Panopticology, or why I get to be a know it all (especially about coffee)

By in digital, random thoughts on May 30, 2014

So… I have a phone. A smart one. I call it my information calculator for shits and giggles, but really, that is what it is. My relationship to information, like many people have said over and over again, has totally changed because if I get interested in something and I have just my phone with me… boom, in less than 5 minutes I can know more than I ever wanted to know… which is partially how I because I an amateur coffee roasting expert, complete with my own in office coffee bar (because I have 9 to 5 job and have made myself entitled to a certain level of quality from my coffee) for my personal use (and those who come over for a cup when I’m brewing) in my office. And if you think I’m kidding, here is picture proof, taken by my dear friend when she came to visit me at my office.

But I think this is where internet culture seems to be going. I think I’ve thought the expertise thing for a long time. It goes along with self-branding, and that role self-branding and popularity play in social media. It’s very, intense, and confusing. Or not really. I guess I should say, as a child of the half offline half online generation of teenagers, I find it weird. And I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m someone who is studying digital culture because I’m deeply interested in the ways we turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into culture (and the implications of all that). It’s sort of what I’m writing my dissertation on. I think the coffee thing is a part of that too. I’ve decided to be a coffee snoob (it’s like a n00b coffee snob), but it’s personal. I won’t judge you for your coffee drinking decisions but I might encourage you to try a nice single origin roast from Yemen because it’s fantastic. Or the blend of Panama Esmerelda Gesha with Ethiopia Deri Kochowa roasted just past new England and rested for 24 hours…. because omg it’s so flowery and perfect. For things like this, the panoptic gaze of the internet seems fine, except for I think we think we’re seeing something that we aren’t. It’s like this:

 

600px-Phenakistoscope_3g07690u

We think we are moving, like in picture at the top of the article, but what we actually see is this static world of non-movement. So I made this tweet to describe it, that I’m going to embed rather than rewrite because I can:

I think this was spurred on by two things I’m seeing in the internet circles I run in… there’s lots of talk on surveillance happening, and lots of talk about colonization, post-coloniality, and (my heart baby) decolonization… but I’m not seeing a lot of cross over, and I find that weird. Maybe a little confusing too… because colonization was always about controlling from some central source of power, have overseers, etc, out. And it was always about, even when that central power was invisible, making sure that those subjected to the power of whoever/whatever had control felt that control psychically. So… to me, and this is a thread through most of my work too, if I am being completely honest, which, since I said I’m a know it all I am, almost everything is about the methods of control, power, and relations that were set up through all the various types of colonization throughout history… and I take the history waaaay back… like.. empires and stuff. It’s just the human pattern. Technology, and seeing humans as technology for use outside of war settings changed it drastically…

So… what does this have to do with anything? Nothing really, other than I think many of us, myself included, are stuck in these suspended animations where we think we are making movement, but we’re really just on a spinning disk with a set sequence. I think that is what many of the reactions to recent social injustices have looked like. I think that is what the conversation around prison culture looks like. I think that is what the surveillance conversation is looking like. And I think that is what many of the attempts to break open the post-colonial into the decolonial are doing…

and that just brought something together for me. So now I will shamelessly self plug my article again. If you read from page 12, the section that is all performance studies titled: “Re/bound/ed: Mapping trauma and crisis”. I think we don’t realize how much we close off conversations, and how stuck we are. I used to think it was an echo-chamber but there’s too much movement for that. It is definitely more like a Phenakistoscope. A flat disk surrounded by dark edges where we focus on the parts we can see moving and take it for the whole… because that is our experience. The crappy thing about the internet information over-underload is that we assume we are getting a panoptic gaze of things, forgetting that the content we see still started with people. Even the bots. The underlying part is still human, and our experience, because… death. it limited.

So… not sure if there is a solution other than to keep googling. And talking. And searching. And finding things like coffee to be the places you decide to enter the oblivion of the internet-panoptic.

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