[Aside] Re-reading Steve Mann's Cyborg, in which the backbone of his philosophy centres around the concept of surveillance and the strategies of resistance against an increasingly ubiquitous surveillance state. He also discusses, albeit briefly, the connection between surveillance and centralized computer databases. I wanted to take a moment to share a personal reflection on this connection and suggest that we are moving beyond a simple panoptic (global)state.

I have recently had occasion to handle personal business on the phone with banks, ISPs and government agencies, and the sense I've had during each of these conversations is of having the top of my skull unscrewed while the telephone operator at the other end of the line pokes and prods at my brain.

Of course, I must be under some sort of local anaesthetic during these conversations, as I keep nattering away with said operator the entire time!

I wouldn't give too much thought to this interpretation of events, were it not for McLuhan's observation of the narcotic or numbing effects that occur when we auto-amputate parts of our bodies as we externalize their functions — in this case, the extension of the central nervous system into the mediaspace of information networks (and thus, the "local anaesthetic" I am under while on the phone).

In other words, a more complete form of totalitarian control is emerging as the panopticism of ubiquitous surveillance devices is complemented or augmented by the pantactilism of ubiquitous databases and total information awareness, which see by "feeling" one's presence in much the same way a blind person reads by using Braille. While I am never "seen" by these agencies, in the classic optical sense of the term, they certainly see my every movement as it occurs. Those interactions with the omnipresent network of databases, known in business parlance as "consumer points of contact," effectively massage our corporeal cells into the cells of spreadsheets.

A minor differentiation, to be sure, and databases certainly aren't new in criticism. But I felt it was important to create this distinction and that perhaps it could offer a slightly varied way of approaching/discussing the issue. Perhaps there is yet a "panauralism" that will perfect cybernetic social control?



One response to Pantactilism

- rss feed for this comment thread
  1. sportsBabel » comma, garçon says:

    [...] this so unlike the narcosis that the sports fan embodies when integrated with the networked media-entertainment apparatus? [...]