The information panopticon represents a form of centralized power that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) as observational tools and control mechanisms. Jeremy Bentham developed the original architecture of the panopticon as a prison. The structure consisted of a centralized tower surrounded by a circular building divided into prison cells. The concept was to maximize the number of prisoners that can be observed by one individual within the tower. Within The Information Panopticon, the architectural strategies of the panopticon is used as a metaphor to describe how information systems translate, record, and display human behaviour with a degree of illumation that would have exceeded even Benthams most outlandish fantasies . The information panopticon critiques how technological systems use transparency to assert power, control, and authority over users.
Be it a personal computer or a database system, both promote forms of interconnectivity that require a centralized control centre. The physical location of this centre is analogous to the central surveillance tower of the panopticon .
As these ICTs are introduced into the workplace, these information centers help managers to revamp their methods of communication, invite feedback, listen, coach, facilitate, manage many objectives, encourage autonomy, provide vision. In other words, technology can be used as a form of power that displays itself automatically and continuously.
The technological knowledge needed to understand how one is being surveyed is not as apparent as in Benthams prison. The techniques of control within informational and networked systems often appear pragmatic, immediate, and technical . This places the employees in a position of passive and obedient, where they no longer know or understand exactly how panoptic power is being enforced. Consequently, the administrative actions within the workplace can appear paranoid and non-specified approaches to security.
The capacity of these surveillance systems will accomplish some goals, and create entirely new unresolved problems: what to do with all of this personal data? Similar to the Panoptic prison, the information panopticon does focus on creating a vulnerable, defenseless user. However, the employees are not prisoners, they are not without some sense of control, and certainly should question the business practices. As ICTs continue to act as control mechanisms within the workplace, management should tirelessly redevelop systems that respond not only to power but also the emotional, the personal, and complexity of human behaviours .
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