Thursday, April 14, 2011

The information panopticon

             The information panopticon represents a form of centralized power that uses information and communication technology (ICT) as observational tools and control mechanisms.The idea of information panopticon came from the structure used in prisons to maximize the number of prisoners that can be observed by a single officer.
             In order to maximize the profit computer technologies are introduced in various industries during 1980's. The banking industry is the first major non-militory sector of the world economy to computerize.Shoshana Zuboff examined the data based environment at the brazilian branch of a US bank.On the introduction of computer technology the whole banking system changed.In the words of one manager”Service , excellence and innovation are the only buzz words now. As we push th technology ,people will realize that they have a really valuable tool on the other on their hands .They will be forced to use it.Then we can change the way they think and do their work”.But due to the resistance from senior managers the database environment system did not cause any revolution .

             As these ICTs are introduced into the workplace, managers and employees are discovering the hierarchical risks within information authority. Zuboff explains that these information centers help managers in a workplace to revamp their methods of communication, invite feedback, listen, coach, facilitate, manage many objectives, encourage autonomy, provide vision. The engagements a manager previously dealt with in a face-to-face setting can now be administered through a system that operates in a ubiquitous way. In other words, technology can be used as a form of power that displays itself automatically and continuously.
            In a work setting, this method of control is different to that of the original panopticon because many ICT systems function as transparent architectures. 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 responsibility of this technical authority does begin to question what ethical, social, and professional surveillance is acceptable in response to ICT technology in the workplace. Surveillance in the work place is not necessarily new; it has long been around in the form of corporate policy, collective behavior and social traditions. Zuboff describes how maintaining faith that undergirds imperative control is hard work psychologically demanding, time-consuming, and inevitably prone to ambiguity. 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. The fight remains within the users, the employees, to not passively participate in surveillance but rather to actively place responsibility on management and administration to effectively organize. 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 behaviors.


No comments:

Post a Comment