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How Does Technology Act as a Gatekeeper? Are There Assumptions at the Programming Level Itself?

Gatekeeping refers to the practice of filtering information before dissemination. It is a common practice on the internet, broadcasting, and publication, and in different modes of communication. Chapter 12 titled The Ambiguous Panopticon: Foucault and the Codes of Cyberspace analyzes gatekeeping in the context of communication studies. A gatekeeper controls access to an object and makes decisions regarding whether a specific message should be distributed or not. In the context of technology and programming, the act of gatekeeping resembles the generic definition given above: something that plays the role of filtering.

With the present technology, gatekeeping can take different forms. In the reading, the author discusses ways in which Internet technology creates an internal agency that results in a vision of authority where each person monitors himself and also his neighbor. It points out with certainty that there is software that exists today and used for the purpose of self as well as peer surveillance. Some form of this technology is also marketed on the basis of providing security again surveillance from corporate or government agencies.

The fact that technology can act as a gatekeeper is stressed in the text when the author described the Internet as part of the new technologies that produce panoptical effects on the body in an oppressive manner. The text provides architectural theories in which surveillance is analyzed from a physical and partial point of view. Here, the gatekeeping role of technology involves central mechanisms that have been put in place for the purpose of watching over the subjects. The concepts of panopticism have been presented in this text as discussed by Foucault and are grounded on prison-panopticon. The assumption is that all panopticons simply replicate the features contained in the prison-Panopticon. It is assumed that when technology acts as a gatekeeper, it is this original idea that is simply amended. Moreover, it is assumed that the variety of a target population is made up of people of different ages and from different backgrounds and occupations. As a result, varying degree of discrimination is required in treatment. However, the various motivations are implemented in such a way that they become invisible for the citizens.How Does Technology Act as a Gatekeeper

The views presented in this article on the ability of technology to act as a gatekeeper are applicable and relevant today. In recent years, for instance, there has been a heated debate on the use of the Internet and its benefits and consequences. For some individuals, the Internet and programming is a source of freedom and a significant contribution to shared humanity. Others argue that over the years, the internet and the advanced level of computing are likely to become an instrument of personal alienation and that can be used to carry out global surveillance. The concept of self-fashioning discussed in the text embodies the concerns of each side in this debate.

The ability of technology to act as a gatekeeper is more evident within journalism than anywhere else. With the development of new technologies, functions of gatekeeping have also evolved and in the present digital era, three different models of gatekeeping can be identified. The first and second models involve the processes of information and communication. The third model, on the other hand, involves a process of elimination in which the role of gatekeeping is undertaken by people that are not within the newsroom. In recent years, some states have attempted to regulate the use of the Internet. The digital libertarianism that exists today is insufficient due to its control by the state and private power in the cyberspace.How Does Technology Act as a Gatekeeper



Essay 2 Is the Internet a Means of Resistance or Control?

Winokur (2003) discusses the Internet as a means of control. He asserts that if the Internet is panoptic, it must then “serve the same panoptic or enlightenment function of social control of the body in space.” In order to determine whether the internet is a means of resistance or control, Winokur points out that it is important to ask a number of questions. For instance, one has to establish whether the internet is an “institution.” Moreover, it is important to determine its discourse and boundaries before establishing whether the Internet is coercive or not. From the numerous references made to Foucault’s views, Winokur concludes that Foucault considered the main disadvantage of the enlightenment that had been inherited from the centuries past to be the desire to control many people. According to Foucault, this particular notion had spread to and dominated the Internet. This view is supported by Lyon (1994) who claimed that “left to itself, cyberspace will become a perfect tool of control.”

When analyzing the internet as a means of resistance, Winokur (2003) asks a rhetorical question to invoke deeper reasoning by the reader: “does the Internet institute an internal agency that ensures a vision of authority and society in which each person is her own and her neighbor’s monitor?” Some software has created a resistance to panopticism especially among those people that want to maintain their individual privacy. This reflects the extent of self-consciousness that human beings have developed regarding their internet behavior. Additionally, Winokur analyses resistance from the point of text reproducibility. The internet as a means of resistance has grown partly because of the availability of the code of the internet to people. He concludes by remarking that probably there could be a better way to frame the Internet’s future rather than simply expressing it in terms of the two opposing instances: as a means of control or mass resistance.How Does Technology Act as a Gatekeeper

The analysis presented by the author on the use of the Internet as a means of control represents a shift in social control forms. Rather than focus on traditional territorial control, Winokur introduces a new concept of deterritorialized social control. In some political organizations such states, the development of the Internet has occurred parallel with the interests of those in power. An example of this is Indonesia where the Internet was introduced at a time when the country was going through a political crisis. Over the years, the internet has developed to the extent that it is no longer controlled by the state. The civil society in this country used it to strengthen their position and to avoid being dominated by the state. Indonesia’s experience provides an appropriate paradigm to illustrate how the Internet can act as a means for popular existence.

In my own views, I think that the Internet has overcome any kind of political control aimed at using it as a means of resistance and control. Today, we see that internet technologies have been centralized at standardized at company level or protocol level respectively. A good example of the protocol level standardization is the email, which was introduced following the creation of the Internet. During that time, market power presented a serious concern. Today, however, the number of competitors is so great to the extent that market power is no longer a problem. Facebook and Twitter are examples of centralization of internet technologies at the company level. In the event that these entities abuse the market power they wield, their competitors will start to take over. On the other hand, any attempts by governments to use the Internet as a means of control will result in the adoption of new technologies aimed at circumventing that control.How Does Technology Act as a Gatekeeper



Essay Three: How Does the Internet Record our Concepts of Time and Space and our Relationship to These Two Traditional Dimensions?

In chapter 12, Winokur (2003) discusses the notion of panopticism primarily because of its application in the studies of the Internet. He points out that both panopticon and the Internet make almost similar assumptions regarding the concepts of time and space of the subject within the discourse. The author remarks that both the Internet and panopticism “construct space with a special attention to the subject’s internalizing a particular model of space, and a particular notion of how people are distributed throughout space in relation to one another, and with a special attention to the defining of the individual through the space she occupies” (Winokur, 2003). Further, he states that both concepts show great interest in constructing and distributing authority over the subject. In order to explain ways in which the Internet record our concepts of time and space and our relationship to this two traditional dimensions, Winokur (2003) presents a short thesis that aims at explaining the link between the Internet and his particular poststructuralism in which he proposes that the Internet makes people question the notion of panopticism.

To further explore this area, Winokur asks the question: “Is the Internet surveillant after the manner of panopticon?” (Winokur, 2003). In the analysis that follows, the author concludes that if the Internet is panoptic, then it must “serve the same panoptic/enlightenment functions of social control through physical control of the body in space and a rhetorical control of the definition of subjectivity that other panoptic institutions do.” The author creates an avenue for the application of the concept of the panopticon, which in this case serves as a metaphor used to describe or provide more information on a new phenomenon referred to as panopticism. To explain the bodies in space, Winokur explains that the panoptic gaze is “unidirectional and fictive” at the start. Referring to the example of surveying prisoners, he explains that although the guard is invisible, the force of surveillance keeps the prisoners evenly distributed. Regarding whether the Internet records our concept of time and space in a similar manner, he states that this will depend “on how one views the apparatus that connects them to the internet.”

Winokur notes that film viewers watching a movie in a theatre are equally distributed in space such that every viewer has equal access to the screen. Television, on the other hand, is not equally panoptic given that the experience of individuals watching it is not centralized. The different viewers watching television are not equally distributed within the grid-like space. Winokur explains that “the Internet is both more and less panoptic” than the cinema and television. From my experience using the Internet, however, it provides an enormous range of spaces. The users of the Internet are free to log on from any place and at any time. A surfer that has access to the Internet when both at home and the place of work can use Internet from more than one spaces Based on the information presented in the article, it is evident that the Internet reduces different large spaces and compresses them to form only one space. All surfers only need to have access to the monitor-user space and an Ethernet connection. All those individuals that meet this requirement have equal spatial access. Moreover, the Internet is still panoptic given that it provides an absolutely monadic physical experience.




Winokur, M. (2003). The ambiguous panopticon: Foucault and the codes of cyberspace. CTheory, 3-13.