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Study Task 3: The Panoptic Institution of Facebook

In Michel Foucault’s writing about Panopticism, he describes how ‘Jurists...dreamt of [a] state of plague. Underlying disciplinary projects the image of the plague stands for all forms of confusion and disorder. Rulers in the nineteenth century embraced idea of mass plague that could disease an entire population in order for them to justify the introduction of panoptic methods of control and discipline within society. Similarly in modern times, Facebook legitimizes it’s decentralised panoptic power by giving the means of surveillance that Facebook allows accessible to everyone, therefore, like an inmate in the Panopticon ‘he is seen, but he does not see’ , whereas the user’s of Facebook’s social network see but are also seen by other users creating a society of web based voyeurism. Contrastingly to the conception of the original Panopticon, Facebook to an extent operates a more democratizing and equalizing version of Panoptic ideas, in which users openly share their informations, publicly. Facebook also relies ‘on a system of permanent registration’ in that by using Facebook, the users are subscribing to both the distribution and surveillance of their personal information as well as the ability to view the profiles of other when and how often they chose to.
Members of the Facebook community can view friends profiles without their knowledge, depending on the privacy settings they have employed but potential anyone can have access to their information, making Facebook uniquely different to Bentham’s Panopticon in which the power is hold by authority figure whereas on Facebook the watchers are random people within the Facebook community. Furthermore confirming the principle that members of Facebook take on both the role of the prisoner and the guard. The users of Facebook self-regulate their information based on who they think is looking at the information however this is always ‘unverifiable’ leading users to behave as if they are being watched by other users and simultaneously users watch the profiles of other users, imposing the initial sense of being watched. Users divulge their personal information and make visible a construction of their identity on Facebook in luxury users are then returned with in the ability to browse the profiles of others. On Facebook ‘visibility is a trap’ everyone has become ‘individualized and [is] constantly visible’ as the sacrifice of the information they share.

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