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The Generalized Sousveillance Society

Jean-Gabriel Ganascia 1
1 ACASA - Agents Cognitifs et Apprentissage Symbolique Automatique
LIP6 - Laboratoire d'Informatique de Paris 6
Abstract : This article is based on the notion of ‘sousveillance’, which was invented by Steve Mann to describe the present state of modern technological societies where anybody may take photos or videos of any person or event, and then diffuse the information freely all over the world. The article shows how sousveillance can be generalized both to the real world and to the virtual world of the Infosphere using modern information technologies. As a consequence, the separation between public and private spheres tends to disappear. We believe that generalized sousveillance may transform the overall society, e.g. modern public transportation like the Paris subway might have to change the way it disseminates information due to the impossibility of managing the flow of information coming from its infrastructures. To attempt to elucidate a society based on generalized sousveillance, the article introduces the notion of the ‘Catopticon’, derived from Bentham’s Panopticon: while the architecture of the Panopticon was designed to facilitate surveillance by prohibiting communication and by installing surveyors in a watchtower, the architecture of the ‘Catopticon’ allows everybody to communicate with everybody and removes surveyors from the watchtower. The article goes on to explore the opportunities the Catopticon might offer if extended to the whole planet. It also shows the limitations of the extended Catopticon; some are extrinsic: they consist of various resistances which restrict access to the Internet; others are intrinsic: for instance, we can exchange simultaneously only with a few people, while we may have millions of contacts. As a consequence, the various new ‘regimes of distinction’ mentioned above play a key role in modern societies.
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Submitted on : Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 4:34:55 PM
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Jean-Gabriel Ganascia. The Generalized Sousveillance Society. Social Science Information, SAGE Publications, 2010, 49 (3), pp.489-507. ⟨10.1177/0539018410371027⟩. ⟨hal-01185604⟩



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