Jun 5, 2012
4 notes

Foucault on the panoptic dream building as a

diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system: it is in fact a political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use.

D.W. Rodowick on diagrammatics

The most succinct way of defining the diagram is to call it a map of power – diagrammatics is the cartography of strategies of power. As such, the diagram produces an historical image of how strategies of power attempt to replicate themselves in forms of surveillance, documentation, and expression on one hand, and in the spatial organization of collective life on the other.

Deleuze offers a rhizomatic / nomadic movement to the panopticon:

The diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a
cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. [Furthermore the] diagram is a map, or rather several superimposed maps. And from one diagram to the next, new maps are drawn. Thus there is no diagram that does not also include, besides the points which it connects up, certain relatively free or unbound points, points of creativity, change and resistance, and it is perhaps with these that we ought to begin in order to understand the whole picture.

Greg Elmer follows this with:

Taking a diagrammatic approach to panoptic surveillance,
conversely requires us to conceptualize the manner in which modes of data accumulation, storage, and processing are networked in an increasingly dispersed and automated infoscape. […] In the
realm of contemporary infomatics the diagram therefore affords us the
possibility of tracing the everyday data-economy, in which habits, routines, rhythms, and flows are digitized, coded and diagnosed for the purposes of control.


In large part, the diagrammatic power of the panopticon lies in its claims to continuity and automation, that is, its ability to function without the need for direct supervision and intervention

On Intransigent Familiarity

As a predictive technique, then, the panoptic diagram calls upon an all-too familiar aggregated past to subtly limit access to different futures. […]

The panoptic diagram, in other words, only disciplines consumers if they actively seek out the unfamiliar, the different, the previously unseen, purchased, or browsed. […]

We are continuously solicited, either with a ‘more of the same’ product, or yet more inquiries meant to be cross-referenced to monitor new trends, changes in taste, or simply to refine the effectiveness and precision of the diagrammatic process itself. As a consequence, we may soon find it compellingly easy and convenient to consume ‘more of the same’, or conversely, increasingly more difficult to find something different.

All quotes from Greg Elmer’s (2003) “A diagram of panoptic surveillance” in New Media & Society.

Dec 3, 2011
31 notes

Toronto Standard: How Suits Make Monkeys Out of Men

Menswear, meanwhile, has evolved into something vaguely resembling MuchMusic: no amount of snarky hipster lexicon can cover up for its gross cultural irrelevance. It remains stagnantly Western, and more specifically, British. At one point this diversity dike could be blamed on men’s aversion to, well, fashion. But with men everywhere jumping on the “maybe I should wear a belt with this” bandwagon, that excuse flies out the glory hole in favour of a more sociological explanation.

Okay have you read it yet?

I have a question. What is the goal of Maddeaux’s critique here? I think the big reason I’m intrigued with this piece of Menswear criticism is that I feel like it embodies so many of the problems associated with the weird post-modern cultural studies kind of analysis that doesn’t actually get us any closer to articulating something meaningful about morality or society (which I think is the intended goal here). So what DOES it say?

  • Historically, suits have been associated with white men for a while now, and clothing functions as symbol of power and wealth. (it does)
  • It often can be linked to war and masculine power (okay!) and Hugo Boss made the SS uniform (yep!) so whoa there aesthetics and politics! Slow down!
  • Something something variety is the spice of life and uh menswear should have more international flavour (multiculturalism??)
  • Radical change in the values of society might mean less boring clothes for men.

The first two points are actually really interesting, but they are useless to us, I think, if we just all go and say “Ah ha! I have unlocked the symbolism of menswear! You are all just men scrambling for status and power and whiteness! Also: Nazis!”

The problem is that deconstructing an aesthetic style of dress in this way (without proper follow-through of the theory) leads us to what Maddeaux suggests is desireable: new aesthetic styles that aren’t tainted by these old power structures. In this case, this means more variety of style or something. “But wait Daniel!” you might say, “if we buy this argument in the first place, the new (multicultural) aesthetic style we create will be just as imbricated with power as that which we are doing away with! Hugo Boss still gets my money!”

And that’s correct! Moving to a more “multicultural” form of menswear will still replicate old power structures, if just in a more nuanced and insidious way. A multicultural menswear is no better than a menswear linked with the “big balls” white guy dominance of industrial England. If we fail to look deeper into the status of relations that menswear, as a practice and an aesthetic, has with investment banks, employment practices, design strategies, resource procurement (and maybe in a Latourian turn: moths, ocean water and sewing needles), we fail to be able to reveal anything other than “menswear is a power strategy”, which to me does a disservice to those who actually care about it, make it, or live (or die!) for it. We would be robbing them (as well as the fabrics, looms and container ships) of agency. And we like agency yes?

This is what I think: connoisseurs, producers, designers, shoppers, store workers all have a relationship with menswear that can’t be really understood if we suggest that the suit is only a symbol and strategy of power. Because if that is all it is it’s monolithic, and then we just end up waiting for a deep rooted sociological change, as Maddeaux suggests, or worse: we just try to buy our way out.

May 19, 2011
2 notes


Some thoughts on Lil B and power relations. I even say Foucaultian once!

May 18, 2011
3 notes

The Kids Aren't Happy: How Unemployed Youth and Social Media Are Remaking The World

So I’m finally getting around to posting this project that I worked on with Daniel Drache during the Winter. The idea of these slideshows is to communicate big ideas and big historical events using images and as few words as possible.

Here Drache and I make the case for the importance of social media and youth in this year’s Arab Spring, despite the medium’s many detractors. To Drache it’s about phenomina - and despite it all, people are using technology in ways they want, regardless of the Foucaultian cyber-surveillance state apparatus that is the subject of so many dystopian fears.

[EDIT] link should work now.
Jan 7, 2011
7 notes
Today, the digital communications revolution is also changing the social landscape, with the power to free millions of people from the marginalization that comes from having no voice in global affairs. These three major transfers of power, from market to state, from men to women, and from transnational elites to the global citizen, share a common theme. They have been the great levelers of class relations in the twentieth century and have redefined the power dynamics between agency and structure. None of this has occurred in the way that Marxians had hoped for. Nor does this vision conform to Foucault’s complex vision of society completely dominated by disciplinary neo-liberalism. The post-structural lens has not been able to account for vibrant powerful and ultimately effective defiant global publics and the unprecedented reach of the global citizen.
Daniel Drache - Defiant Publics. Re-reading this for a number of reasons (sup thesis), but mainly because I have been tasked with running a research project about Twitter for the next few months by Drache. 
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Nonstop Maoist hymns, patriotic power ballads & shrill exhortations at all hours. Toronto-based PhD Student in Communication & Culture @ Ryerson/York.

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