This paper provides fieldwork evidence, which solidifies an emerging view in literature, regarding the limitations of the panoptical metaphor in informing meaningfully and productively the analysis of contemporary surveillance and control. Our thesis is that the panopticon metaphor, which conceives of the organization as a bounded enclosure made up of divisible, observable and calculable spaces, is becoming less and less relevant in the age of contemporary surveillance technologies. Through a longitudinal socio-ethnographic study of the ramifications of surveillance ensuing from the implementation of a computerized knowledge management system (KMS) in a Parisian tax/law firm, our analysis points to the proliferation of lateral networks of surveillance having developed in the aftermath of implementation. In this complex and unstable constellation of rhizomatical controls, peers are involved in scrutinizing the validity of one another’s work, irrespective of the office’s hierarchies and official lines of specialization. As a result, games of visibility (exhibitionism), observation (voyeurism) and secrecy (hiding one’s work from the KMS) abound in the office. One of our main conclusions is to emphasize the pertinence of apprehending control and surveillance from angles that take into account the ambiguities, complexities and unpredictability of human institutions, especially in digitalized environments.
Sounds like a keeper. Although I am looking at this journal regularly, this one escaped my intention until I got the respective e-mail alert yesterday (another infrastructural topic, I guess). Anyway, the full paper can be accessed here.