Heresy, Hacktivism and Hypocrisy

April 1, 2011

Misconceptions about the digital panopticon and the quest for radical transparency


The ubiquity of, and increasing ease of access to, information in our digital age relies on a necessary dissolution of spatial boundaries in our shared virtual topography. The city can no longer depend entirely on physical obstructions to demarcate space – and as virtual networks continue to be forged globally, the authority of our physical boundaries has been severely compromised. With this dynamic dissolution and reconfiguration of boundaries comes speculation about the benefit and appropriateness of our newfound ability to make such immediate and unrestricted connections – and a subsequent paranoia about humanity’s subscription to a panoptic mode of living.

This essay seeks to examine the nature of the boundary condition in virtual space, with particular reference to the way in which information is voluntarily or unconsciously disseminated across a de-territorialized or partially territorialized virtual topography. In recent times, both Google Street View and WikiLeaks have attempted to provide mechanisms for the unrestricted dissemination of information – and both have been met with a pendulum of fierce public debate.

And so, in the formulation of this argument, the following will be examined: –

  1. The recently implemented “opt-out” policies enabling individuals to elect NOT to share images of their properties online via Google’s Street View, and the subsequent vandalism of “pixelated” homes in Essen, Germany;
  2. The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on selected online financial providers by self-proclaimed “hacktivists” as a means of avenging the attempted closure of radical online advocate for political transparency, WikiLeaks

In dissecting the tug-of-war between resisting and advocating parties of radical online transparency in relation to these case studies, the relevance of the Orwellian analogy will be tested, and a judgement made as to whether our panoptic-paranoia is, in fact, warranted.

Yes, Big Brother is watching you. But aren’t you also watching him?

Progressive Bibliography ]


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