From Panopticon to Panspectron: Digital Data and Transformation of Surveillance Regimes

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Associate Professor, Head Department of Applied and Industrial Sociology, St. Petersburg State University
Affiliation: St. Petersburg State University
Address: Russian Federation
Journal nameSotsiologicheskie issledovaniia
EditionIssue 11

The proliferation of digital data is a new challenge to sociological knowledge, requiring not only new methods, but also revision of conceptual sociological optics. Based on the idea of the role of observation tools in the development of scientific knowledge, the article focuses on the transition from the regime of panoptic surveillance as the leading principle of management and organization of disciplinary power in the social systems of modernity to the regime of fluid surveillance which takes place in the context of digital technology development and allows monitoring and predicting various social patterns based on unstructured data. Main types of surveillance regimes opposite to the panopticon are considered. The concept of synopticon identified by T. Mathiesen presupposes the observation of the few by the many typical for mass media. The concept of social surveillance presupposes the observation of each other through social media sites. These surveillance regimes characterize social interaction mediated by digital technologies and can be described by the metaphor of panspectron proposed by M. DeLanda. It is concluded that in the context of surveillance regimes transformation, effective use of the research capabilities provided by digital data is possible if the epistemological concept of observation in the social sciences is revised.

Keywordsdigital data, panopticon, panspectron, liquid surveillance, synopticon, social surveillance, social life of methods
AcknowledgmentThe paper is funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project 18-013-00726 А).
Publication date12.12.2018
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