When you hear the word authoritarianism, what jumps to mind?
Dictators, tanks, guns, maybe a junta if Latin America is your thing.
What we’re really talking about is power and how it’s wielded. Authoritarianism is the centralization of power: political, military and economic, in very few hands.
But that’s pretty boring and obvious. Right?
What I find interesting isn’t the tectonic saber rattling of nations. I’m interested in the way power becomes micrological, that is, the way power is internalized and effects our actions, often without us being conscious of it.
What scares me about the “modern world” is the interaction between power, regimes of surveillance and personal technology.
The idea that big brother is watching you, that doesn’t scare me at all. I grew up with cameras in the shopping mall and school. And governments, it turns out, tend not to give a shit about what people do unless it’s really threatening (obviously the definition of threatening is pretty relative, almost everything is threatening in say North Korea).
The Panopticon isn’t closed circuit TV and it isn’t created by the government. The Panopticon is created by us and it is in your pocket and on your social networks.
Everyone is possible fodder for a youtube or youku video made on an iPhone. The ability to edit & spread these videos is creating a regime of surveillance far more worrisome than something a government can cook up. With a government, you can at least try and speak truth to power. What truth is there on youtube? Or Weibo? Or twitter?
The truth is today’s meme. And maybe, if you’re unlucky enough, it will be you.