The Surveillance Paradigm Be the friction - Our Response to the New Lords of the Ring

A new social logic is taking shape: It’s all about surveillance. The individual is used as a mere provider of data. It’s time to break the arrogance of Silicon Valley.

© ddp images The soft power of surveillance - we have to stand up and say „no“!

Thanks to Edward Snowden the veil has been lifted, if only slightly, from the latest incarnation of an ancient dream: complete power through total omniscience. From An, the great sky god of the Sumerians, to the heights of Mount Olympus, to the grandiose pretensions of the Benthams’ late eighteenth century Panopticon, to the pinnacle of Mount Doom, to J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI, to the secret precincts of the NSA, this dream of power through perfect vision has been the siren song of all humanity. As Tolkien penned in the early 1950’s, “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them…”

German readers know better than most that however close this dream has come to reality, it has not long prevailed. It is up to us, all of us, to ensure that it does not prevail now. Our responses must summon political solutions that insist on democratic oversight of surveillance procedures, commercial solutions in which we reject companies that externalize responsibility for the consequences of their activities, and individuals who are willing to make a stand on what is right and what is wrong.

The Information Panopticon

That the dream is old and runs deep reminds us that it is not a product of any technology, and certainly not of computers or the Internet. Rather, it is a human constant that hovers in the shadows waiting to pounce on opportunities as they arise, century after century. I spent ten years, from 1978 to 1988, studying the computerization of the workplace, the basis for my first book, In the Age of the Smart Machine. It became clear to me back then that information technology was the next vehicle for the dream. I had read about the misadventures of naval engineer Samuel Bentham in Russia and his invention of the panopticon. Left in charge of Prince Potemkin’s estate in the southern territory recently annexed from the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Bentham faced the task of improving the efficiency of factories manned by a labor force of unwilling serfs and fragmented by a dozen languages of conquered peoples. His solution was a polygonal centripetal design with a central viewing hub that allowed a few managers to oversee a large workforce, while themselves remaining invisible.

A visit from his brother, the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy, ignited a larger ambition. Jeremy saw in his brother’s design a way to extract discipline and order from large populations of the unwilling in prisons, madhouses, factories, hospitals, schools, and poor houses. Bentham reasoned that ideal behavior could be achieved by perpetual inspection, and the panopticon offered the same result at a far lower cost: The continuous and unverifiable promise of inspection imposed a state of uncertainty upon the watched. He wrote, “ The next best thing” to being perpetually observed was that a person “at every instant, seeing reasons to believe as much, and not being able to satisfy himself to the contrary, should conceive himself to be so.”

The Daily Routine of Surveillance

By the mid-1980’s the factories and offices I studied were deeply imbued with computerized systems that had been designed to increase efficiency, improve factory process control, enhance communication, or streamline the administration of work flows. Gradually, I observed each one fall prey to the old dream, as supervisors, managers, and executives turned to the new flow of information to inspect and discipline individual behavior. Like Foucault, I saw the imaginative power of the panopticon at work, a wordless power that reached into the mind and body of each individual, preempting and shaping behavior before it was even a thought. One worker told me, “we know there is something that will tell on us exactly...so we hustle more,” while his managers fantasized about wall-sized screens that provided moment by moment detail on every facet of their operations, “ I can hit the buttons and see all the data I want.”

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 Nächste Seite   |  Artikel auf einer Seite

Hier können Sie die Rechte an diesem Artikel erwerben

Weitere Empfehlungen
Facebook-Urteil des EuGH Eine Banalität mit Zeitzünder

Amerika ist kein sicherer Hafen für Europas Daten. Mit diesem Urteil macht der Europäische Gerichtshof jahrelanges Versagen der Politik wett. Und stellt ihr entscheidende Aufgaben für die Zukunft. Mehr Von Uwe Ebbinghaus

07.10.2015, 15:23 Uhr | Feuilleton
Klangökologie Hier spielt David Rothenberg Klarinette zu Heuschreckenklängen der Art Oecanthus fultoni

Hier spielt David Rothenberg Klarinette zu Heuschreckenklängen der Art Oecanthus fultoni bei einem Konzert mit seiner "Cicada Dream Band" in New York. Anlaß des Konzertes war die Veröffentlichug der gleichnamigen CD. Die anderen Musiker sind Pauline Oliveros am electronischen Akkordeon und Timothy Hill (Gesang) (Video K06.mp4) Mehr

11.09.2015, 14:39 Uhr | Aktuell
Amerikanische Talkshows Showtime für Prominenz aus dem Silicon Valley

David-Letterman-Nachfolger Stephen Colbert befragt in der Late Show gerne Wirtschaftsgrößen. Dabei macht Colbert seinen Gästen das Leben nicht immer leicht. Mehr Von Roland Lindner

07.10.2015, 07:11 Uhr | Wirtschaft
Neuerung im Sozialen Netzwerk Facebook arbeitet an Gefällt mir nicht-Button

Seit Jahren fordern Facebook-Nutzer einen Gefällt mir nicht-Button – nun arbeitet das Online-Netzwerk tatsächlich an seiner Einführung. Wir haben Euch endlich gehört, sagte Facebook-Chef Mark Zuckerberg bei einer Diskussionsveranstaltung. In Deutschland war Facebook in letzter Zeit wegen seiner Toleranz gegenüber Hasskommentaren über Flüchtlinge in die Kritik geraten. Mehr

16.09.2015, 12:22 Uhr | Wirtschaft
Klopp in Liverpool Gebt diesem Kerl Zeit!

Was für ein Hype: Nach der Vorstellung von Jürgen Klopp in Liverpool überschlagen sich die englischen Medien, auch die Fans jubeln. Der neue Trainer lässt sich mitreißen und verspricht Titel. Allerdings nicht sofort. Mehr Von Peter Penders

09.10.2015, 16:35 Uhr | Aktuell

Veröffentlicht: 25.06.2013, 09:00 Uhr


Nobel ist das nicht

Von Andreas Platthaus

Die neue Sekretärin der Schwedischen Akademie wünscht sich was, ein Österreicher steht bei den Buchmachern hoch im Kurs, ein Deutscher indes fehlt in diesem Jahr: Viel Bewegung vor der Verkündung des Literaturnobelpreisträgers. Mehr 2 6

Abonnieren Sie den Newsletter „Literatur“