Andrew Hope, “Panopticism, Play and the Resistance of Surveillance: Case Studies of the Observation of Student Internet Use in UK Schools”

This 2005 article is based on a study of UK post-primary schools: the researcher observed and interviewed students, teachers, and staff about methods of monitoring what students do on school computers and students’ resistance of these methods. He begins by establishing a framework based on Bentham’s panopticon, which, importantly, works via the prisoners’ perception, but not knowledge, that they might always be being watched, leading to self-policing behavior. Online, Hope argues, we may not always be aware of the ways that we are being watched and our identities being labeled and monitored. Within the network of surveillance and information gathering created by the internet, though, Hope finds examples of play in resistance to surveillance, in the attempt to game the system and get around surveillance methods. In addition, there is a similar kind of play in ‘sousveillance’, in which the watched turns these methods around in order to watch the watcher.

In schools  students are aware of the systems in place to monitor them–physical surveillance as well as virtual–and engage in similar resistant behaviors as a form of play. Students (in 2005, remember) might turn their monitors, use a different students’ internet passcode, or *gasp* minimize windows when teachers walk by. Why they aren’t just clearing internet histories, I don’t know. It’s clear from this study that students at these schools were learning to get around the panopticon, fully aware of its existence.

Useful for me from this article is Hope’s context, especially the panopticon as productive of self-policing behaviors because the object never knows for certain when and if she is being watched. While Hope finds that the internet might obscure more official surveillance that is happening, I’m more interested in the surveillance of all by all–the self-policing that comes from knowing that, “if I post this Facebook status, society will see it.” The idea of play through resistance is also interesting–in this article, I think it speaks to a generation gap in internet saavy; in general, it might point to a way to critique hegemonic control.

 

Hope, Andrew. “Panopticism, Play and the Resistance of Surveillance: Case Studies of the Observation of Student Internet Use in UK Schools.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 26.3 (2005). 359-373. PDF File.

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2 Responses to Andrew Hope, “Panopticism, Play and the Resistance of Surveillance: Case Studies of the Observation of Student Internet Use in UK Schools”

  1. Pingback: James Boyle, “Foucault in Cyberspace: Surveillance, Sovereignty, and Hardwired Censors” | Digital A-Rae

  2. Pingback: Social Media & The Digital Confessional: Full Outline | Digital A-Rae

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