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Which clippings match 'Mark Poster' keyword pg.1 of 1
04 OCTOBER 2005

Regulation through discourses/practices

"The prison operates through the production of norms to divide the population into prisoners and non–prisoners. Since the goal of the prison is to return prisoners to the status of non–prisoners, there must be a criterion, one carefully and comprehensively elaborated, to recognise the non–prisoner, the prisoner, and the developmental stages in the change from the one to the other. There must also be a detailed regimen to effectuate the change. There must finally be a method or system of keeping track of the change in each prisoner. Foucault borrows from Bentham the term Panopticon (one who sees all) to denote the entire apparatus of defining the norm, disciplining the negative term, observing the change from the negative to the positive and studying the whole process so that it can be perfected. But there is a difference. For Bentham the Panopticon was an artifice that deflected the criminal's mind from the irrationality of transgression to the rationality of the norm. It imposed social authority on the prisoner in a constant, total manner. The prisoner's actions could be monitored by guards at any time but without his ever knowing it. The prisoner would, in Rousseau's phrase, be forced to be free. With no escape or reprieve from the Panoptical eye, the prisoner would accept the authority of the norm with its rational system of pleasures and pains. For Foucault the task is to see the system as an imposition of a structure of domination, not as a rational, humanist intention. As we know, the Panopticon, evaluated on the standards of liberal and Benthamite theory, is a failure. Foucault's aim is to grasp the workings of the Panopticon outside the liberal framework: if it does not reform prisoners, what does it do? What are the effects of the social text of the prison, of Panoptical discourse? His argument is that the prison, in the context of a liberal capitalist society that celebrates the anarchy of the marketplace, the chaos of free monads pursuing infinite wants, the rationality of the unhindered subject – the prison in this world imposes the technology of power, the 'micropolitics' of the norm. In capitalist society, regulation takes the form of discourses/practices that produce and reproduce the norm. The school, the asylum, the factory, the barracks to greater or lesser degrees and with considerable variation all imitate the Panopticon. In modern society power is imposed not by the personal presence and brute force of a caste of nobles as it was in earlier times but by the systematic scribblings in discourses, by the continual monitoring of daily life, adjusting and readjusting ad in finitum the norm of individuality. Modern society may be read as a discourse in which nominal freedom of action is canceled by the ubiquitous look of the other. It may be interpreted semiologically as a field of signs in which the metadiscourse of the Panopticon is reimposed everywhere, even in places in which it is not installed. We may suggest that the free individual requires a repressed other, a sort of external super–ego, an absent father if only to guarantee his or her freedom."

(Mark Poster pp.90–91)

Poster, Mark. 1990 The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN: 0745603262



asylumauthority • barracks • biopolitical power relationscapitalismcontrolcultural normsdisciplinediscipline and punishmentdiscoursedominationfactoryJeremy Bentham • liberal capitalist society • Mark Poster • metadiscourse • Michel Foucaultmonadmonitoringnormspanopticonpracticeprisonprisonerpunishmentregulationrulesschoolsocial normsthe other
21 DECEMBER 2003

Information is a commodity and is properly controlled by market forces?

"We are now being convinced that 'information' is first a commodity and second that it is properly controlled by market forces. Capitalist economics assumes that resources are scarce and therefore that their allocation is best determined by market mechanisms. Yet information is not scarce but plentiful and cheap. In the mode of information the market inverts itself: by restricting the flow of information it produces the scarcity that economists tell us is a fact of nature.The problem is that information is too easily reproduced. Until now commodities were difficult to reproduce. A complex combination of materials and skills were required to make almost everything. Producer and consumer were separated by the process of production. Clothing, appliances, furniture – few consumers imagined they could provide these for themselves.' Books, music and film were no different. Consumers paid for the manufacture of the book, not for the information in it which was available at no cost in public libraries. The same was true for phonogaph recordings: the black disc was the commodity for which one paid, not the tune it contained which could be sung by anyone. Information was inseparable from the 'packages' in which it was delivered and the package had a price tag. The new technologies for reproducing information have changed all of that: photocopying devices, audio and video recorders, computer disk drives, and satellite receivers make every consumer into a producer. Anyone can reproduce information in a package that is equal to and in some cases better than the commercial package."

(Mark Poster)

Poster, Mark. 1990 The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 0226675963

Fig.1 Marshall, Rob (2005). Plastic Flower. , : Rob Marshall



commoditycopycopyright • economies of digital objects • informationMark Postermarketpiracyreproductionscarcity
03 DECEMBER 2003

Data Image: Cloud Of Statistics

Mark Poster's [1990] term for the cloud of statistics which gathers around any participant in consumerism or as absence.


cloud of statistics • data-image • Mark Poster

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