04th Oct2012

Panoptic Spaces

by robertjiles

1)   When discussing constant visibility created by the Panopticon, Foucault says that, “Visibility is a trap” (200). He continues later to assert that a person knowingly “subjected to a field of visibility…becomes the principle of [his or her] own subjection” (203). In the case of social media, I wonder if our desire and willingness to constantly connect socially to others, whether strangers or friends, is truly transgressive or is our hyper-visibility in cyberspace governed by a form of self policing that limits our potential to escape the material trappings of our realities?

2)   As explained in “Participatory Surveillance,” by Anders Albrechtslund, “online social networking is an opportunity to rethink the concept of surveillance” by considering the ways in which “participatory surveillance is a way of maintaining friendships” and “constructing identity” (9). Not trying to negate the entire point of his argument, but when thinking about participatory surveillance by teens to build friendship, given that there is always a potential for children to be exploited in cyberspace, which manifests in unthinkable ways in the “lifeworld,” I feel that there should be parental surveillance that occurs to ensure the safety of the child. Also, I am interested in thinking about the idea of participatory surveillance via social media as a form of public pedagogy that helps to facilitate the formation of broader representations of nonheteronormative black masculinities.

3)   While contemplating her argument that “reading” race became an act of “seeing” danger in Rodney King’s black male body for the predominately white jury, I couldn’t help but to think about media coverage of Hurricane Katrina more than a decade later. Judith Butler writes, “The visual field is not neutral to the question of race; it is itself a racial formation, an episteme, hegemonic and forceful” (17).  Black survivors captured on video leaving stores with necessary supplies after the water had flooded the streets of New Orleans were “seen” as looters. Even with the live footage of black bodies in the midst of despair and devastation, a racist “reading” was “imposed upon the visual evidence” of their fight for survival (17). The gaze automatically transformed victims of a violent act (the breaking of the levies), which could have been prevented by the Bush administration, into criminals.

Surveillance: Close visual or auditory watch placed over a person or a group of people in order to police and restrict physically and/or mentally; a means to transgress cultural, political, and personal restraints imposed on an individual or group of human identities.

One Response to “Panoptic Spaces”

  • justinsprague

    You read my mind, Robert! I was thinking about the Katrina coverage as well when I read this Butler piece. I can’t remember which paper/blog it was, but they juxtaposed two pictures of families leaving stores with supplies, one white one black. Under the white photo the caption read something like “a family struggling for survival” and the other was the one you pointed out, saying the family was “looting.” A lot of interesting and problematic ‘reading’ was going on during that time period. I’d be interested to see if there are any aggregated archives of trauma footage/news coverage where ‘reading’ in various forms informs the content of the articles.

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