ACADEMIC POST- don’t get too excited.
If you’d like to read about a discussion in my social media class yesterday, go ahead and read on. I promise it’s semi-interesting. Otherwise…I advise you stop here.
This past social media class we discussed lengthy, but interesting terms like synopticon, panopticon, disciplinary society, and how the societal restrictions during the plague correlates to the way we live our lives today, especially on the internet. I was a little confused as to what these terms had to do with the class and why in the world we were taking time to discuss and read about prisons and the plague, but oddly enough there are some weirdly similar connections between these notions and our present participation within the virtual world.
There were two main takeaways I got from this class discussion. One- although I find them a bit elementary, there are definite connections of the panopticon prison system, how society was controlled during the plague, and how are Internet usage is subconsciously controlled today. Panopticon is a prison system where one prison guard overlooks multiple inmates, but the inmates can’t tell they’re being watched. This is the same sort of control the plague had on society in the seventeenth century. It was ever-present, creeping around, ready to swallow and kill anyone, but no one could see it. It had a subconscious control over everyone. In result, the structure of society shifted to prevent the spread of it. The government placed restrictions on and control over the people to know where they were at all times. It was a few people watching over an entire society, a concept which definitely relates to the Internet’s presence today. There is essentially one internet server that watches over millions of people. Kind of a creepy thought. To think that right this minute…while writing this blog post…someone, somewhere can see exactly I’m typing, know what webpages I’m simultaneously surfing, figure out my location, and probably a whole lot more. We never really stop to think about what we give up when we surf google, add pictures to Facebook, or chat our friends over the Internet. There is this constant pervasive big brother which most of us have simply chosen to ignore.
Well that big brother has taken a whole new approach to the idea of “Internet rights”. Yet ANOTHER creepy Internet concept. Which leads me to my second takeaway from yesterday’s class- In relation to the Internet, I completely 100% agree with Gibson’s phrase “We have rights, but they are not unlimited or promoted”. We do have rights to search and use the Internet as we please and while doing so we know exactly what we are doing in a personal way. The thing we don’t know is what exactly our web surfing data is being used for or the implications of doing so. Yes, there are rights. And they are listed in the mile long list usually titled “Terms and Conditions”, but of course no one is going to take the time to actually read that before continuing their web surfing. Which further proves Gibson’s point that the rights are indeed not promoted or unlimited, and there are ALWAYS restrictions. We just never take the time to view them… and that’s exactly the point.