The story goes like this...

Once upon a time, a very clever man named Jeremy Bentham borrowed a concept from his brother, Samuel, and refined it to such a level that it could become the ultimate form of mind control in almost any social setting. He called it the Panopticon. The basic idea is that the population you wish to control (prison, hospital, school, workplace, any purposeful collective) is physically situated in a circular structure of open cells or cubicles (like the rim of a wheel) surrounding an open center. In the center of that open center is a tower (the hub of the wheel) which affords the occupants of said tower a clear view of every cell and its inhabitants (no spokes to get in the way). However, those housed within the surrounding circular structure cannot see who is in the central tower and, thus, cannot discern when, or even if, they are being observed by those in the tower. Consequently, those in the cells tend to remain on their best behavior, whether or not they are actually being watched, because, hey, you never know. As a result of such self-monitoring, Bentham argued, the State could save a fortune in government worker salaries; those in confinement would police themselves due to their own paranoia, thus making only minimal staffing necessary (I said Mr. Bentham was a very clever man; I never said he was nice). 

It sounds absurdly Orwellian, but we have, in fact, whole-heartedly embraced the panopticon concept as simply the way life is these days. CCTV, those ubiquitous eyeballs in the corners of rooms and intersections of streets all over the world, may be monitoring and recording our public movement at any given time (the better to take a bite out of crime... or to take a police baton to a placard-carrying demonstrator... or to toss some teargas into a bit-too-large crowd). Every web search, every cell phone communication, can be monitored and mined for data to be used for...well, we probably don't really want to know. Thus, as a self-protective measure against even the remotest possibility that our actions are being observed and noted, we alter our behaviors just a little bit, don't we? I don't think we should go to that political rally tonight after all; I'd better not say this or that in my text to you; maybe I should edit that particular bit of personal information out of my social media profile; I want to look at the source for the facts about this or that issue but I'm a little nervous about searching that website because... well... what if... I mean, just in case... better not...

And that's the idea.

Big Brother indeed.

Comments

February 23, 2016 @03:48 pm

You speak for a lot of us, Tame. Ah, yes...the keepers of the panopti/audiocon. How well we served them!

cc
February 23, 2016 @01:33 pm

those housed within the surrounding circular structure cannot see who is in the central tower and, thus, cannot discern when, or even if, they are being observed by those in the tower. Consequently, those in the cells tend to remain on their best behavior, whether or not they are actually being watched, because, hey, you never know. I'm a firstborn who went from being excited about growing up to dreading it. How? by trusting and obeying keepers of low expectations. By the time I started school, I was ready to believe it wasn't cool to think or act independently of someone who didn't wish me well...

tame
 

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