Does Contemporary Social Media Resemble the Panoptican in the Foucauldian Scheme?


It is impossible to disagree to the fact that the existing social media that we witness all around is not one of the most celebrated outcomes of capitalism and further it also acts as a successful instrument to enlargen its domination around the world? The critical enquiry into the implications of the social media syndrome will reveal how the social media is leading to the psychological domination of the masses who are its most ardent users. Is it a psychologically imprisoning us?  Are we subscribing to our own imprisonment? The well-known philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham gave the concept of the Panopticon by which he referred to a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind .

The Panoptican in application allowed all inmates of an institution, namely a prison, to be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.  It is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly.  This when applied to institutions of hierarchy such as the prison, the mental asylum meant that through the Panoptican a hidden power could be exercised which would in turn ensure obedience.

The greater thinker Michel Foucault used this idea extensively as a metaphor for modern ‘disciplinary’ societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalize. Foucault wrote extensively about how the use of power and further that of surveillance resulted in the creation of docility and obedience. This reflects that the Panopticon operates as a power mechanism. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham’s Panopticon. This remarkable observation about these modern social institutions had allowed for a new insight to appear in the study of power and the mechanisms of discipline.Building on Foucault’s insights, contemporary social critics often assert that technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society. In 2017, what do we consider a Panopticon? Is the structure of social media a self-regulating, peer reviewing Panopticon?

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  1. Lovely. A great debating theme. Social media too can prove to be a trap, if not creatively engaged with.


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