Speaking of public intellectuals, Siva Vaidhyanathan gave a talk here a couple days ago on privacy and surveillance, developing the ideas here. (For one thing, he now prefers “Cryptopticon” to “Nonopticon.”)

Siva thinks we should stop our Foucauldian worrying about Bentham’s Panopticon. He says he’s lived in the Panopticon, in New York, where there are lots of visible cameras everywhere (when I lived in one of the home counties, where it is said you can go all day without being out of CCTV range, I knew the feeling). Siva points out a lot of the cameras aren’t maintained, monitored, or even attached to anything; that’s not the point of them. They’re not there to watch you, they’re there to make you think that you’re being watched. Such reminders (your call may be monitored) are supposed to get you to become your own social superego.

On balance, Siva seems to think, this is pretty harmless. The point of the Panopticon is to get you to behave, to hide your real self, to conform. About which we can note two things: one, if you’ve been to London or New York, you see that in the real Panopticon people get their freak on just fine, thank you very much. And two, to the extent that it does work, the Panopticon actually reinforces privacy—getting you to hide your real self draws the boundaries around that real self. What we really need to worry about is unannounced, concealed surveillance: the NonCryptopticon.
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Part-time work in academia

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 24, 2008

Part-time work is often argued to be one possible solution for working parents, so as to make the balance between work and caring easier. This post is not about the question whether this is indeed (part of) the solution in general – that is, for all types of paid work. Rather, I’d like to raise some doubts about the idea that part-time work is a good thing for academics who are doing research (in addition to whatever else they do – teaching or management). In this country, plenty of academics work part-time, and often standard lecturer positions are only offered on a part-time basis (often 80%). [click to continue…]

The flame of nationalism

by John Q on April 24, 2008

As the Olympic torch touches down in Australia, it is hard to see how any good can come of the entire exercise.

After Kevin Rudd’s visit to Beijing, which seemed to herald a newly mature relationship between Australia and China, we’ve spent a week or more embroiled in a petty squabble, of a kind which is all too familiar in international relations, over the role of Chinese torch attendants/security guards, with the Australian government insisting that all security will be provided by our police and the Chinese saying that the attendants will “protect the torch with their bodies”.

George Orwell observed over 60 years ago that

Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

and history since then has given plenty of examples. It looks as if the 2008 Olympics will join them.
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