The Circle by Dave Eggers is a dystopian story of a young woman, Mae, who gets a job at the premier, most widely-used, wealthiest technology company (monopoly), The Circle, which seems to have so much power, and penetrates people of the developed world’s lives so deeply, that it becomes like an oppressive government, like that of Brave New World or 1984 or Anthem or The Hunger Games (in fact, very, unoriginally, like them–but that’s a problem for another day). The company, much like the government in BNW, communicates and inculcates via aphorisms, pithy assertions of company, and thus, utopian-world, philosophy.
[SPOILERS FROM HERE, ON]
My favorite so far–the most apt for the book, for what is happening to Mae, and, incidentally, the most Big Brother-esque, is “All that happens must be known.” Already interested in internet surveillance, from the perspective of security and 9/11 generational shifts and from that of Foucauldian panopticonism and the confessional, this aphorism, I was struck by this scene, in which the charismatic “Wise Man” who co-founded and co-runs the company, introduces a new product–a tiny camera that can be installed anywhere and will hardly be detectable, and which feeds to a collective, cloud-based monitoring of the video. He can put one in public, at the beach where he hopes to surf; he can put one in his mother’s home, despite her refusal to be watched; and, as we learn later, he will most likely be able to put one in every dorm room at The Circle, every office, every home of every employee…until the world can be watched, documented, monitored, controlled, policed, disciplined, punished. This dystopian population, caught up in the “open,” “free,” “expressive” digital culture (the offspring of the one we have now), bends willingly, applauds, roars in appreciation and affirmation, films their most intimate moments, believes wholeheartedly that, if every moment can be watched, if everyone has to be held accountable–those in government, soldiers in Egypt, Mae’s relationship with Kalden, most likely–the rest of the world can become a utopia like the campus of The Circle.