A case for the ban-opticon by F. Stalder

From the Nettime mailinglist came this post which I want to remember and therefore post on my blog. It was written in reaction to a link posted by P. Riemens:

Thanks to the author Felix Stalder

The concept of the panopticon has been very popular ever since Foucault
elevated it to the rank of a central metaphor for modernity in
“Discipline and Punishment” (1975). And the NSA revelations seem to
confirm its usefulness once again.

But I think this is mistaken. We are not living in a panoptic world at
all, at least not in the Bentham/Foucault sense of the term (is there
any other?).

I follow here largely Zygmunt Bauman, one of the last negative thinkers
in the European tradition. He makes two arguments against in this regard:

First: “Today’s Big Brother is not about keeping people in and making
them stick to the line, but about kicking people out and making sure
that when they are kicked out that they will duly go and won’t come back.”

And, more importantly, Bauman argues, power hates the
responsibility/costs that comes with being a prison guard / running a
prison (assuming they have not been turned into a source of profit).
They don’t want to be tied down, together with the inmates. They want
to be mobile, weightless and separate.

So surveillance has been decentralized and turned into task performed
by the prison inmates themselves, and make into a precondition for
staying inside: think credit ratings, facebook friends, google ranks
etc. You have to make yourself continuously and actively available for
surveillance, provide your own data, in your own time and at your own
costs, in order to avoid big brother to jump into action and kick you
out.

Some people are using the concept of “ban-opticon” to express this.

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