LIS 694
Discussion Questions for Foucault

  1. Graduate students across the country in a multitude of disciplines are expected to read this chapter in this work by Foucault. Computer scientists write papers with titles like "Cryptography, data retention, and the panopticon society" (Jean-Franois Blanchette and Deborah G. Johnson in ACM Policy 1998). Sociologists write books with titles like Theorizing Surveillance: the Panopticon and Beyond (edited by David Lyon, c2006). A title keyword search in the Library of Congress catalog on "panopticon" retrieves 45 books with that word in the title. Why do you think this is?
  2. Why do governments conduct surveillance? Are there benevolent reasons? Historically has government surveillance ever been used for unethical purposes? If so, please elaborate.
  3. In 1949 the English-speaking world first got their hands on the novel Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell. Today, a Google search on "Big Brother" retrieves 41,900,000 results. The Library and Information Science world also uses the term. A search in Library and Information Science Abstracts on "Big Brother" brings up articles like "Persistent Cookies and the Government" in which the abstract says that the author discusses "whether Big Brother is watching your every online move." Why did this novel strike such a nerve in the public at large? Why is it still striking a nerve? Why would librarians be especially concerned about government surveillance?
  4. Please read this very short 2007 article in the Washington Post: Librarian Who Resisted FBI Says Patriot Act Invades Privacy. Should we be concerned about this? Why or why not?

Click here to return to Syllabus.