The “free-form floating societies of control” Deleuze describes in “Postscript” are characterized by their lack of enclosure; because they are more dispersed, this kind of control is less visible and centralized. You cannot point to numbers and codes and algorithms the way that you can point to prisons or schools. The fear and dangers of the free-form control systems are also more difficult to pin down: imprisonment and social-control-through-institutionalized-education moves to myriad economic and social consequences that, if one follows far enough down the rabbit hole, can eventually lead to a physical light at the end of the tunnel, like JLee’s perceptive observations about how she (and all of us) are reduced to codes and her movements controlled (i.e. passports and visas) in order to be physically granted access to one country, one space, or another. As Abigail points out, this also takes shape through debt and credit reporting, and the ways in which often invisible external amorphous forces like credit agencies (that are tied to big banks and lending institutions and stocks and it goes on and on) to determine one’s access to the means and permissions necessary to buy a house, a car, or a college education.
Deleuze also ties this shift away from a disciplinary and semi-stable shape of control in which one could see the power structure and either meet specific achievement levels to succeed and assimilate within that structure or organize a resistance; however, with societies of control, those levels and the means by which to resist or to achieve are ever-changing, like an infinitely vast videogame–there’s always another level and another mushroom to jump. Deleuze states, “perpetual training” tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way of delivering the school over to the corporation” (5). Preach it, Deleuze. That’s what you could have heard if you were near me and my laptop when I read that sentence, which was followed by, “in societies of control one is never finished with anything” (5). I put my hands in the air. This reading illuminates so much about the ways in which neoliberalism invades and pervades our contemporary lives, like the blob, kind of; it’s not there except it is–it’s just dispersed and then it comes together and physically subsumes you. So many people I know have multiple advanced degrees, endure ongoing and endless hours of certifications and continuous formal training at conferences, (never mind all the improvement spent in one’s spare time to learn a little bit more, or get a little more skilled at something not “required”). Jeez, sometimes, when you look at all that training amounts to, which is a whole lotta hours and whole lotta not-so-much in terms of monetary (or any kind of) rewards (I know, I know: the reward is in the doing, but isn’t that maybe what “they” want you to think?)
If you marry this kind of societies of control theory in Deleuze with the social media discussed in boyd, it gets really scary. Control is always social. It’s no accident that Deleuze terms this new system “societies”. If the systems of control, the dispersed blob of it, lives at least partially in the forms we fill out–the official ones, sure, but also the voluntary ones that we enmesh within our lives, like in Facebook and Google–then the blob already has everything it needs to control us. And we all kind of know this already, but we keep typing in the forms, uploading the pictures, Googling every passing thought. Although I’d like to imagine there’s a way to answer JLee’s final questions about possibility of resistance, I can’t imagine how one or many or the masses might resist such a dispersed system of control. Maybe a bunch of smart people can figure out how to chip away at it, but it’s hard to have a revolt when people don’t and can’t see the structure doing the controlling, when it’s just so embedded in who we think we are and how we go about our everyday lives.
I planned to also talk about my conversion to Facebook via MySpace shaming by Canadians, but I didn’t quite get there. What I do want to end with is how all of the readings this week brought home the idea that control is always social–it’s carried out in social norms and values and it’s acquiesced to by a social majority, often with moral underpinnings. If nothing else, I think these readings have taught me to be more suspicious, but not about the lurkers out there in cyberspace, but about looking ever more diligently at the control and values being propagated in our aesthetic choices and consumption patterns.