SP Seminar Series

Bart Simon, Concordia University;
"Playing with the Databased Self: Perfect Surveillance in the Age of Virtual Worlds", November 15th, 1:30pm to 2:30pm.

Bart Simon
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Concordia University

Playing with the Databased Self: Perfect Surveillance in the Age of Virtual Worlds

Thursday, November 15th
Location: Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room D411
Time: 1:30pm to 2:30pm

Forget about CCTV, ID cards and genetic profiling, massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds like The World of Warcraft represent the apotheosis of the post-panoptic dreams of our modern culture. These places, where we increasingly occupy more and more of our leisure time, offer us what Foucault called "diagrams" of perfect surveillance and control. Each person in these spaces is rendered as a perfectly intelligible relation of data more manageable, more manipulable and more predictable than any population envisaged by Babbage's first calculating machines, or criminal database, or market profile.

Unlike the criminal, the sick person, or even the consumer however, the player-avatars in these game worlds are objects of intense pleasure and desire while being perfectly surveillable at the same time. They represent the confluence, in late modernity, of the 'digital persona' that claims to represent us and the desire for being other than we are. The player-avatar is a diagram for our databased self. One wonders, does this new kind of subject signal the final condition in which we come to take pleasure in our own domination and control or can the pleasures of play in these worlds work to destabilize the normalizing circuitry of our current surveillance society? One also wonders, how could the stakes possibly be so high for what is ultimately just a silly video game?

Everyone welcome!