Thursday, August 07, 2008

in this New York Times Magazine piece about the subculture of hardcore trolls, online prankster-bullies who perpetrate often strategically complex and prolonged campaigns of "malwebolence" ranging from the puerile to the staggeringly callous, I liked writer Mattathias Schwartz's trope of "a panopticon in reverse". He's talking about message boards and online forums where most people who post have pseudonyms or go as "anonymous". The result, "a panopticon in reverse -- nobody can see anybody, and everybody can claim to speak from the center".

It made me wonder what Michel Foucault, for whom the panopticon was such a central concept, especially in his earlier writing, would have made of web culture if he'd lived to see it blossom.

Presumably Jean "Forget Foucault" Baudrillard must have written some stuff about the internet, given that so much of what goes on there (especially all the display-oriented, ego-costuming activity) aligns with and exemplifies his ideas of the implosion of the social, obscenity, simulation, etc. Then again, perhaps he didn't need to directly address the web/myspace/Google Earth etc etc, cellphone culture and the totally wired existence; he'd already effectively dealt with it, wrote about it in advance, long before it existed, in Simulations (1981) or "The Ecstasy of Communication" (1983). e.g. "all secrets, spaces and scenes abolished in a single dimension of information. That's obscenity. The hot, sexual obscenity of former times is succeeded by the cold and communicational, contactual and motivational obscenity of today... He is now only a pure screen, a switching center for all the networks of influence"