Notes on the Spectacle and the Panopticon

Just to collect some of my notes and materials in one place:

Current thesis: While the authorities are installing surveillance systems as mechanisms of control, rather than protection, the effects may have the opposite effect. “Surveillance society” may lead to a form of liberation.

Douglas Rushkoff:

The myth of the conservative point of view is that we have somehow lost a sense of family values in this country. On the contrary, the family may be one of the only values we have left – at least in spirit. What we have lost is a sense of community values, and the family is being asked to pick up the slack. Urban planning, housing projects, purgatorial suburbs, and poor communication combined to dissolve the natural bonds of community within a nation of immigrants. We became family units, cut off from one another, each as sad and unfulfilled as our neighbors, but afraid to admit the truth.

The prosperity of the post-World War II baby-boom era, by decreasing the obvious survival necessity for community values, destroyed what was left of the natural social scheme. Family values were really just a marketing concept, designed to sell the highest volume of products to the richest people in the history of the world. How do we get every single family on the block to buy a product – like a barbeque grill – when just one nice one would do for all of them, and probably be more fun? Instill a sense of competition among families. Be the first on your block. Woefully, this was done at the direct expense of community values. To keep up with the Joneses, you have see them as the enemy.

Those rich enough to do so rushed out to the suburbs in their station wagons; those who couldn’t afford to get out were left behind in the fiscally depleted urban wastelands. With family values an accepted morality, this abandonment was easy to justify. “Screw ’em. I’m helping my family. I love them, and no one can tell me not to get the best for them.” Just don’t look back at those cities. If you do, simply rationalize that their poverty is their own fault. “Besides, those city people don’t have family values.”

– Douglas Rushkoff, Playing the Future, p. 216-217.


While it would be simple (and probably racist) to suggest that these children “of color” are generally less privileged than their white counterparts, and haven’t yet developed a taste for the luxury of electronic mediation, I think there’s another reason for their apathy towards the electronic Gaian mind.

They already get it. Their cultures and spiritual practices are already infused with the notion that the world is a singular, coordinated being, and they have been patiently waiting for us to catch on.

Perhaps the Internet is merely Western Culture’s dry, white, electronic way to experience what most indigenous cultures have known all along: that we human beings are connected to one another, and in an ongoing relationship with the planet on which we live. It was Western culture, through marketing, television, imperialism, and ethnocentrism, that lost its sense of planetary community – so much so that to even mention such a concept gets one labeled as a hopeless New Ager.

– Douglas Rushkoff, “One World, First World”