An unprecedented mutation is taking place in the history of humankind.
It changes our relation with the world, with our body, even with our being.
That mutation does not occur secretly but in front of our eyes.
However, we cannot see it with precision and in all its breadth.
It is neither an evolution, nor a revolution, nor an accident;
it is neither a dark threat nor a conspiracy; it has not been deliberated
by a conscience, nor is it caused by a dark power.
(…) It causes itself. We have entered another world. The 21st century
has just set off and the revelation is made that a
new modernity, a new civilization, has been born.
(Wajcman, 2011, p. 13)
Last century, M. Foucault (Foucault, 2012) developed the objectives of the panopticon toward the domestication of bodies with a view to control and usefulness. He also stated that the age of disciplines promoted the organization of that which is multiple, an order-building experience; each body situated in a space and in a discipline was a useful body. The invisible eye of the panopticon in which everyone could be watched at any time had disciplinary effects on subjects.
That is not the function screens serve today. On the contrary, they are multiplied to infinity in an endless and aimless bombardment of images. Today each one of us is both surveilled and surveillant, docile to be looked at, located, bombarded by images at all times, but at the same time looking and showing incessantly. In the previous conversation we had with the members of the EBP and NEL groups, we situated a precision to bear in mind regarding the differences between today’s and last century’s society of control. We should distinguish between the disciplinary effects of the panopticon’s invisible eye and the spectacle effects of today’s omnivoyeur eye.
In today’s omnivoyeur eye, we find the voracious eye, as Lacan situates it in Seminar 11 (Lacan, 1964) ), which pushes us to look more and more, but in addition to a jouissance of showing. Looking at the image of the other, his or her life and intimacy, as well as exhibiting own’s own, implies going toward the society of the spectacle. Its effects are not disciplinary, but rather a reinforcement of the drive.
The omnivoyeur eye is that of surveillance, but in a certain symptomatic sense, surveillance is configured as an attempt to see more, to catch that which still cannot be seen, an illusion of absolute transparency which technology produces and which does not know the opacity of the real. A difference which stands out in our epoch is that the effect of shame—which Lacan situates in Seminar 11—is not verified, or at least not in the same sense as it was last century. What persists is the effect of strangeness, an effect of uneasiness which Lacan and Freud taught us to distinguish in the face of the unheimlich, that is, in the face of that which shows the opacity of the most intimate jouissance. As Heidegger says when writing about Hörlderlin’s poetry, “In this strangeness he proclaims his unfaltering nearness” (Heidegger, 1994, p. 175).
We hear about this uneasiness in different ways in our clinical practice: the subject who feels foreign in front of the wall of images, for example, or the strangeness in front of his or her own images exhibited in social media networks.
The push to omnivoyeurism, together with a certain position of voluntary servitude, provides the framework for the surveillance of our society of control.