The Acceptance of Control Society

May 9, 2012

Control societies are taking over from disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster, and Foucault sees it fast approaching.” 

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’ in Negotiations: 1972-1990, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. pg 178.

– Well, really, who doesn’t.

Technology knows no limits these days, and is constantly evolving. Apple sports impressive facts about their new iPhone on their website. 8 Mega Pixel camera right on your phone. Super portable. Your happy snaps are of course not limited to your device, but immediately sent to ‘the cloud’, as you do these days, and pushed out to all your other techno-paraphernalia such as your laptop or iPad in a matter of seconds. Or maybe you have already hit the twitter button the second you captured your latest image and posted it to the world.

A few years ago when the idea of the camera phone was realised, there was a general panic across society. Employers feared staff would have access to sensitive information on a whole new level. Aunt Edna feared the neighbours would more easily be able to document her every move when sunbathing while they “pretended” to talk on their phone.

The camera phone dramatically altered ways of thinking about architecture too. A friend of mine in his early 30’s recently told me a story about the locker rooms in his primary school. The boys and girls showers where separated by an acrylic screen. This screen was not see-through, but you could sometimes catch shadows from the other side if someone happened to come too close. The screen did not quite reach up to the ceiling, and had a small gap towards the floor. My friend described numerous failed attempts among the guys of trying to get a glimpse of the other side by burring their head in the floor tiles, but the gap proved too small every time. Even if someone should ever be so lucky to get a glimpse, the likelihood of the aftermath being much more grand than a few screams and possibly head masters office, is highly unlikely. This is of course describing a scenario pre camera phones.

Around the time I got my mobile phone just a bit over 10 years ago, the front page of my local newspaper was covering a 9 year old girl proudly sporting her new Nokia phone. The phone was given by her dad who was chirping throughout the interview about how nice it was to be in contact with his daughter. People dismissed of both him and his daughter, and she was later teased both in and outside of school.

Today a 9 year old is most likely to be on their 3rd smartphone, and due for an anxiety attack should they be unable to update their Facebook status during recess. Following the introduction of camera phones and social network, the implications of what might be considered harmless locker room fun described by my friend, would today be more likely to result in images and videos forever circulating the web. Such cases are sadly surfacing at regular basis.

Previously you’d have to be a superstar to be so lucky to have your bum photographed on the beach, requiring a dedicated paparazzi with the right gear propped up in the nearby bushes. Nowadays we all have the gained the same opportunity to become the centre of attention, at any given location and not just at the annual family photo. This does of course not create much of a heated discussion anymore. Even with the major upgrade of the phones camera quality, such worries are now beyond us. We have much more interesting things to pay our attention to. Such as the monitoring of all our internet activity, hidden cameras in one-way mirrors and this fantastic article I read recently about how thief’s highjack random peoples webcam and takes a snapshot from it every 6 seconds and transfer it straight to their own computer to have a browse at what you are up to, all without you having the slightest idea about it. It’s very interesting to observe how adaptable we are as a society, and how we have a remarkable ability to rate things in accordance to each other. With other means of more severe control emerging, we suddenly no longer object, but rather embrace previous technologies that only a few days ago where considered the devil itself.



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