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Periscope and the Panopticon

Tonight, eleven strangers watched my friend Ouzy eat tater tots over Periscope. I was the cameraman. We didn’t promote a livestream of tater tot eating or even tweet about it when the camera starting rolling. I just opened the app and people started watching a man they’d never met eat tots.

I wonder how many people would watch Kim Kardashian eat tots.

This morning I watched someone commute into work. I then watched a segment of a live interview with Jeb Bush. I streamed someone doing yo-yo tricks in our office.

A building exploded in New York City and the news was broken by someone across the street on Periscope.

I used to be uneasy at the thought of the Panopticon - a world where everything can be seen by everyone, anywhere in the world. Anything you say or do can be seen by millions.

A couple was having a first or second date next to us. We didn’t flip out our phones to broadcast it to the world. We joked about their date, we mused about where it would go, but we didn’t record it.

Every politician is looking for opportunities to get their ideas out there and they are competing for attention with my friends eating tater tots. People sign up for The Bachelor to have their dating lives blasted to viewers worldwide but there’s no cameraman out there who’s even thinking about recording a couple on their first date.

There are different power dynamics at play in the Panopticon. The scary scenario relies on there being people in power holding the cameras and viewing the video. But those cameras can be turned around. And sometimes those cameras are just pointing at people eating tots. Sometimes they’re pointed at emergencies where every additional set of eyes helps. We’re back to the same power dynamics we had before, human beings with our same sets of eyes and narrow attention spans.

The Panopticon is finally here. And it’s full of tots.