Seeing, Showing Off and Being Seen: On the Ramifications of Panoptical Surveillance in Contemporary Society
40 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2010
Date Written: January, 11 2010
Surveillance is often considered as a hallmark of today’s society. This paper examines how professionals and professional service firms react to increased formalization of surveillance mechanisms, and discusses implications ensuing from their reactions. To carry out the investigation we rely on data gathered in two distinct empirical settings: the use of a knowledge management system in a law firm; and the imposition of a regulatory requirement on public accounting firms. Our analysis stresses that targets of surveillance are not docile bodies. They can divert and circumvent surveillance mechanisms in unpredictable ways but can also, paradoxically, actively participate in the structuring of their own surveillance. Broadly speaking, this research points to the need to consider the notion of panoptical surveillance from angles that recognize the ambiguities, complexities, and unpredictability of human institutions. Important implications arise from the unpredictable ramifications of panoptic control, from a societal as well as from a research viewpoint.
Keywords: Collegial control, Panopticon, Professional Service Organizations, Regulation
JEL Classification: L84
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation