For this post I want to analyze the episode of Black Mirror called, “Arkangel,” and connect it to what we’ve read in these past weeks. For those who have not seen the episode, I will attempt to explain it without spoiling the whole thing. The episode revolves around the very themes that we discuss in Foucault’s chapter, “Panopticon” by showing the relationship between an overbearing mother and her daughter. In the beginning, there is a scene where the mother is at the park with her 2-year-old daughter who gets lost for a few moments before she is found by a neighbor. This scare prompts the mother to get a science fiction child surveillance system where the mother can view the daughter’s location, vitals, and even a first-person view of what her daughter sees. As the daughter becomes a teenager, the mother ends up seeing her daughter do things that no parent wants nor needs to see their child doing. When the daughter finds out her mom was watching, she runs away from home.
This story obviously brings up questions of how much surveillance is too much? In Foucault’s chapter, “Panopticon,” we see how the technology of the panopticon is a symbol for the disciplinary society that we live in today, where we constantly have to question the morality of advanced surveillance technologies. Just because we are capable of viewing everything everyone is doing, does it mean we should? I think this episode shows the lack of trust that ensues under constant surveillance. It is often said that the kids with the strictest parents become the best liars. I think this is true with people as well, if people feel like they are being watched and judged by not only the government but also the society itself, I think it produces an environment where no one is to be trusted. Just like it is shown in the episode of Black Mirror, once that trust is broken it is nearly impossible to regain it.
This is an ongoing relationship between the power to surveil and the increasing technologies in the 21st century. We must question and evaluate the technologies that are becoming more available to our society to watch each other and be watched, because if we allow the extent to which we are under surveillance to continue to expand, freedom will be increasingly illusionary.
Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism.” In DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH: the Birth of the Prison. Editions Gallimard, 1975.