This Sunday’s “doublespeak” device, Direct Life. I saw the ad for it on CNBC.

Direct Life is a new kind of sousveillance: self-surveillance. To use Direct Life you strap a monitoring and tracking device to your body, carry it with you everywhere you go, and the technology records all your movements online. In exchange for your loss of privacy, Direct Life will then make small suggestions about how to improve your overall fitness. “Use the stairs instead of the elevator,” “Run to the mailbox and back,” “Exercise faster!” “Enjoy your oppression…” You see, this is absolutely necessary. No one can get the most out of their workout without Direct Life. It must now become a part of everyday life.

Photos from the laboratory of the participatory panopticon:




And now for the quote.

From Discipline and Punish:

So much for the question of observation. But the Panopticon was also a laboratory; it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments, to alter behaviour, to train or correct individuals. To experiment with medicines and monitor their effects. To try out different punishments on prisoners, according to their crimes and character, and to seek the most effective ones. To teach different techniques simultaneously to the workers, to decide which is the best. To try out pedagogical experiments – and in particular to take up once again the well-debated problem of secluded education, by using orphans. One would see what would happen when, in their sixteenth or eighteenth year, they were presented with other boys or girls; one could verify whether, as Helvetius thought, anyone could learn anything; one would follow ‘the genealogy of every observable idea’; one could bring up different children according to different systems of thought, making certain children believe that two and two do not make four or that the moon is a cheese, then put them together when they are twenty or twenty-five years old; one would then have discussions that would be worth a great deal more than the sermons or lectures on which so much money is spent; one would have at least an opportunity of making discoveries in the domain of metaphysics. The Panopticon is a privileged place for experiments on men, and for analysing with complete certainty the transformations that may be obtained from them. The Panopticon may even provide an apparatus for supervising its own mechanisms. In this central tower, the director may spy on all the employees that he has under his orders: nurses, doctors, foremen, teachers, warders; he will be able to judge them continuously, alter their behaviour, impose upon them the methods he thinks best; and it will even be possible to observe the director himself. An inspector arriving unexpectedly at the centre of the Panopticon will be able to judge at a glance, without anything being concealed from him, how the entire establishment is functioning. And, in any case, enclosed as he is in the middle of this architectural mechanism, is not the – 5 director’s own fate entirely bound up with it? The incompetent physician who has allowed contagion to spread, the incompetent prison governor or workshop manager will be the first victims of an epidemic or a revolt. ‘ “By every tie I could devise”, said the master of the Panopticon, “my own fate had been bound up by me with theirs”‘ (Bentham, 177). The Panopticon functions as a kind of laboratory of power. Thanks to its mechanisms of observation, it gains in efficiency and in the ability to penetrate into men’s behaviour; knowledge follows the advances of power, discovering new objects of knowledge over all the surfaces on which power is exercised.

– Foucault, Discipline and Punish, Panopticism