Knowledge is Power

There was an episode of Seinfeld where Newman says “When you control the mail, you control … information  It was that quote that kept running through my head as I read Galloway/ Thacker and Foucault.   In reading “Protocol, Control and Networks” it seems that the media control people’s behavior by controlling the flow of information, by establishing protocols—“the conventional rules and standards that govern relationships within networks” (p.8).  The protocol basically makes people behave in a certain way to be able to access the information, send the email, etc.

Both readings took the idea of “knowledge is power” to a level that I hadn’t considered since I read 1984 in high school!  Big Brother does seem to be watching, both on the Internet and in the Panopticon.  When a ruling body knows what a person does—right or wrong—they have power over that person. For that reason, Foucault’s Panopticon serves as both architectural technology and psychological device. “Thanks to its mechanisms of observation, it gains in efficiency and in the ability to penetrate into men’s behaviour” (p. 7).  The notion of an unseen guard, as in Foucault’s early design, watching an individual alone in a well lit room seems to be the ultimate way of exercising control over him.

The behavior control idea extends into police.  While not unseen, as the guard in the physical Panopticon, the police force could be watching citizens at any time.  Knowledge of police presence, the fear of punishment further keeps them in line.  You never know when someone will be watching you, when a citizen will report you to police. 

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2 Responses to “Knowledge is Power”

  1. writeinbk Says:

    I think you made an excellent point about behavior control extending to the police, to push the authority further to FBI, CIA, etc. No one really knows how much we are being watched by these forces, which is a panoptican effect. The control of information dependent on peoples fears can lead to a stunt in growth in our society.

  2. You reminded me that there is one recent story that this reading reminded me of. As we all know, since shortly after the September 11 attacks, the Patriot Act allows the government to listen in on conversations of average citizens–to prevent further terror attacks.

    National Security Agency whistleblowers have recently come forward to reveal that not only did they listen in on calls that could not be construed as terror planning (e.g., phone sex), they passed the calls around and mocked them.

    This strikes me as a metaphorical Panapticon. Big Brother is not only watching, he’s listening to your phone calls–and making fun of you.

    Further information on ABC News : http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5987804&page=1

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