Friday, February 19, 2010

S03 - Blog 02

We talked a lot last week about the differences among sovereign, disciplinary and control societies. We mentioned that control as a ruling principle of our age is not necessarily bad, but rather dangerous. After that, I listened to the lecture delivered by Mr. Rushdie and it seemed to me that some of the things he said were relevant for our discussions too.

For example, Mr. Rushdie talked about how the film that was made about him had literally no audience in England. He also explained that it was not due to the fact that the film was censored, but due to the fact that the choice was left to the people. Mr, Rushdie then explained that, had the film been censored, it would have had its audience that would watch it simply because it would be banned.

Control society functions in a possibly similar way. Both sovereign and disciplinary societies did not allow as much democratic freedom as control society does. Public executions that were characteristic of sovereign society had an ambivalent nature - they could bot induce fear and sympathy in the spectators. Disciplinary society, with its never ending system of institutions, also had an ability both to inspire people to be obedient and to rebel.

Control society, on the other hand, offers almost all democratic freedoms we might wish for. Internet gives us opportunities to research and learn about anything we want. That is exactly where we can detect the paradoxical nature of control society - at the same time it allows greater freedoms and establishes stronger control than ever before. However, that is not necessarily bad, only dangerous.

Similarly to the way the film about Mr. Rushdie did gain enough public attention simply because it was given all the freedom it could get, the contents we encounter every day become uninteresting because they are so available. Censorship is probably the most effective way to awaken interest of an audience. As soon as content becomes easily available, it becomes less interesting. By making everything easily available, control society leaves it to us to decide what we consume. However, it also makes everything look more ordinary than it would look in the sovereign or disciplinary societies. What we consume becomes less important to us, but nevertheless control society remains there to observe what we do. It does not even seem that uncommon to us because the availability of information reduces its real value in our eyes.

Yet, as Mr. Rushdie pointed out, people often seem able to determine the quality of the information they get. That might be because proliferation of information, while making us appreciate the information itself less, made us appreciate our time more. We are forced to make choices and, naturally, we base our decisions on quality of the information.

That is why control society is not necessarily bad, but only dangerous. Even though the control over us is always there and subtly influences judgements we make, it also grants us the access to information that seems so common that we sometimes cannot give it as much appreciation as it deserves.

Michelle Foucault, in his text Truth and Power, explains that truth is always inseparable to the power structures because it is the power structures that form the rules according to which the truth is created. As systems change, the regimes of production of truth change too. In comparison to sovereign and disciplinary societies, control society has a much more democratic regime of the production of truth. However, the truth still remains produced by the power structures, not genuinely discovered by us. I am wondering whether it is possible to have a society in which the regime of the production of truth would be so loose and undefined that it would in the end be non-existent? The regime of production of truth is basically the protocol that directs us from one information to another while making us feel that we are controlling where we are going. Is it possible to navigate any sort of space without a protocol?

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