We are living in a panoptic prison
In the 1780’s a panoptic prison named the”panopticon” was designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The prison its self was never constructed but it has been argued that the world we now live in is a panoptic prison. “…the panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system: it is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use. .. …It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organisation…” Foucault , MF, 1977. Discipline and punishment . 5th ed. London: Penguin .
The key operational functions of the panopticon are implemented through a psychological imprisonment. It operates on a core level through power relations “…he inscribes in himself the power relations in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection. By this very fact, the external power may throw of its physical weight..” (page 66) “To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector; too little for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so”.(page 65) Foucault , MF, 1977. Discipline and punishment . 5th ed. London: Penguin .
Panoptic’s operate through anxiety and fear. Authorities gain their power through the prisoner’s docility, submission and on a core level, by simply allowing them self’s to be manipulated. The application of this power is somewhat abstract but has a concrete effect on the individual. By being made to feel constantly under surveillance the individual self regulates in order to fit the perceived ideals of the surveyor.
If we are in fact living in a modern day panoptic prison the key questions are; who is implementing this system of control? How is it implemented and most importantly why?
Looking at what we live in as simply being “culture,” it makes sense to examine what constitutes its own implementation. “Culture is your operating system.. …culture is not your friend. Culture is there for other people’s convenience and the convenience of various institutions, churches, company’s tax collection schemes… … culture is a perversion. It fetishizes objects. It creates consumer mania. It preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding… …it invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanise themselves by behaving like machines” YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2007. Terence McKenna: Culture is not your friend. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYB0VW5x8fI. [Accessed 01 March 11].
The advances in technology over the past two hundred years have enabled communication within society to progress to an astronomic level. The invention of the printing press , the wireless radio, television and the internet have allowed information to be distributed on a level that has lead the mediums themselves to become an integral part of our life’s. “its doesn’t matter what you put on TV. TV is TV. It has an intrinsic nature. And whether you are showing national geographic specials or slasher movies, TV will do what it does. It has certain qualities like driving a car or skiing. Certain muscles are going to be exercised. Certain perceptual systems enhanced, others suppressed. And it’s very hard for us to understand this because we have accepted this media so thoroughly into our life. But in fact it is shaping our value systems in ways that are very hard for us to suspect or even detect. Television for example, it’s a drug. It has a series of measurable physiological parameters that are as intrinsically its signature as the parameters or heroin, are its signature. You sit somebody down in front of a TV set and turn it on. Twenty minuets later come back. Sample their blood pressure. Their eye movement rate. Blood is pooling in their rear end. Their breathing takes on a certain quality. The stare reflex sets in. they are thoroughly zoned on a drug. And when you think about the fact that the average American watches six and a half hours of television a day. Imagine if a drug had been introduced in 1948 we all spent six and a half hours per day on average watching. And the one thing about drugs in their defences is that it’s very hard to diddle the message. A drug is a mirror but television isn’t a mirror. Television is a billboard and anybody that pays their money can put their message into the trip. This is an extraordinary insidious situation…” YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2009. Terence Mckenna - Television Is a Drug. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9vBzJQsfOs
Taking it as a given that television plays a big part of shaping our culture, we must examine what is on television and how this effect’s us. Looking at the news on TV on face value, it’s perceived as THE NEW. What’s being said is taken as undisputed fact by a large percentage of the population. When looked at beyond face value, what’s being signified is clearly not as objective as it’s made out to be. The truth is often distorted and manipulated to paint a subjective narrative disguised as objective. By using the power of the media and its credible reputation, subjective agendas can be implemented insidiously. “The news” its self, operates through panoptic attributes. It gains its power through the audiences/prisoners docility. Looking at “the news” as merely a fragmented base in relation to the superstructure constituting the social institutions of law and the judicial system, “the news” reinforces power relations, showing that people who break the law are caught because we are all under surveillance. Weather we are under surveillance is aside from the point. The point is that we feel we are under surveillance, causing us to conform to the perceived ideals of the institution/institutions. These attributes go beyond what ill refer to as “important news”, spanning across to petty informative reports on the in’s and outs of celebrity culture.
Celebrity culture operates in the media on an ideological basis. Toward the end of the last century there has been a cultural shift in terms of what constitutes being a celebrity. Prior to this change, being a celebrity meant you had a legitimate reason for being famous, i.e. a talent/skill or you have contributed or had a significant effect on/in your culture. The shift has made it possible for people to be a celebrity, simply by being in the lime light. A prime example of this is the TV show “Big Brother”. “Big Brother” spawned an emergence of celebrates that where merely famous because they were famous. Not because they had done anything worthy of recognition. The projected glamorisation of being a celebrity through media creates an ideological value system for the audience/prisoner. Being a celebrity is portrayed as a good thing. It is glamorised through affiliation of wealth, power and elitism. Before peoples aspirations of being famous where merely pipe dreams. Since the emergence of mass media institutions such as “big brother”, the dreams and aspirations of the average person becoming a celebrity can be achieved, almost overnight.
Just as the media builds up the average person to celebrity status, it has the power to knocks them down. “Visibility is a trap. To begin with, this made it possible – as a negative effect – to avoid those compact, swarming, howling masses that were to be found in places of confinement…” Foucault , MF, 1977. Discipline and punishment . 5th ed. London: Penguin .. By being subjected to the scrutiny of mass media the individual can be portrayed in a subjective manor. The individual can be glorified or demonised to affirm the ideals of the system.
This aspiration to be a celebrity derives from the glamorisation of fictional characters in TV shows and advertisements. “Aspirational! Aspirational! It’s a tern that crops up time and time again in commissioning briefs. In the minds of TV executives, viewers don’t simply want to watch thing. Ow no! They want to aspire to be them! The thinking goes that if you watch the glittering world, you’ll feel like you’re part of it, even though you’re not of course! You’re just a plebe gawping at a box!” YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2007. Aspirational tv - Charlie Brooker. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59OJ17raqWw. [Accessed 01 March 11].. The fact that the worlds mass media is controlled by just a few people, allows mass manipulation to be implemented insidiously. Agendas can be manifested perpetually by inscribing them into the everyday life of the audience/prisoner. A bombardment of ideology’s are presented through various institutions and perpetuated via pressure to conform to the standardisation of numerous things. People’s conformity is achieved through persuasion as opposed to direct force.
By standardising things through mass media, a hyper reality is constructed. True experience is filtered through programed expectations. By witnessing representations of reality via TV shows, “the news” and computer games etc… The representation informs our perception of genuine unadulterated reality. When this happens, it causes us to see things from an often one dimensional perspective. By being ignorant and docile to what is genuine and what is a representation, we put our self in a vulnerable position allowing manipulation.
The seeds may be planted by a small number of people but, the effect mass media has on us, is perpetuated through our own willing submission. The prison we are kept in is one of our own conformity. We are pressured to act, dress and think in certain ways, but the fact is we take responsibility for our own actions and manipulation is achieved through persuasion not direct force.
Being subjected to ideological stimuli to further partition the glamorous from the average person is present in mass media for a reason“it’s their job to dazzle you with images that make you feel inadequate. Then offer a magic solution. Their selling you a membership card, buy this car or use this shampoo or drink this booze and maybe just maybe you’ll be part of the glamor gang too. For about 30 second until they try and flog you something else the monsters! YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2007. Aspirational tv - Charlie Brooker. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59OJ17raqWw. [Accessed 01 March 11].. It’s evident that mass media is used to sell products and commodities via envy of glamorisation. This panoptic mechanism is growing via cultural imperialism. The war between cultures is fought insidiously, so much so that many are ignorantly adopting this operating system oblivious to their own self-regulation and imprisonment.
Aside from CCTV social networking intuitions and so on… the mass media its self is one of the biggest panoptic mechanisms in this Culture. Culture its self is the panoptic prison that infiltrates our civilisation. We must take responsibility for our own actions and our own conformity, question things and not allow our self’s to be victimised by various forces and institutions. Our values, taste and actions should be our own. By rejecting pre-accepted stimuli and striving for novelty, our culture can be re shaped becoming more a socialist society as opposed to capitalist one.
“Catalyst to say what has never been said. To see what has never been seen. To draw, paint, sing, sculpt dance and act what has never before been done, to push the envelope of creativity and language. What’s really important, I call it the felt presence of direct experience, which is a fancy term that just simply means we have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture. Don’t watch TV don’t read magazines. Don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own road show. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe. And if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson, bill Clinton or somebody else you are disempowering. You’re giving it all away to icons, Icons which are maintained by an electronic medium. So that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. this is shit brained this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion. And what is real is your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes your plans, your fears. And we are told no! You’re unimportant get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that and then you’re a player. You don’t even want to play in that game you want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron, consuming all this trash that being manufactured out of the bones of a dyeing word. Where is that at?”YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2006. Terence Mckenna: Reclaim Your Mind. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARIG-BQRATs&feature=related. [Accessed 01 March 11.
Foucault , MF, 1977. Discipline and punishment . 5th ed. London: Penguin .
YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2006. Terence Mckenna: Reclaim Your Mind. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARIG-BQRATs&feature=related. [Accessed 01 March 11.
YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2007. Aspirational tv - Charlie Brooker. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59OJ17raqWw. [Accessed 01 March 11]
…” YouTube - Broadcast yourself. 2009. Terence Mckenna - Television Is a Drug. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9vBzJQsfOs