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Does the Internet shape a disciplinary society? The information-knowledge paradox


DOI: 10.5210/fm.v19i3.4109

RAJAGOPAL, Indhu. Does the Internet shape a disciplinary society? The information-knowledge paradox. First Monday, [S.l.], mar. 2014. ISSN 13960466. Available at: http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4109.

p.1: In the post–modern era, knowledge is being understood as information. In reality, knowledge is commoditized and objectified as decontextualized representations. More information may mean that the society is drawn into a critical phase where loss of knowledge occurs with the unlimited flow of information. Such ubiquitous information could lead to less understanding, less trust and less truth, which would erode rationality in the governance of the society. Using a framework based on Michel Foucault’s archeological methodology, i.e., unearthing how information and communication technologies (ICT) came to be viewed as a source of truth/knowledge, this paper explores the question: Do ICT contribute information that can be construed as knowledge? Does this knowledge contribute to truth or to power? Do ICTs push an information society towards Foucault’s disciplinary society, where the so–called knowledge speaks ‘truth to power’? -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.1: Foucault’s power/knowledge is a dyad, as he inseparably ties the two to mean that control elicits knowledge, and knowledge is used for control. Foucault’s argument is that the that control elicits knowledge, and knowledge is used for control. Foucault’s argument is that the ruling/regulating power in society ultimately decides and develops the knowledge systems for managing and controlling people: e.g., in different periods, power creates or changes the way people are managed using the knowledge that provides the tools of control. Those in power, e.g., experts and professionals who produce knowledge, institutionalize different types of ‘knowledges’ as accredited knowledge systems. -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.1: As Foucault argues, experts and professionals contribute to the ‘expert systems of knowledge’, i.e., accredited, specialized, codified, abstract knowledge. Currently, information and communication technologies (ICT) create and disseminate information as so called ‘knowledge’. Corporate funding regulates and impinges upon the university that is avowed as the repository of pure knowledge, and interferes with its autonomy, and controls it. Knowledge, therefore, has become subjected to so many forces that it has become indistinguishable from the powers that create information/knowledge and disseminate it as truth/knowledge. -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.2: Tsoukas (1997) explains why Foucault links knowledge and power: if you see knowledge is all that is embedded in information, it makes social engineering an alluring process of powers that be, to influence and control an individual’s thinking and behaving, which Foucault referred to as ‘government influence and control an individual’s thinking and behaving, which Foucault referred to as ‘governmentality’, i.e., the power of governing through a growing body of certain knowledge. This knowledge represents itself i.e., the power of governing through a growing body of certain knowledge. -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.2: With the increase of institutional structures under the government, governmentality further expanded to professional institutions and experts who claimed the knowledge necessary to command the authority to evoke discipline and conformity of individuals under their purview. The public has come to assume that by using this knowledge, those in charge ‘know’ the solutions for problems, and can solve them. “To ‘know’ in this context means having information on the variation of certain indicators that are thought to capture the essence of the phenomenon at hand” (Tsoukas, 1997). -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.3: Foucault’s modern “disciplinary” society, as described in his Discipline and punish (1995), is hierarchically organized so that a single guard from above within a structure (Panopticon) specially designed for the guard, can observe unseen by the observed, conduct surveillance of the whole public with an aim to discipline them. The ‘disciplinary’ society [8], as noted earlier, has three primary means of control (Foucault, 1995):

  1. Hierarchical power: Surveillance through the Panopticon
  2. Normative judgment: Normalization of the individuals, not by torture, but by reform, disciplining and correction, to turn ‘abnormal’ individuals into ‘normal’ ones.
  3. Tests and examination: Testing and examining, e.g., the hospital patient or clinical subject for biotechnological procedures, elicits ‘truths’ through their confessions.

-- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.4: Foucault analyzes technologies of power in the context of the prison. We can extend Foucault’s paradigm of the prisoner as “object of knowledge” to a comparable paradigm of the consumer as “object of information” using the discourse analysis based on (market–consumer) commercial power relationship. ICT thus becomes a conduit for a network of power/knowledge relationships. -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014

p.9: The powerful processes of individuation and normalization are teleological in that they require an individual to attain a corporate specified ‘knowledge.’ For instance, knowledge management (KM) is a corporate cultural technique used to condition the workers to share and disseminate their knowledge of production throughout the system. Technicians are tapped for procedural knowledge that is then added to the codified knowledge. Using ICT, workers’ tacit knowledge can be digitized and stored in a database which may be turned into information manuals or training materials for an organization. -- Highlighted mar 19, 2014