Rajagopal, Indhu and Nis Bojin. “Cons in the Panopticon: Anti-Globalization and Cyber-Piracy.” First Monday 9.6 (2004). 2/15/2010 <http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1174/1094>.
Rajagopal and Bojin argue that the internet is fast becoming a corporately controlled panopticon that regulates the social, economic, and political relationships between users and corporations. In response to the panopticonization of the internet by corporate interests, Rajagopal and Bojin posit that piracy and anti-capitalist gift economies act as “global resistance movements” that allow have-not digerati to cater to the desires of a global internet community traditionally accustomed to receiving technological products through top-down, Global North to Global South dissemination methods.
The authors also sketch the internet chain of pirate distribution in this article. Specifically, Rajagopal and Bojin characterize internet piracy as triple tiered. The top tier, or “upper echelon” is comprised of crackers, hackers, release groups, and couriers – the real symbolic analytic pirates. In the second tier, or “middle echelon” you find methods of distribution and communication including Usenet and IRC. In the bottom tier, or lower echelon, you find gift economy communities like P2P exchanges, bittorrent trackers, and warez sites.
The authors also note how the rise of an information society means that knowledge has begun a commodification process wherein control regimes and commercialization of information negates access of said knowledge to the working poor. In opposition to this commodification are digital gift economies that allow users to come to information free of charge; however, draconian copyright legislation is threatening to recolonize and commodify much of the intellectual labor and information dispersed through gift-oriented economic models.
The authors see the internet as panopticon playing out in the surveillance technologies of ISPs, social networking sites, spy/adware and search engines. To combat the corporate panopticon of the internet, the authors adopt two conceptual themes:
- Piracy against commercial hegemony and privatization of the internet
- The establishment of communal autonomy and communal currency on the internet.
Theme one emphasizes the commodification of information and its subsequent commercialization through internet channels. Commodity fetishism works through digital networks to turn class antagonism “into a desire for commodities and for accumulation of capital.” Theme two articulates how communal autonomy established over disparate transnational computer networks – spread over the three tiers mentioned above – challenge capitalist corporatization of the digital public sphere.