Panoptic Performances – Vlogging in a Culture of Surveillance

23 March 2019 @ 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Ambika P3
35 Marylebone Rd
Marylebone, London NW1 5LS
Panoptic Performances - Vlogging in a Culture of Surveillance @ Ambika P3 | England | United Kingdom

“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power… he becomes the principle of his own subjection” (Foucault 1995).

The Panopticon, a prison model first outlined by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, has recently been adapted to the contemporary understanding of the culture of surveillance (Lyon 2018) that has emerged with the introduction of digital media into the day-to-day lives of an ever increasing population of internet users. Simply put, the Panopticon prison is designed with its cells built in a way that allows every inmate to be observed by a single watchman. The catch is, they do not know if and when they are being watched. The Panopticon prison model has since been passed back and forth between social theorists. A consensus has formed in the notion that the Panopticon is power in an ideal form. Michel Foucault defines it in terms of disciplinary power, states that those who are subjected to this field of visibility become the principle of their own subjection. This event aims at adapting this understanding of the Panopticon to the subjection of YouTube Creators/Vloggers under the parameters of the neoliberal culture of surveillance present on the platform.

This event is in three parts…

First, guests will be asked to participate in focus group discussions which will explore themes around their experiences as YouTube Creators/Vloggers. Such themes include, but are not limited to, mental health, personal identity, imagined audience, recording of the self, aesthetics, working conditions of content creators, and more.

Second, guests will be selected at random for the panoptic performance, which are meant to illuminate how Panopticism plays out in filming vlogs. Vlogs are often filmed alone with vloggers filming their self with the understanding that they will be watched, after an editing process, of course. But this performance posses the question: how will vlogs take form when the audience is already watching?

And third, the performance will be followed up by shorter focus group discussion meant to reflect on the performance and the surrounding themes.



Trenton Lee is a PhD Candidate and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster School of Media and Communication. With a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Women’s Studies (University of Michigan) and a Master of Arts in Social Media, Culture and Society (University of Westminster), he focuses his research at the intersection between political economy and a queer feminist approach to the understanding of digital media technologies. His doctoral research project is a digital ethnography of YouTube’s creator community, exploring the effects of digital commodification on the identity formation and presentation processes of these entrepreneurial subjects.

For more information on is ongoing doctoral research, please visit:

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