Mitchell McInnis, “Conversation with a Dead Man: Foucault on Facebook and Confession”

Turning from panopticism (which I’m still unsure is a word) toward Foucault’s confessional, I look at Mitchell McInnis’ blog post from, which seems to be a possibly-temporarily-defunct online publication about wandering. I annotate this because the beginning raises an interesting lens for thinking about Facebook–a similar lens to the one I am thinking through–though it abandons this framework after introducing it and then meanders (wanders, like a hobo?) to think about how Facebook/online connectivity “undercut[s]” the ability to transform oneself by moving to a new place, meeting new people, making new art.

But, in the relevant part of this blog, McInnis imagines a conversation with Foucault about the publicization of the confession, and the embrace of it, especially with the dawn of Facebook (written in 2009, just after I got my own Facebook as a senior in high school). Foucault traces confession back to its Christian roots; “Freud called out Christianity’s function of installing a cop in the head of each individual.” This kind of “soft power structure”–perhaps, what I’ve been calling implicit power, or, a kind of sneaking, subtle use of power in the creation of self-policing/self-oppressing individuals. Glossing over lots of history, McInnis carries the confessional into the public, with the invention of talk shows– “the host, live audience and viewing public providing novenas by way of understanding, applause as well as jeers.” With our love of celebrity, McInnis says, the talk show brought together people’s 15 minutes and their confessions. What he does not go into here is the influence of the social good of “story-telling” here–the idea that everyone has a narrative, a story, an experience, to share–expression is a good thing. And, sure, it is, but it also makes our experience, not only public, but linguistic–in the language of the hegemony, “of the oppressors” (who’s this? Freire?). And, nowhere is this “democratization” of celebrity joined with the confessional more apparent than on Facebook, where everyone can “share” their “status,” where everyone can make their confessions.

Many of these connections are implied in/imposed on (by me) McInnis’ post, but it is good to read someone else thinking through at least the beginning framework. Looks like I’m going to have to turn back to History of Sexuality soon. Probably lengthy post to come on that.

McInnis, Mitchell. “Conversation with a Dead Man: Foucault on Facebook and Confession.” 5.4 (2009).

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1 Response to Mitchell McInnis, “Conversation with a Dead Man: Foucault on Facebook and Confession”

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

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