Sunday, May 20, 2012


There may be something in the idea that we are moving away from an era of discipline and punishment into an era of control and security. Certainly the technologies that are deployed in order to keep us in check are ever more apparent, and the sanctions (at least in everyday life) are more about being denied access or incurring small fines or penalties. A good example is the way in which our pathways through the urban environment are channeled and regulated. Driving to work certainly isn't an unfettered expression of free choice, and most of the time I'm thankful for that. But nonetheless my progress is carefully regulated by stop lights, my speed of progress monitored by cctv and police speed-guns, and should I be tempted to stray into the bus lane before 9:30, my registration plate will be photographed and traced, and a penalty notice will rapidly be dispatched to my home address. And then there's parking. Plenty of choice there, but without the right kind of permit or ticket, or if I outstay my welcome, hey presto another fine! This all happens before gaining access to the workplace, controlled by the obligatory swipe card, and letting myself in with the rather old-fashioned technology of lock and key - and at that point I have finally arrived! Then work - work, as we seem to know it, is regulated by any number of log-ins and passwords - fine if you remember them, impossible if you don't. To get a drink I need a door code to access the kitchen, and of course to buy anything inevitable involves a pin number at the very least. I could go on...and on. Of course, it all contributes to safety and order, and the alternative could be chaos. But still, we are controlled and the technologies of control are agents of the powers that be.

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