Thursday, December 20, 2007

Final Reflection

Final Written Reflection

Instructions: You have two hours to complete this reflection. I suggest that you spend a few minutes thinking about which questions to answer, about an hour writing your responses, and another half an hour revising and editing your responses. As we discussed, this is a closed-book reflection, so I don’t expect to see citations or page numbers. You can, if you want, refer to the syllabus to copy article titles.

Please answer one major question (50% of the final grade) and two minor questions (25% each, or 50% of the final grade).

When you are done, please save your file and give it the following name:
Mine, for example, would be TomFR.doc. Please also be sure to write your name inside the document itself. Attach the document to an e-mail and return it no later than 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 20, 2007. You can take any two hours from the time you receive these instructions until you complete your writing; you are not required to write between the hours of 1 and 3.

Best wishes,

Major Questions (answer one)

1. We read extensively from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Choose any aspect of that book that struck you as particularly relevant, and explain that relevance. What is it about the concepts he describes that seem particularly useful or interesting? How have you seen his ideas at work in your own life? Be sure to use Foucault’s terms.

2. In his texts, Barthes provides some theories of how a viewer understands images. Choose a digital image from your own collection, or find an image on the Internet, and analyze it using Barthes’ terms. Make sure to include a copy of the image in your response.

3. Early in the semester, we read Stuart Hall’s and Richard Johnson’s definitions of cultural studies, and spent a lot of time talking about culturalist and structuralist models of cultural studies. What is your understanding of these models, and in what camp(s) do you place yourself as a student of cultural studies? Be sure to provide examples.

Minor Questions (answer 2)

1. At the beginning of the semester, you were asked to bring in a cultural artifact and discuss its significance. If you were asked to do the same thing now, what would you do differently? Would you bring in the same object? Why or why not? Now that you have completed this course, how would you analyze the object? What might that analysis reveal?

2 and 3.
Choose any article or chapter that we have read this semester (and that you have not discussed in response to the major question, above) and describe it in as much detail as you can. After you describe the article, tell me what you find particularly useful, interesting or illuminating about it. You can answer this question twice, describing two different articles, in order to satisfy the requirement that you answer two questions from this category.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Abstract of "Panopticism," pages 200-209

Foucault lauds the Panopticon as "a functional mechanism that must improve the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective, a design of subtle coercion for a society to come"(209). He calls it a "perfect disciplinary institution" that will "strengthen the social forces--to increase production, to develop the economy, spread education, raise the level of public morality; to increase and multipy"(208).

Some of the reasons why the Panopticon "perfects the exercise of power"(206):
1. "It can reduce the number of those who exercise [power]" (206).
2. It can "increase the number of those on whom [power] is exercised"(206).
2. "The constant pressure acts even before the mistakes and crimes have been committed"(206).
3. "It assures its efficacity by its preventative character, its continuous functioning and its automatic mechanisms"(206).
4. "The disciplinary mechanism will be democratically controlled, since it will be constantly accessible 'to the great tribunal committee of the world'"(207).

The theory behind the Panopticon as the perfect disciplinary design is that "he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection"(202-3). In other words, "it gives 'power of mind over mind'"(206).

We skirted around this issue in class on Tuesday. Diane brought up the example of her faculty member colleague who treats TA's and staffers in ways that she would never dream of with a boss or administrator. Tom mentioned the surly checkers at Boise Co-op. I think that all mature, productive members of society have an internal disciplinary mechanism that self-regulates behavior. We decide what it is we want out of life, what our goals are, and we (try to) discipline ourselves in ways that will help us achieve those goals, be it friendship, work promotions, academic success, athletic accomplishment, etc. We don't discipline ourselves to "behave" if we don't believe our misbehavior will interfere with our goals. For example, if my main goal in life is to avoid contention, I am not going to stand up for myself when I have been wronged. If my goal is to do whatever it takes to get a job promotion, I am going to devote long hours to my work, neglecting other human relationships.

What we call disciplinary mechanisms in our society today are really nothing more than inducements to encourage the individual to perform the actual job of disciplining and self-regulation. That is the theory behind the Panopticon and it is effective because it doesn't require corporal punishment, deprivation, or anything else besides the constant threat of surveillance to encourage one to exercise discipline upon one's own behavior.

However, there are several things that confuse me about the concept of the Panopticon:
1. Foucault says that this model can be applied to "barracks, schools, and workshops"(209). He also mentions its use in hospitals. I don't understand if he is simply referring to the idea of constant surveillance? Or does he actually advocate this architectural design for classrooms and workplaces--each person holed up in a cell with a distant and inaccessible supervisor in a central tower?
2. Foucault talks repeatedly of the ability the public would have to come in and observe human behavior within the Panopticon. So anybody could have access to the central tower? What is the purpose of that and wouldn't it disrupt the normal operation of the Panopticon if untrained "supervisors" were occupying the tower instead of official surveillance officers?
3. He also says that it "enables everyone to come and observe any of the observers"(207). Any ideas what he means by that?

Finally, it seems really idealistic to me that the Panopticon will make it "not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behaviour, the madman to calm, the worker to work, the schoolboy to application, the patient to the observation of regulations [...]no more bars, no more chains, no more heavy locks; all that [is] needed [is] that the seperations should be clear and the openings well arranged"(202). I discussed in class how the physical arrangement of the Panopticon makes it physically impossible for the supervisor to immediately discipline a wrongdoer. And of course, the supervisor is vastly outnumbered and even though he is at a vantage point to see all, that doesn't mean that he actually does see all. I would be interested in actual evidence of this theory working as anticipated in any of the aforementioned settings.

Foucault: Panopticism

Abstract of Foucault's "Panopticism"

by Mike Peterson


In this chapter, Foucault illustrates the shift in the Middle Ages between how people dealt with lepers (mass confinement) to how they dealt with the plague (confinement in segmented, observable spaces), and then he draws a parallel between the shift in confinement methods in prisons to the rise of modern disciplinary institutions, such as prisons, schools, and hospitals.

Foucault discusses Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, which is an architectural embodiment of the abstract concept of the Panopticon, based on Bentham’s belief that power should be visible yet unverifiable. This unverifiable surveillance, both in Bentham’s structure and in the abstract idea, is an efficient, economic and exercisable power that makes discipline possible.

Foucault discusses how the panoptic discipline mechanism evolved during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through the functional inversion of the mechanisms, the swarming of disciplinary mechanisms, and the state control of disciplinary mechanisms. He ends by sketching the role of the panoptic mechanism in societal contexts: economic processes, juridico-political processes, and scientific processes.


There were two words that kept popping into my head as I read this chapter: Bureaucracy, and Lost.

First, Bureaucracy. On page 207, Foucault says that the “panoptic machine” is under no risk of degenerating into tyranny and that it will be democratically controlled. I struggled at first with this claim. I couldn’t help but think of movies like Cool Hand Luke and Cuckoo’s Nest, and I wondered how Foucault of all people could be so idealistic as to claim the panoptic machine could never degenerate into tyranny. But as I thought of it, I realized that tyranny and abuse of power are two different things. Here, Foucault is talking about tyranny as despotism, dictatorship, or monarchy: where one person has the power—and as we read on the next page, panoptic discipline doesn’t exist in the spectacle of regal power, but in the realm of exercisable, reciprocal power found in the “relations of discipline” (208).

Like our modern bureaucracy, there are checks and balances, there is public accountability, and there is a web of reciprocal power that prevents any one person from becoming a tyrant. At the Sheriff’s office, for example, if we want to change a policy on, say, the use of tazers, there is a gamut of bigwigs (and little wigs) who have to give the OK: the city council, the commissioners, the Sheriff, the captains, the EMS supervisor, the ombudsman, etc. etc. etc.

In Bentham’s panoptic structure, the person in the tower isn’t judge, jury and executioner: he is just one part on a bigger machine. His role, in this case, is that of observer, and while he might express a great deal of power or control over his subjects, his power isn’t ultimate. As we read in previous chapters, we know that Foucault believes power isn’t a static “thing” that a person can possess—it is in a constant state of flux: it is reciprocal, and it is always shifting. Power is exercised, not possessed. The tower worker, like the Sheriff or council-member, is only one of many cogs in this machine that exercises what power they can, but it is a constant game of give and take.

Similarly, in our discussion on Tuesday we talked about how everyone is supervised. Everyone. Even the guy in the tower. It made me think of my Dad’s situation. He is the CEO of a company that supplies doctors to St. Al’s. He is the doctors’ boss: he writes their contracts; he signs their paychecks; and so on. At the same time, those doctors are his boss: they write his contract; they (collectively, not individually) are the ones who can give him a raise or fire him. So there’s a weird, reciprocating exercise of power (and surveillance) between all of them.

On to Lost. I’ll admit I’ve watched a lot of Lost even though it’s the lamest show on TV. It’s like a very long, very bad joke, but I’m dying to hear the punch line even if it’s going to disappoint me. But what has become apparent over these last couple of poorly-written seasons is this sense of being watched, the idea of constant visible but unverifiable surveillance, as the plane-wreck people always feel the pressure of being observed by the “others.” They discover underground laboratories, barracks, etc. all over the island equipped with cameras, logs and journals. And then there is the question of “who is watching who?”

I Googled “Panopticon” and “Lost” and found that I’m not the only one who noticed this: apparently there is a whole online fan community who share there theories about what is going on in Lost, and a lot of them subscribe to the idea of the Dharma initiative being a government-run Panopticon. One fan points out an episode where there’s an obituary or tombstone (or something—he was a bit vague about it) that said “Je …ntham” on it, which he says is proof that the show is based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon.

Here's more hard evidence from another fan:

I don’t know that Lost really has any bearing on Foucault’s argument, but I keep a journal of movies and TV shows that I think would be good for teaching a principle (such as clips from Almost Famous or Capote in my ethics-of-representation discussions), and I think some clips from Lost would be a good way of illustrating the Panopticon, both as a physical embodiment (a network of surveillance cameras), and as an abstract concept (the feeling of always being watched and how it effects their behavior, even before they know about any cameras).

Another one...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Abstract on Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment. Part 3, Chapter 3, Pages 199-207.

Abstract on Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment. Part 3, Chapter 3, Pages 199-207.
By Bridgett VanDerwalker
Description of Section:
Foucault in this section discusses the two types of controls needed to operate the Panopticon, which are branding and coercive assignment and differential distribution. The Panopticon, provides both separation of the individuals and discipline from the observation tower but more importantly from within the cell that of the individual monitoring themselves. The Panopticon, is seen as a solution to the dark, hidden, and openness of a dungeon to the fully lighted, enclosed, and visible cell of the Panopticon. Foucault goes on to describe the benefits and effects of such an apparatus upon society as a whole in the many different institutions that employ it. Foucault points out that the Panopticon is a machine, an exercise in power, adaptable, and can be a laboratory.
Key Terms:
Differential Distribution
Analytical Arrangement of Space
Laboratory of Power
Comments and Questions:
Foucault starts his argument by saying that "all the authorities exercising individual control function according to a double mode: that of binary division and branding…and that of coercive assignment of differential distribution…" (199). These two modes of control can be seen in the operation of the Panopticon. Foucault then describes the architectural features of Bentham's Panopticon and the features that make it different from the old dungeon model. The features of the Panopticon enclose the individual, exposes the individual to surveillance by shining light upon them, however, one could make the argument that such a system isn't the best for the individual because they are not allowed a moments rest and it affects the mind over the body which is a much more complex entity. Foucault states that "Visibility is a trap" (200). Indeed, visibility is a trap, in that it expresses the individual's true condition while at the same time the supervisor is invisible which guarantees order in the individual. The individual is always under scrutiny and is never allowed privacy or self decency. This situation results in the individual being the bearer of power, the power to behave, and to summit to the will of the system. The threat of observation is stronger than the individual's will to do wrong in most cases. But as Foucault goes on to demonstrate later in the chapter; this situation applies to many different institutions and manifests itself in different ways.
Foucault summarizes that "The Panopticon is a marvelous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put to it, produces homogeneous effects of power" (202). Foucault is very skillful in presenting an argument in such a way that the reader is left wondering where he stands on the issues he presents. Does he think the previous assessment of the Panoptican a useful and beneficial instrument or an instrument that destroys society's' freedom? Going back to the previous quote that despite the application it individualizes and classifies according to gaps, skills, crimes, or illness. It is this breakdown that allows the observer to survey more efficiently time wise and effort wise. The Panopticon in the above ways can act as a laboratory that acts as a machine that "carries out experiments, to alter behavior, to train or correct individuals" (203). Thus the Panopticon not only acts as a vehicle to carry out tasks but also as a disciplinary apparatus.
Foucault makes the distinction that the measure to contain a plague functions along similar lines of the operation of the Panopticon, the application is different, however, the separation and isolation of a population during a plague is vital in order to keep control over the disease in order to save lives and avoid death. Foucault says: "The Panopticon, on the other hand, must be understood as a generalizable modal of functioning: a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men" (205). The situation of the plague is to save lives while the Panoptican functions to shape lives and demonstrate power. Foucault states that "the Panopticon presents a cruel, ingenious case" (205). Foucault says it is widely adaptable and permeates society in so many different ways that it is unavoidable to be subject to its power. He says the Panopticon "is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form" (205). I think Foucault is saying that while constricts the individual it was and is a necessary evil to increase efficiency and ensure order in an ever increasing population. My question is what does Foucault mean when he says that the Panopticon "is a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use" (205). How is the Panopticon a figure of "political technology?"
Foucault describes the many applications that the Panopticon functions to achieve such as to instruct, reform, treat, confine, supervise, and to ensure efficacy. He goes on to say, "It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organization, of disposition of centres and channels of power, of definition of the instruments and modes of intervention of power, which can be implemented in hospitals, workshops, schools, prisons" (205). This quote best describes this entire section in it describes how it functions and where it can be used.
Foucault says the Panopticon is an "exercise of power" in that it perfects itself in several ways. It reduces the amount of observers needed, it increases the number of individuals subjected to its power, and reduces space. The strength of the system is that it never intervenes onto the individual's acts as they act as their own supervisor. The system runs smoothly and without noise. By its very physical design "it acts directly on individuals; it gives 'power of mind over mind"'(206). The design insures economy, provides a preventive measure, and functions automatically. The Panopticon is adaptable to any situation and it is this adaptability and reliability that has allowed it to spread to many different institutions over the last two centuries.
Foucault says, "The panoptic mechanism is not simply a hinge, a point of exchange between a mechanism of power and a function; it is a way of making power relations function in a function, and making a function function through these power relations" (207). Basically, the Panopticon could be seen as a world view where the individual is separated and individualized, observed, molded to be efficient by the very structure's design and a place where even the observer can be observed. The power is contained within the tower and with each individual cell and thus the control is self sustaining.

Foucault pg 195-200

Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
Chapter three, “Panopticism” pg 195-200


Michel Foucault begins his third chapter entitled “Panopticism” with a description on what happens when the plague comes. He writes what first happens is “a strict spatial partitioning” (195). Everyone in the city is put in a space. This is done to ensure that everyone can be seen and accounted for. In order to contain and treat the plague everyone must be “caged.” Foucault explains, “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised…– all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism” (197). This is necessary, Foucault explains, in order to both control the plague and to control the evil in people that the plague might bring out.

Foucault next compares a leper to the plague. He uses these two examples not only as literal points of distinction, but also as two different methods of being in society. Lepers represent “rituals of exclusion” and the plague “gave rise to disciplinary projects” (198), or, in other words, “The leper and his separation; the plague and its segmentations” (198). While two separate diseases mostly operating in different times, they represent two different ways to deal with society.

Foucault makes clear that while the leper and the plague are certainly two different things, they are not necessarily totally separate. The ideas that were present during the treatment of leprosy are still present with the means of treating the plague or other unwanted societal distractions. For example, we place unwanted people in the society (madmen, criminals) in segmented places (the panoptic building). Foucault believes that this is not something that was practiced just in the high time of leprosy and the plague, but that we continue to do the same thing in modern society. He writes,

The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and exile of the leper to quite different objects; the existence of a whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring, supervising and correcting the abnormal brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms to which the fear of the plague gave rise. (199)

We currently do the same thing to those who we feel are unwanted and abnormal. Foucault feels this mechanism “to brand him and to alter him, are composed of those two forms from which they distantly derive” (199-200).


I decided to do the beginning of the reading assignment again for two reasons. First, I feel this beginning part is important in order to understand the subsequent parts of the reading assignment. And secondly, I have had some experience with leprosy and so found his discussion of it particularly interesting.

I was again confused with the language he uses while describing the techniques for trying to contain the plague. I know that his work is mostly based on interpretation and not theory. But, it seemed a very negative description, something that to me felt like he was saying was a bad element of society. Yet, this is what was done in order to contain the plague, which was responsible for killing many people. For example, when referring to the people quarantined in their houses he says, “Everyone locked up in his cage” (196). And he says that this method, “lays down for each individual his place, his body, his disease and his death, his well-being, by means of an omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimate determination of the individual, of what characterizes him, of what belongs to him, of what happens to him” (197). He is of course right, in fact dead on. But I am still confused if he is trying to tell us how it is, or if he is making a judgment. His use of language to me suggests that he is critical of it, but I am just not sure.

I found the section where he talks about leprosy and the plague coming together in figurative terms to describe the way in which we deal with unwanted people today very relevant. For example, people who are deemed insane are both exiled and segmented. I think this is not only true for situations today, it is still true for leprosy today. I studied abroad in Thailand for a year and while there I was able to teach an English class in a leprosy camp. I had previously thought that leprosy was no longer a modern problem, that it was eradicated. However, not only is it still a problem in Thailand, (in fact a rather large one) but it is still being treated in the same way. These people are made to feel they have something wrong with them, some sort of curse, and they are told to live in a colony with other lepers. The Thai government does not force them to go, but they are given no support or treatment if they do not go and once it becomes general knowledge that you have leprosy you are immediately ostracized. It is in fact the ancient equivalent to what Foucault thought would happen in the modern era with more modern problems. He is absolutely right when he explains that the way abnormal people are dealt with today is directly related to how the plague and how leprosy was dealt with in the past.

Foucault: Panopticism

Response by Matt Dewey

In this chapter of Discipline and Punish, Foucault explains and updates Jeremy Bentham’s theory and structure of the panopticon; ‘a marvelous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power’(pg. 202). In practice it affects a simple sense or awareness of being observed, of a visibility or transparentness of action that creates, or disciplines, a method of behavior. It is through this ‘affected consciousness’ that we self regulate.

Foucault discusses panopticism that can or is applied to different type of social contexts. He describes it use or potential uses for the schools, hospitals and prisons as he does throughout the book. But these are concrete or enclosed structures, ‘rigorously closed’ (207) is what Foucault calls it, and in a sense, places that we may have very little say whether we become part of or not. Foucault also discussed the panopticism in the economy, in the mass production of goods; this still seems like an architectural, objective ‘place’ that we move in an out of. What about this movement; physical, conceptual and virtual?

Is this the part where I run for cover from the floating ‘all-seeing eye’?

‘Panopticism is the general principle of a new ‘political anatomy’ whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline’ (pg. 208).

So the panopticon is not a mechanism for the flexing of sovereign or state power but the order of disciplines; it is surveillance for social norms and habits of production, for the disciplines that have been created out of the logic and rationalization of the processes of an, ‘accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital’ (221). But, for instance, I know I can be locked away for certain behaviors and if I didn’t show up to classes I would lose my assistantship (so which one is discipline and which one is panopticism?).

Boise State is a ‘place’ as well, and its panopticism I wouldn’t necessarily characterize as architectural, though individual spaces, such as the setups of class rooms or the placement of offices in some of the buildings, may stretch the definition. So I don’t necessarily feel ‘observed’ in both Bentham and Foucault’s rendering of the panopticon. However certain mechanisms of validity may have this effect:

-are grades a discipline or a panopticism, is there any reason why they are both?
- is Tenure discipline and panopticism as well?
-are evaluations disciplines or the panopticon?

Though grades and tenure are not physical places, they are concrete applications and they are also integrated into the mechanism that is education. So is education the discipline or the panopticon, or does education use the theory of panopticism to reinforce discipline? Is there a difference between education and an educational situation or atmosphere? What does an ‘F’ in a class really mean then; that the student is refusing to be disciplined? Should we look at an ‘F’ so romantically?

So, this string of questions surrounds where Foucault places the panopticon outside the institution…For instance is it the retrievability of information and traffic in the capabilities of the Internet that serve the modern panopticism? I guess this issue with panopticism outside of physical places, or mechanisms of institutions stems from what Foucault says about movement and discipline:

‘ of the primary objects of discipline is to fix; is an anti-nomadic technique’

‘…That is why discipline fixes; it arrests or regulates movements; it clears up confusion; it dissipates compact grouping of individuals wandering about the country in unpredictable ways; it establishes calculated distributions’ (pg. 219).

- Movements of information, people?

Is 'Staticness' outdated? We move quite a bit today; if not from job to job and house to house, town to town, then from interest to interest, webpage to webpage, the new to the now. In our present state of economic relations a ‘global environment’ one must utilize changeability and liquidation, outsource, consolidate and restructure based on market needs- our human relations are not so physically defined as they were twenty years ago. This creates a picture of constant movement. There is as well another modern trend- the ability with Internet technology to fulfill ones basic needs and not even leave the house; work from home, have groceries delivered, download games and movies, and webcam just about everything.

In the first scenario it would seem that discipline could not be static in order to assert the same type of control, or the type of control that constitutes modern control, but because Foucault describes discipline as the result of our need for efficiency and order (and finally, on pg. 222, referring to the ‘Enlightenment’), has discipline created such unfixed fluidity or simply the ability to ‘aim’ such movement in a desired direction? What is fixed- the need for efficiency or the types of disciplines…The panopticon would have to move too. If discipline, ‘dissipates groups of individuals from wondering the about the country in unpredictable ways’, then it must some how make those way predictable and perhaps this is forging of predictability is a process of consolidation, for instance in media and bandwidth ownership today.

I guess we could predict that the need for efficiency could discipline us right into scenario two, to our sofas. This scene of willful and necessary banishment from the literal outside makes it easy to imagine a panoptic presence through the Internet and internet protocols. I can easily see email and the type of ‘presence’ that IM adjusts for digital communication as a type of discipline. The message then leaves a digital footprint that can be traced, if needed, recovered, dated and timed and authenticated. This capability, or the threat of using this capability by those in authority, seems to be a characteristic of the Panopticon. Individualized, enclosed, and under surveillance- this seems like a return to the control of a plague stricken town at the end of the seventeenth century that Foucault begin the chapter with.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Observation and Individualization in Part 3, Chapter 2: The Means of Correct Training

I am interested in exploring Foucault's ideas of observation and individualization as explained on pages 170-177 and 189-194 of the text. I will do this by correlating the concepts with their real-life applications and testing the theories in that way.

The key term in this discussion is "individualization.", which is based on the Random House Unabridged dictionary, defines individualization as: make individual or distinctive; give an individual or distinctive character to. mention, indicate, or consider individually; specify; particularize.
These definitions, to me, are vastly different in terms of practical function. Certainly observation, normative judgements, and evaluation perform the later function of considering people individually in order to specify and particularize. I am not entirely convinced, however, that these forms of discipline give an individual and distinctive character to people. I will explore my opinion of these definitions throughout this abstract.


Foucault writes at the bottom of page 170, "...the techniques which make it possible to see induce effects of power [...] eyes that must see without being seen". This is the theory behind video cameras to guard against shoplifting, cameras at intersections for law enforcement purposes, and even the idea of God as omniscient--all of these forces have a tranquilizing effect on behavior. However, in the work environment I see a different force at play. I believe many work places today are built "to permit an internal, articulated and detailed control --to render visible those who are inside it [...]to provide a hold on their conduct" (172). What is interesting to me is that power relations are set up based not on who can see but who can't be seen. For example, my father's company "Hawkins Real Estate Development Co." recently moved into a new building in BoDo. The office is in the same wharehouse district that house The Big Easy and other establishments. Since there are so few windows, the company decided to build internal walls of glass in order to allow natural light to shine throughout the building from the few windows. So everybody now has offices made of glass, including my dad, who is the CFO, and his coworker, the company president. However, the company owner and his son and two sons-in-law are the only employees who have offices with walls. So a power hierarchy has been set up based on who still has the freedom FROM observation rather than the freedom to observe. The same is true in the high school I student teach at and in the modern language department. Both the principal at MVHS and the MLL director are the only ones on the staff who have offices without hallway windows.

Foucault says that observation serves towards the "progressive objectification and ever more subtle partitioning of individual behavior" (173). This is certainly true for me. For example, I hate to have my office door open in the MLL department because I can't work as effectively, and it is not because of noise disturbance. It is because with my door open, I am constantly conscious of the possibility of being observed, so I sit straighter (and less comfortably!), worry about my apparent level of productivity (in case my boss walks by) and just generally find it difficult to focus and concentrate. The possibility of being observed definitely alters my behavior to an extent.

It is interesting, too, to think of the role of observation in the digital world. Social networking sites such as facebook, myspace, linkedin, and others all have differing levels of privacy controls and methods of observation. I prefer facebook because I have some control over who I am being observed by. It took me months to finally accept friend requests from professional colleagues because allowing them to "observe me" (view my profile) necessarily changed some of my behavior and activity on the site. Diane also seems to be exploring the function of observation or lack thereof in the digital world through the analysis of anonymous discussion boards.

Another interesting quote: "The perfect disciplinary apparatus would make it possible for a single gaze to see everything constantly. A central point would be both the source of light illuminating everything, and a locus of convergence for everything that must be known: a perfect eye that nothing would escape and a centre towards which all gazes would be turned" (173). This idea instantly made me think of the Christian concept of God. If one believes this to be a religious construct, it is apparent that the idea of observation as an instrument of control has been around for centuries. If one believes in God as a reality, His omnisience is obviously a strong disciplinary force.

Foucault writes that "examination also introduces individuality into the field of documentation"(189). At first I think he is talking about the second definition of individualization--procedures that specify and particularize. He says examination places people in a field of surveillance that "situates them in a network of writing; it engages them in a whole mass of documents that capture and fix them" (189). This is true of most types of examination--school grades, medical records, income reports and tax statements, criminal records and more. However, Foucault goes on to say that "[Evaluation] was the problem of the teaching establishments, where one had to define the aptitude of each individual, situate his level and his abilities, and indicate the possible use that might be made of them" (189). This is evaluation that truly has an individualizing effect--that makes a person individual or distinctive. The only place this could be said to be happening in education today is possible in Special Ed where students meet with a team of educators and professionals to determine their abilities and needs and create and IEP (Individual Education Plan). Special Ed is inundated with paperwork designed to both categorize and support the individual needs of students. It may be one of the last frontiers of Evaluation as Individualization.

Foucault talks of two correlative possibilities of evaluation, first, "the constitution of the individual as a describable, analysable object, not in order to reduce him to 'specific' features, as did the naturalists in relation to living beings, but in order to maintain him in his individual features, in his particular evolution, in his own aptitudes or abilities, under the gaze of a permanent corpus of knowledge" (190). This I see as the mission of Special Education--to support students in their exceptionalities. The majority of students, however, fall under the second possibility of evaluation: "The constitution of a comparative system that made possible the measurement of overall phenomena, the description of groups, the characterization of collective facts, the calculation of the gaps between individuals, their distribution in a given 'population'"(190). This is the modern system of school evaluation, or grading, as we know it. I don't think this lends towards creating individual and distinctive identities, except for broad categorical identities based on where one fall in the evaluative categorizations. (Ex. an "A" student--a good, conscientious, or smart student). There are correlations in the workplace, in religion, and in our social lives as well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Abstract on Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment, Part 3, Chapter 2, Section "Normalizing Judgment." Pages 177-184

Abstract on Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment, Part 3, Chapter 2, Section "Normalizing Judgment." Pages 177-184
By Bridgett VanDerwalker
Description of Section:
Foucault continues in this section by discussing how the process of judgment and punishment becomes ingrained in the routine of everyday life. Punishment as a spectacle has now become habitual and practiced not only on the offender but on the whole of the society. Punishment has become an everyday institution that "compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes"(183). Punishment has in itself become a power structure that not only punishes the offender but the observers and those who enforce the punishment also.
Key Terms:
Penal Mechanism
Disciplinary Apparatus
Hierarchzing Penality
Penality of the Norm
Comments and Questions:
Foucault starts off this section with an example of an orphanage that illustrates his idea of how normalizing judgment/punishment has turned into a system that keeps all inline not just the "offender." Foucault says that "At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism" (177). I think Foucault is saying that every social system surrounding us has a built in "penal mechanism," to keep people in line. Foucault points to the cause as being an overcompensation to fill in the gaps that law does not regulate. Foucault says that such institutions such as schools and the military are "subject to a whole micro-penality of time, of activity, of behavior, of speech, of the body, and of sexuality" (178). Somehow, Foucault seems to chronicle how punishment became an everyday apparatus that no one can function without; as a result of this gradual process punishment ceased to be a spectacle and became a cultural restraint that affects everyone not just the offenders.
Foucault states that a behavior or individual that doesn't follow the prescribed guidelines can be punished. It seems that punishment has shifted its focus from that of the individual to the group. This next quote exemplifies the above statement. "The order that the disciplinary punishments must enforce is of a mixed nature: it is 'artificial' order, explicitly laid down by a law, a programme, a set of regulations. But it is also an order defined by natural and observable processes" (178). It is human nature, or any living thing for that manner, to avoid punishment by watching and learning from those who are punished. We learn from example and modeling. Foucault says, "In a disciplinary regime punishment involves a double juridico-natural reference" (179). I really don't know what Foucault meant by this sentence perhaps that there are the official punishers and the social judgment or punishment carried out by one's peers.
Foucault talks about how displinary punishment reduces gaps and so performs in a corrective manner. Punishment comes in the form of correcting a 'crime' instead of physically punishing the individual. Foucault states that "To punish is to exercise" (180). This made me think of the army or in PE class when one makes a mistake you are punished by doing extra exercise. I know this is taking what Foucault says literally but it applies to other social activities like school and religion as well.
Foucault states that punishment is based on achieving gratification and avoiding punishment. People want rewards and fear punishment but my question is if physical punishment is not a threat anymore than do we have reason to fear it? If the consequences of one's actions have no dire consequences does that really deter one from committing an offence? Also what about radicals that do things against the establishment in order to reform the system who seek punishment to invoke a response, what then? I think Foucault is too simplistic in his assessment and that it is too cut and dry for any complex society. Foucault observes that penalty operates not on the acts themselves but the individual by their value or nature. I agree and it describes a problem in our own society where the individual is paramount rather than the act itself. For example, those who are on death row, if one commits murder he or she is allowed to live years or decades after judgment has been made. This doesn't seem right to me and doesn't act as a deterrent for the rest of the society when a sentence takes so long to be carried out if ever.
Foucault says that a system that rewards and punishes equally creates gaps and separates people. And that "Rank in itself serves as a reward or punishment" (181). If this is true, why bother fixing the system at all? No matter how hard a system tries, people can't or are unwilling to conform in all possible ways. Conformity is a nice idea but doesn't really work as countless countries, schools, businesses, and other organizations have discovered.
Foucault describes five operations that the regime of displinary power allows. It compares the individuals against the group; it separates individuals from one another, "It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value, the abilities, the level, [and] the 'nature' of individuals" (183), and defines limits and differences that will be tolerated. This doesn't sound like a system I would want to follow; however, we are all participating in similar systems whether voluntarily or not.
This next point seems essential in this section of Foucault. "The perpetual penality that traverses all points and supervises every instant in the disciplinary institutions compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes" (183). Foucault seems to think that the law system is the only fair or regulated social structure that avoids or at the very least minimizes these effects in a way that is both fair to the individual and the society as a whole. I also think this idea goes back to Foucault's idea of keeping punishment private and not a spectacle in a way that doesn't affect society in such a direct manner.
Foucault states that the "power of the norm" is the new wave of the future, the new law of society. He says this system improves "homogeneity" while at the same time distinguishing the right qualities and harboring them while allowing the individual to evolve. By allowing individuality and encouraging equality within the society the process leads to a better, more efficient and orderly society. I like the idea in theory but it sounds a little too utopian in practice.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A plea to The Means of Correct Training

by Matt Dewey

What I’ve found to really like about reading Foucault is the somewhat availability or presence of accessible summaries of his main points. Not necessarily the paragraphs that start with ‘ In short,’, or ‘Finally’; they sometimes, in my mind, are not even at what we might naturally or compositionally expect to be the ‘end’ of his reasoning. But discussing some of these ‘neatly wrapped’ conceptual resolutions are what I’m hoping to do in this response...

pg. 182

“This hierarchizing penality had, therefore, a double effect: it distributed pupils according to their aptitudes and their conduct, that is, according to the use that could be made of them when they left the school; it exercised over them a constant pressure to conform to the same model, so that they might all be subjected to ‘subordination, docility, attention in studies and exercises, and to the correct
practice of duties and all the parts of discipline’. So that they might all be like one another.”


Pg. 184

“ In a sense, the power of normalization imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels, to fix specialities and to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another."

These two quotes have a relationship that I can’t seem to get straight or that maybe one quote is actually the other and Foucault is simply repeating himself as we all seemed to notice and discuss last week. I think what sticks out in my mind in both of these quotes is the inherent dualities; the double speak or twin objectives that, specifically in the second quote on page 184, seem to conceptually do opposite things.

- The hierarchizing penality is for Foucault a system of ranking, or a reward system that has to do with awarding privilege to those who ‘perform’ to expected levels and a demotion in status or privilege for those that do not demonstrate acceptable aptitude or behavior. I believe Foucault’s observation comes from a military school context, but it seems quite easy to see it happening in other circumstances as well. Morality, ethics (either both good and bad) wealth, and access are all systems in our culture that are both assessed by such hierarchies (straight, pro life, and citizen = ‘the right’ and therefore all others are not, this one plays out in political campaigns; wealth has always been seen as an achievement of a certain level of competency and character while being poor is suggestive of lower skill and aptitude; access is a lot like wealth as far as it suggests certain aptitudes, demands of time, and ‘taste’.) But what Foucault seems to not talk about is the idea that the ‘school’ may be ‘rigged’; that in all the discipline, there are those that never have to take the quizzes. As real as Foucault’s military school discipline observations are, and as much as I agree with its subtlety, privilege is just as real... For instance the ratio of poor to rich soldiers fighting in Viet Nam, or Iraq for that matter.

-Normalization. I love the quote on 184 because I have never read this idea, or seen this concept explained in such a straight forward phrase (though it makes so much obvious sense)... It also illuminates the French obsession with ‘difference’ (specifically, Derrida). I seem to want put the two suppositions in a Foucault ‘action’ timeline:

Normalization ---> Hierarchy of penality ---> Discipline (observation) ---> Gaps?

Normalization ---> Discipline (observation) ---> Gaps ---> Hierarchy of penality?

With each one returning back to normalization?

Or is it simultaneous?

Normalization/ Hierarchy of penality ---> Discipline (observation)---> Gap/Normal?

Or is Foucault saying, like he does on pg. 183, that this process is a byproduct of the rational validity? Of the need to assess and assign facts and proof?

Gap/Norm - For Foucault these are the same or essentially isomorphic. Observation (and examination) is the discipline, and Normalization is the hierarchy of penality (of which we could include things like class, and racial and sexual inequality)?

One of my favorite films by Jean Luc Godard is, Alphaville (1965), which is a classic ‘lone man vs. organization’ film. The central command computer call Alpha 60 becomes a main character and a conscience of the film, computing little fancy tidbits like:

“The essence...
...of the so-called capitalist world...
...or the communist world... not an evil volition... subject their people... the power of indoctrination...
...or the power of finance...
...but simply the natural ambition of any organization... plan all its actions"

What Alpha 60 seems to be saying is that there is a subversive tendency in all processes of organizing that seek to control all its conditions and outcomes; which, then again, is the reason in which we form the seemingly inorganic and purposive instrumental organizations in the first place...

The idea of a ‘natural ambition’ is problematic for me given in its deep apriori presumptions, but Godard gives a subtlety and aloofness to the ideas and realities of control and power that befits Foucault; that power ( in many instances) is in our rational need for protection (or validation) from both science and God.

But in order to complete the utter randomness of this response even further, I have to make the connection, simply because I’m a mass communication student, (and what kind of comm. student would I be?) to the discipline of Foucault and the use of mass media, since the early 1920’s, of the phenomenon of advertising. Given that the problem of capitalism is not in the production of goods but the consumption of them, one can trace during the 1920’s a shift in the field of advertising from describing the qualities of the product it was trying to sell, to incorporating the product socially, in already communally accepted values of family, love, self esteem, etc. By tapping established relationships between individuals and communities, advertising and manufactures were able to penetrate the very mechanisms of our meaning making and litter them with consumable happiness...
I bring this up to reiterate (I think) the discipline of Foucault as systematic; we have been 'trained' I think, rather passively, to justify the irrational, to suffer in the expectation of a joy in the material when we know it doesn’t ultimately make us happy... There is nothing ‘natural’ in this ability but a logic of reproduction and protection and conservation.

Ecole Militaire

Ecole Militaire

Ecole Militaire Paris