In his book The Transparency Society (2012), South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han once again uses Michel Foucault’s panopticon metaphor as a point of departure to expound on the concept of the digital panopticon. This term refers to the new, radical visibility that makes it possible to see everything through electronic means, beginning with individuals’ private lives. This encompasses everything from social networks to Google tools—Earth, Maps, Glass, and Street View—and YouTube.
Hyperconnected South Korea boasts the world’s fastest Internet connections and is the most audacious laboratory of the transparency society, having transformed into a sort of “holy land” of Homo digitalus, who uses a cell phone as a hand extension with which to “explore” the world.
Panoptical control of the disciplinary society functioned through the direct view of the gaze from a central tower. The occupants weren’t visible to one another, nor could they see the watchman, and they would have preferred not to be observed, in order to have some semblance of freedom. The digital panopticon, however, loses its perspectivist nature: In the cybernetic environment, everyone sees everyone else and people expose themselves to be seen. The analog gaze’s single control point has disappeared: Observation is now ubiquitous, from all angles. But the control continues—in a different form—and perhaps it is even more effective than before. Because each individual grants others the opportunity to see into his or her private life, the knowledge of which generates a sense of mutual vigilance. This comprehensive view “degrades the transparent society to the point of turning it into a society of control. Everyone controls everyone else,” the philosopher wrote.
(…) The manifesto The Transparency Society ends by positing that the world is developing into a great panopticon in which no wall separates the inside from the outside.