I just found this today while nosing around mySpace. For a person who has read a bit Foucault, this one is obvious. The purpose of this site is to upload links to the songs you listen to most often, displaying them for other users or visitors to your websites. It uses a program that reads the Recently Played list off your media player or mp3 player and posts what you have just heard. Clearly a form of automated surveillance; i can see you listening.
This is particularly an age of hyper-surveillance: Patriot Acts, presidentially-ordered spying, video camera speed traps, electronic credit reports, omnipresent cell phones, and, of course, blogging, myspacing, and now Just.fming. What is interesting to me is that people freely submit to these intrusions, literally signing up for some. Foucault says that Power works so well because its dictates are internalized and behavior is self-monitored, self-confessed. In other words, individuals are simultaneously jailor and prisoner, priest and confessor, viewer and viewed both towards others and towards themselves. So, it would make sense that people would post intimate information on their blogs, list their sexual orientation on their mySpace, etc. But, with these internet services like blogger, mySpace, and Last.fm, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of paranoia, self-consciousness, or reluctance at all.
Rather, people seem to rejoice in being surveilled.
My girlfriend just got back from a conference at which she saw a speaker trying to come to grips with mySpace both theoretically and personally. She said both she did not understand why people give themselves up so freely to self-confession and that she wants to figure out how to protect her son from it. The question underlying this is “where is the danger?” Why aren’t people concerned? How can we protect ourselves?
My question in response is, do we need to protect ourselves? Even better, what if this kind of submission was a form of protection? I haven’t read much late Foucault, but I think his idea of “care of the self” is applicable here. I remember something about maintaining motion under immobilizing pins of Power through self-creation. This may be a better way to describe these electronic offerings of identity, not confession but creation, a confession that creates.