18th century England, through its social theorist Jeremy Bentham , manifested the European notion of the Panopticon.
The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The design comprises a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the managers or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter.”
–comment from Wikipedia’s Panopticon Article
Now take a jump from the 18th century to current times. If we were to take a look at current European censorship laws would find that there is a long history dealing with the idea of limited information and now-a-days we find that the UK itself is counted amoung the strictest censorship laws (being centered upon the ideas of censorship of motion pictures, video games and Internet sites).
The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to suppress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.”
–Courtesy of the UK based SpyBlog
It was once written that…
Any fair-minded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian ‘co-ordination’ that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.”
-– George Orwell
This notion of the panopticon has steadily taken effect and is being realized as we speak through the use of the internet, credit cards, and other such ventures. With sites such as Facebook monitoring all our likes and dislikes, what we do and who we do it with are being cataloged by programs trying to discern patterns out of human lives. We are essentially facing the idea of a virtual prison where we must always assume we are being watched. This is not something we should condition ourselves with, and programs like Tor are helping stem the pan-optical growth, but without a mass of individuals fighting against this injustice cohesively freedom and privacy will eventually be filtered out of the human experience. There is a global understanding that people in this society are feeling powerless and trapped within the developing internet panopticon and a call is being made for the need of the…
“assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.”
–(comment courtesy of spyblog.org.uk)
Coupling this notion with the example of political instability of Iran, there should be no question that the government or other governing systems rule the media. For example, in a country such as Iran the media can only report what their superiors let them report. With this in mind, here is some information on the Inform Iran movement and the projects that they are pursuing along with some insights pertaining to new character archetypes developing in this global world such as that of the new archetypal figure of “Anon.”
For one thing, Iranian people and their supporters are using a computer program dubbed the Tor Project. This is essentially how they have been communicating and connecting to rally those who are unhappy with the current regime of government. Imagine if you would, a secondary layer of internet that is secure and can go past sites that have censors on them. With a simple installation of Tor, your computer becomes part of a greater internet consciousness allowing this new layer more bandwidth by sharing your own. This project is a node of connection that allows more and more information to flow in and out of different revolutionary groups. All you have to do is essentially set the program up and keep it on or in hibernate mode and you will be doing your part in helping such political reactionary groups or simply being anonymous in your own internet dealings. So if you have ever felt the need to have privacy on the internet, downloading programs such as Tor or freegate this is step one.
An interesting implication to the idea of a Tor network is that it works based of creating different connected nodes which spread the overall network out in a free and without corporate sponsorship, internet connection. Why might people not want such a thing? For starters it would take money away from the corporations selling internet as a resource. We must ask ourselves in such unique times, why is free information being sold, and why haven’t we been just doing this ourselves? With a constant bridge between each computer that is on, we could have global internet for free.
Another funny idea that comes along with the advent of a global, free internet is the idea of the anonymous character archetype. The virtual bully, the villain without a form to attack. We see such identities on websites that have been censored such as 4chan with their /b (or random channel) which is made of individual beings that come together to form the idea of Anon. The anonymous god of the internet, blessing those it chooses to with information, while at the time time tearing down religious groups such as Scientology.
–image via Flickr
With these thoughts in mind we must ask ourselves how we feel about the fact that there are anonymous presences on the internet, actively working in real life to overthrow governments, or simply just to have privacy. In a day and age where privacy has succumbed to the vast machine’s virtual panopticon (the grid), shall we do our part to ensure ourselves privacy? OR is all information simply there to be filtered through by programs and people alike, searching for your patterns and your essential identity?
Just things to think about.