The Virtual Panopticon: You, Me, Our Cell Phones, And The Internet

926 words - 4 pages

Modern western society is creating a self-sufficient virtual panoptic structure. The central tower of the virtual panopticon is represented by the internet. Citizens armed with portable multimedia recording devices accept the role of observational guards occupying the watchtower, and cells located at the periphery of the watchtower encompass the public and private spaces that a person occupies in the virtual panopticon. The same group that is being surveyed also does the surveying which differs from the traditional panopticon. Nevertheless, the combination of the internet, cell phones, and willing participants create a societal panopticon intent on regulating behavior. The virtual structure is very real and its omnipresence is what lends it to represent panoptic power and control through mere existence.
A panopticon is predicated on one primary principle; which outlines that “power should be visible and unverifiable” (Foucault 98). The visual role of the central tower is represented by the internet in the virtual panopticon. The presence of the internet is not hidden. People have lost jobs because of comments made on Facebook (Morgan N43). If someone is caught on video or in a photograph doing something undesirable, encompassing mere social inadequacies to outright criminal behavior, the internet is increasingly the structure that keeps citizens aware of the possible repercussions. The watchtower of a panopticon is the structure that provides this threat to an inmate in a periphery cell. The link being made between the central tower and the internet can be discredited given the amount of disregard for personal exploitation on the internet. But be mindful that this technology, this structure, is very new. Consider these ignorance’s of the internet’s power as the early learning curve that occupants of the panopticon surely went through as well. The internet, as a virtual structure, is very real in the sense that members of modern society are increasingly aware of the strength and inherent control that the internet possesses.
The modern cell phone, which for the purpose of this argument will encompasses all hand-held concealable recording devices, is the hidden object required in panopticism. It plays the role of the guard inside the central tower that is potentially always present. The size and portability of the cell phone is responsible for its success as an “unverifiable” surveillance device. In western society, cell phones “are carried around with us, increasingly as our own willing appendages” (Kingsley 354). Acknowledging that cell phones are increasingly present is how the cell phone acts as an extension or agent of a virtual panopticon. If the guard is the eye of the watchtower, the cell phone is the eye of the internet. The cell phone can capture photographs, video, or even record audio and post it to the internet without a moment’s hesitation. It is this immediacy of being constantly linked to all of society that provides the...

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