The Global Panopticon of Consumerism

Posted: April 20, 2011 by npyork in Michel Foucault

By Nathan York

Panoramic view of the office space by a person in a position of power over the workers, an elevated view of the working floor. By

When walking through retail stores, a mall, or any public space; has the thought, “who is watching me right now” ever crossed your mind? What about if “Big Brother” is an actual functioning program that keeps an eye on people, or how deep the Patriot Act really goes into observing and recording our real lives. Usually, when we think of mass control and mass surveillance, the concepts of large-scale government programs are ones that register because they seem universal. I make the argument that, in addition to these tracking programs, just being an everyday consumer is a key way to enable your surveillance.

We might compare the process of surveillance to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, which used architectural form as a controlling unit for prison systems. The system was meant to isolate the prisoner through a designed backlight individual cell that is entirely blocked off from the surrounding prisoners. In order to accentuate the isolation the central tower left the prisoner with an unpleasant sense of constant presence from the observer without the observer necessarily being in place. Michel Foucault wrote a book titled Discipline and Punish in which he discusses the role of the

Scaled model of the proposed panoptic architecture by Jeremy Bentham from

Panopticon and how it is using architecture to create power. Foucault claims that within a panoptic system the observer holds the power simply by maintaining a position of constant observance or appearance of the observation.

The first use of the Panopticon outside of a prison system was in office buildings and factories in order for management to be able to oversee the scheme of the working floor and maintain control without having to interact with the workers. The effect this had on the workers was the fear of knowing that their boss could be watching their every move at any time, which would give incentive to work as efficiently as possible.

Currently, the panoptic system has been introduced to almost every aspect of our daily lives without most people even being aware of it. The most direct location of panoptic power lies within consumption. Examples of the retailer manipulating or controlling the consumers experience can be seen everywhere, even in the grocery store. For example, through speaking with a manager of a local Vons, I was able to find that Safeway Corporation has created an elite

shopper program that tracks all the purchases of each person that shop with a ValuePlus card. Those that shop the most frequently and spend the most money become “elite shoppers” and management will provide them with specials that encourage them to continue to give their business to that individual store. The consumer’s information is encoded onto their ValuePlus card and when the card is swiped the system will input all the purchased information and send a notification to the store manager of the elite customer so that he or she can go notify the consumer of their savings. Through a simple card that most people view as a way to save money while buying food, Safeway has managed to track each person that comes through the store and keep track of what each person purchases.

Another example of this can be seen through the use of panoptic power for management of different retailers. In Rosenblum’s article in the New York Times she discusses how this methodology was used in the outdoor recreational retailer, Cabela’s. In the article, Cabela’s claims that they used the video systems to observe how long it took for a sales clerk to approach the client and found that was actually an issue that needed to be addressed by management. Using the power of observation, the management at Cabela’s was able to assert their power and control over their employees by addressing the issue of service with the sales clerks.

Whether, through security cameras, motion devices, or saving cards almost all companies have a way of observing the consumer. The constant observation and manipulation of the shopping experience raises the question of whether we make consumption decisions on our own or if every decision we make within a store is based on the manipulation of the shopping experience that was brought about the panoptic power of observation.

Works Cited

–       Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Print.

–       Rosenbloom, Stephanie. “In Bid to Sway Sales, Cameras Track Shoppers.” The New York Times. 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. <;.


Authenticities Price Tag

Posted: April 20, 2011 by montesc in Sharon Zukin

   The name of this town is Old Town Pasadena.  Why would anyone want to call it “Old Town Pasadena”  when just by looking at the city nothing about it resembles its original authentic condition?  The evolutionary change of urban conditions shows us  how throughout time things will change and how, in my opinioin ( or within a system based on profit and continuous development) those against gentrification are often helpless to stop certain changes from occurring.  I believe that these changes disrupt a location’s long accruing authenticable characteristics, often in the name of  capital gain. 

                Theorist and urban historian Sharon Zukin speaks about this subject in her book The Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.  She discusseshow urban communities can lose their authenticity due to the continuance of redevelopment and renewal for an end result of a profitable gain.  Zukin states in her book how New York City for example “” has always grown by shedding its past, tearing down old neighborhoods and erecting new ones in their place, usually in a bare faced struggle for financial gain” (Zukin, 2).

               Old Town Pasadena is known around L.A. as an old town and given its age gaveway to its nickname “Old Town”. Whether it can still be considered old is debatable due to the modernization of existing buildings, prices of consumer goods due to gentrification, and real estate values soaring to a high.  Old Town Pasadena is a prime example of a community that, as Zukin observes  has gone through changes throughout the years in order to build up its value but loses its authenticity in the process.  As a person travels down Colorado Blvd. in their car one can’t help but remember how the main street once used to be a dirt road but now paved to accommodate these smog creating capsule’s we call vehicles.  With the high traffic of vehicles entering the town come along with them people, noise, and contnual redevlopmnt.  Buildings are no longer designed with the traditional look of when they city was first incorporated in the late 1800’s.  Even though the city has strict rules and guidlines for the preservation of existing buildings,  new methods of renovation and development are always being sought out.  A whole entire facede was placed over an existing original storefront of a building changing the entire look of the store but still managed to retain the authentic look masked behind a new face.  Your typical mom and pop throughout the years have slowly been pushed out due to increases in rent and were replaced with chain stores marketing over priced goods mainly for the sake of the selling the name on the goods for a profitable gain.  

            The city is going up scale but at the cost of its authenticity.  Authenticity is basically a cities genuine, real, and not duplicated appearance, environment, and people.  The city has transitioned from a once agricultural community to an industrial community during the 2nd world war to a now prosperous community of consumer goods and services at an above average price tag.  Is the City of Pasadena truly as authentic as its well known given name of “Old Town Pasadena” claims itself  to be? It’s not as authentic as it may sound.


By Christopher A. Montes


Zukin, Sharon.  Naked City. The Death and Life of Urban Authentic Places. Oxford University Press, 2010. (2)

by Barry Talley

A woman searches for relatives among the bodies left in the courtyard of a hospital in Port-au-Prince. DAMON WINTER / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Within the context of terror, chaos, and confusion, an opportunity for profit has arisen. As stated by Naomi Klein in Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, certain free market policies and their policy makers have seized these opportunities to push through their capitalist and political agendas while victims and their societies are in the midst of dealing with either man-made or natural disasters. Often these policies are meant to benefit a sector of the market such as land developers or specific industries and would not ordinarily have been possible if diversions had not occurred.

Klein states,

“Victims of these disasters are in the midst of “thinking about how to get drinking and bathing water for tomorrow,not whether a company wanted to privatize their water system and sell it back to them in a year. But these techniques don’t only work on individuals. They can work on entire societies. A collective trauma, a war, a coup, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack puts as all into a state of shock. And in the aftermath, like the prisoner in the interrogation chamber, we too become child-like, and more inclined to follow leaders who claim to protect us (Klein. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism).

Haiti has a long history of crisis, most man-made. Recurring military and governmental coups created governmental instability. Deforestation of the land, mostly used for fuel over the last two hundred years, has left only 2% of the indigenous forest (Malik.  A Country Study: Haiti). Mother nature has dealt the final blows.

On January 12, 2010, at 5PM, a massive earthquake struck the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. With a magnitude of 7.0, the natural disaster paralyzed an already beleaguered nation, awash in poverty and underpinned by a tenuous government. Looking forward to its first peaceful elections and transfer of presidential power in almost fifty years, there was a sense of optimism. When the earth had stopped shaking, all had changed. In the following days the death toll would exceed 300,000 and approximately 280,000 buildings and structures in the city would be destroyed. The earthquake left millions in the Haitian capital homeless and scared (Kurczy. Chile Earthquake Facts: Chile vs. Haiti in Numbers). Already suffering with a poverty level that exceeded 80% of the net population, Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, was ill prepared to deal with the emergency response, political upheaval, and long-term financial blow that this event created.

The earthquake and its aftershocks were soon followed by an outbreak of cholera. With an unprecedented 12,000 non-governmental agencies delivering services in the small and easily accessible Caribbean country, how did such a treatable and easily controllable illness claim another 2,500 lives? Were the newly erected tent cities to house the millions of homeless with no access to treated water to blame? Even prior to the earthquake, only 12% of Haiti’s 9.8 million people received treated tap water (Karunakara. Haiti: Where Aid Failed).

Set up to help funnel and expedite the international donations and aid, The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission led by former President Bill Clinton and former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive had been slow to allocate the billions of dollars of international aid to combat the impacts of the 2010 quake. In the commissions second meeting, goals were outlined which included clearing a million cubic meters of ruble in Port-au Prince. According to the commission  land needed to be cleared to meet long-range plans which included a re-invention of the Haitian public school system and agricultural development.

Over time, as international aid and donations continued to languish in the accounts of the respective aid agencies, questions started to be asked about the method of aid delivery and how it was organized. Most of the individual agencies fell under the supervision of the UN or US Aid and it was soon apparent that many, while having good intentions, did not have the capacity to meet the magnitude of the catastrophe.

So what has developed is a country of tent cities. Eighteen months and 5.3 billion pledged dollars later, the country is still in ruins. It is estimated that more than a million people are still homeless and have no permanent housing. The tent and shelter camps provided by aid agencies are overrun by roaming gangs of criminals, many of whom escaped when the National Penitentiary collapsed after the earthquake. Women and men in these encampments live in fear, and are often the victims of assault and rape (as stated by the New York Times. July 12, 2010).

The earthquake, poverty, and continued crisis has created an opportunity for social experimentation and engineering. The annual World Economic Forum, which ironically was scheduled for the week following the earthquake and attended by national governments, corporate leaders, and policy makers, reviewed a study that had been prepared to entice the business community to invest in Haiti. As a benefit, the authors of the study have proposed a reinvention of the education system which will provide an adequately trained “work force”, wage controls for low-cost production, a “cooperative legal system that reduces the opportunities for litigation”, and reduced exportation tariffs to incentivize industrial development ( World Economic Forum,2011). The World Bank has also decided to alleviate the Haitian government of its previously owed national debt  thereby reducing risk to international investors (The World Bank, 28th May 2010).

The natural disaster had “forcibly wiped out and erased all obstacles to the construction of a model corporatist state free from all interference” (Klein. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism). The reset button had been pressed by the earthquake. All that is needed is the policy maker to finalize the details and create the conditions and assurances that will allow for the corporate markets to move in and seize the opportunities.

Farmer, Paul. Plans and Benchmarks for Haiti.” The New York Times  29 August 2010. Web. 25 February 2011.

“Haiti Earthquake of 2010.” The New York Times 12 July 2010. Web. 15 February 2011.

Karunakara, Unni. Haiti: Where Aid Failed.”  Gaurdian UK  28  December 2010. Web. 12 February 2011.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008.

Kurczy, Stephen. Chile Earthquake Facts: Chile vs. Haiti in Numbers.” Christian Science Monitor.  2 March 2010. Web. 27 February 2011

Malik, Boulos A.  A Country Study: Haiti .Washington, DC : Federal Research Division, Library of Congress,  December 1989.

World Economic Forum in partnership with the World BankPrivate Sector Development in Haiti: Opportunities for Investment, Job Creation and Growth.   New York: World Economic Forum, 2011.Web. 12 February 2011.

The World Bank. World Bank Announces Total Cancellation of Haiti’s Debt. Washington, DC: The World Bank,  28 May 2010. Web. 27 February 2011

by Heath Speakman

What is Gentrification?  

Etymology: of gentle birth, people of gentle birth, gentlemen, or more specifically the middle class.  It was coined in 1964 to denote the influx of middle class displacing the lower working class. (

 Gentrification Process: 

As described by Sharon Zukin in her book The Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, the first stages of gentrification occurs within an area whose specialty shops provide specific services that a new demographic of the community desires and are often owned by that same demographic of  people living in the area.  These specialized shops often take the place of those shops that had served the original populace.  As Zukin describes, “a gourmet cheese store or quirky coffee bar replaces a check-cashing service or take-out food shop” (Zukin, page 18). 

  Zukin next identifies a second wave of new businesses often owned by corporations whose workers or franchise owners don’t live in the neighborhood themselves.  As described by Zukin, “the serial repetition of small stores is broken up, imploded by new investment, new people, and the relentless bulldozer of homogenization” (Zukin, page 7).  Small shops are displaced by chain stores such as Starbucks, and Jamba Juice, which pay many thousands of dollars each month for the location which has been become more attractive due to the first wave of gentrification.  Ironically, this second wave often displaces the small specialty shops that had initially raised the property values.  These business owners do not live in the area, but have strategically placed their business in these small areas for capital gain.   Land values go up, and the small shops are financially forced to move out.          

Where is this happening in Los Angeles?

 Broadway Blvd, Downtown Los Angeles

In the attempt to revitalize Broadway Blvd in the downtown sector, the City of Los Angeles is creating new policies that make it hard for small business owners to stay competitive.  The City of Los Angeles has helped with their demise.  For example, small downtown shops have traditionally displayed their products on the street next to their shops as a means of attracting pedestrian consumers, but as of 2010 there is a $500 fine for this action.  I spoke to a shop owner about this new fine, and he claimed that this action is “killing his business.”  Policies such as this mark the beginning stages of displacement as described by Zukin.

 North Hollywood, CA

This second stage of gentrification can also be seen in the San Fernando Valley.  Lankershim Lock and Key is one of the oldest shops on Lankershim street in North Hollywood.  In an interview with the shop owner, he described how he is being forced to leave when his ten-year lease expires next year.  He recalled how, over the course of the ten previous years, the small shops have been replaced by chain stores that have subsequently increased the land values.  Once his lease expires, he will not be able to renew and will be forced to leave.  

Solution to Gentrification:

Zukin suggests a plan of action that can help halt the process of gentrification and, as a result, slow down the displacement of small shops and their owners.  Whether you are a small business owner in downtown Los Angeles, or a long time key-shop owner in the San Fernando Valley, according to Zukin, the slowing of gentrification is done by “preserving historic buildings and districts, encouraging the development of small-scale boutiques and cafes, and the branding neighborhoods in terms of distinctive cultural identities” (Zukin,  page 3).

Authentic Destruction Through Western Consumption

Posted: April 20, 2011 by teagancast in Sharon Zukin


By: Teagan Castellon

Over the past couple of years China has seen large amount of renovation and new construction, funded largely by its rapid growing economy.Chinese property developers are constructing a westernized style of living thereby adopting a culture that the nation once rejected. This new insertion of western consumption culture, is being inserted into the eastern micro communities. Causing a kind of conflict with China’s developing urban fabric. One place in particular where the “East-meets-West” culture clash is being fought is the historical tenement community of the Shikumen in Shanghai, China. According to Paul Ruber in his article “Shanghai’s Shikumen and Lilongs,” “It is in this spacious boulevard that Coke and Pepsi are currently waging a colorful was to replace green tea”(Reuber. 30).

Shikumen development were originally constructed  to house Chinese families who had been displaced when the French sought to colonize China in the early 19th century . This community soon developed a culture of its own creating a live/ work community where the people, produce goods that are needed by the community .

The Original Shikumen dwelling has a simple set up,first when entering the dwelling  into the rectilinear common area. In front of the common area is a small kitchen. to the left of the kitchen is where the bathroom would be. at its exterior the living spaces would be elevated providing room fro buisness bellow. Behind the Building would open up into a shared courtyard allowing for sunlight and natural air to come in.

courtesy of:

Over the past years Developers have sought out this location to be a new economical gold mine for the insertion western shops and cafe’s  like Starbucks. This act of gentrification according to Sharon Zukin is the destruction of the community’s authenticity. Zukin expresses her concerns about the effects of gentrification in her book, The Naked City, The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, which she expresses that the Authenticity can be used as an aesthetic tool to lure new markets into a community promising suburban safety with the style of urban enviornment. Zukin argues that the “Origins” of a community is grown out of the people which inhabit its spaces. its these origins that need to be preserved within the space. The origins of the Shikumen is what makes it so unique in Shanghai history as well as in its culture of this family based sustained community.

Within the Shikumen these origins are in danger of disappearing from this culturally rich community.created by the disappearance started a development of western consumption which is being used to transform the economics and authenticity of the Shikumen. As developers continue to interject within the original community, the balance which the Shikuman once thrived off of is becoming more disproportionate. Now the community is catering to the more wealthier class within China. Turning most of its famous multi living streets into an Eastern version of the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica shifting the dynamics of the community.


Once new businesses were introduced into the Shikumen, plans for reconstructing the housing started. Developers sought to transform the multi family dwelling into a single family urban loft. By reducing the amount of occupants able to live within a dwelling, allowed the density of the Shikumen to shrink making it more exclusive. This transformation the Shikumen is facing is altering the roots of the  community forcing them out of there homes causing the memory and he historical significance of the Shikumen to only live within its communitys local Shikuman Musieum.

work cited

Reuber, Paul. “Shanghai Shikumen and Lilongs.” The Canadian Architect 12 Feb. 1998: 30. Proquest. Web. 12 Mar. 2011. <;.

“Shanghai by Night.” Willson Web. 04 May 2004. Web. 12 Mar. 2011. <;.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked City. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

By Stacey Guevara

Physical Manifestation of Fortress Mentality (Image from

According to Baudrillard’s theory on Simulation, postmodern culture has become so reliant on models and maps that individuals have lost any association with the real world that preceded the map (Baudrillard, 1). He argues that reality has begun to imitate the very monuments that society had originally used to replicate reality. Whether this is depicted through the physical environment or psychologically instilled within us, we are beginning to lose our own ability to distinguish between what is natural and what is artificial.

Today we are living in a perceived reality that is so flooded with images portrayed through the media and through real estate development. A clear example of how this false reality is portrayed in the physical environment can be seen within gated communities across the U.S.

Perceived Reality portrayed through fortified communities (Image from Wikipedia)

In the image pictured to the left, urban developers and city planners have created a residential development surrounded by walls and shrubs, with a guarded entrance and exit (Low, 12). These visible barriers are thought to deter crime by keeping those who are potential criminals out. According to Seth Low, this is a psychological effect, induced by the media, that creates this urban fear of being burglarized, robbed, or assaulted by others (Low, 115).

This fortress mentality is an example of how the media manipulates the public by instilling a culture of fear within residents. It creates a demand and “need” for gated communities to provide a safe and secure home. This image of the American lifestyle is merely a false simulation that instead contributes to negative social and psychological effects, such as class fragmentation and fragmentation of the built environment (Low, 3). It limits access to streets that would otherwise be available for the greater public.

Fragmentation of physical environment (Image from Wikipedia)

This method of urban development is ultimately a process of regulating and controlling individuals in America. It is city planners and real estate developers attempt to govern and set limitations where people can interact and move around the physical setting. Baudrillard would say that this is society’s way of keeping people away from reality and instead focused on objectivity, materialism, and distractions. This in turn benefits those who have invested money and labor into the whole concept of the gated community. It boosts real estate profits, which in turn benefits the real estate developers and city planners who initiated the process in the first place. Urban planners and developers, see this as a dynamic real estate product with a high return of capital that attracts s bulk of middle-class / upper class Americans.

Works Cited:

Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulation” The Precession of the Simulacra. Tr. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 1994.

Low, Seth. “Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America” Unlocking the Gated Community. Taylor and Francis Books, Inc. 2003.

A Billion Dollar Powerhouse and David Harvey

Posted: April 20, 2011 by italiasco5 in David Harvey

Public stalls are a common industry that serves an enormous deficiency of sanitation. Indians must pay a certain amount of rupee's to have a clean wash basin. SourceUSquarternet

By: Jesse Santiago

India is a flourishing nation that has lifted itself with the expansion of capitalistic markets.  This rapid accumulation of wealth has left many of those less fortunate with the inability to participate in this expanding economy.  Dharavi, a square mile wide district in Mumbai, houses a staggering half million Indian citizens’.  The Dharavi district sits defensively much like a  fortress filled with populace that has been displaced by the sudden urban expansion of large corporate towers, a growing middle class, and business districts.

Dharavi is a thriving district that annually generates revenues near one  billion dollars (Jacobson) with casual industries such as recycling centers, industrial manufacturing, pottery and a dominant textile industry.  Yet this powerful regional district has fallen victim to a much larger phenomenon, Mumbai’s vision of becoming an international destination for business.  The achievement of this goal has lead to the misrepresentation of the populace and reflects upon the ideal which David Harvey expresses in his excerpt The Right to the City where he,  “…issues a call to democratize the power to shape the urban experience.”  Here the reader can grasp the idea that urbanization should include the ideas of the greater society that in turn will be affected and not just  those selective few.  For urbanization and relocation to succeed in Mumbai, the voice of Dharavi must be taken into account.  The expansion of Western markets must stop the violation of human rights, market expansion must become aware of the atrocities left behind as expansion overwhelmingly clouds over a less powerful group.

In the urbanization of Dharavi nearly a million people will be unaccounted for and left to fend for their families and themselves (Jacobson).  This is infuriating since the people of Dharavi have successfully lived and transformed unfitting living conditions to a successful regional economy.  The local population has dealt with the misgivings and the remains that a globalized economy generates and turned it into a marketable product.  Within the Dharavi district the people have succeeded using  large communal wash basins and an abundance of local food stands (s.r.a).  Within the minute living quarters massive industrial machinery is being built, an overwhelming quantity of trash is recycled and sent off for further processing (Jacobson).  A growing food industry and an abundance of pottery is molded in the district.  Even this determination and success cannot be saved from a growing economy and governments who fail to defend the people it has been created to defend.

Where is government and regulation we ask?  The Indian national government has opted to sit back allowing private developers and third party organizations to develop, build and remove the Dharavi district (Jacobson).  The upheaval of development has left many Dharavi residents to wonder their future.  Thousands of families face an imminent displacement without any right to fight (Jacobson).  This violates the communities right and the individual rights of those who live and work in Dharavi.  Further violating Dharavis residents rights is their transfer to smaller units of housing displacing them farther from the bustling business districts of Mumbai (Musings).  Human rights violations must be adverted and fought against with numbers and not just by a selective few.  The voice of Dharavi cannot be shunned, a defense must be waged for the right of their city is deteriorating as global surplus engulfs theses residents in masses.

I believe Mr. Harvey expressed a deep criticism of expanding global markets and the wrong doing of stealing resources and property rights.  His argument for a higher sense of “democratic control over the production and utilization of the surplus” (Harvey) describes his urgency to allow citizens to shape the urban fabric in which they live in. His excerpt continually expresses  a democratic management over its urban deployment which in turn reinstates the local populace with the right to the city.


  1. Harvey, David. The Capitalistic City: The Right to the City.
  2. Jacobson, Mark. “Dharavi.” National Geographic Magazine. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <;.
  3. Slum Rehabilitation Authority. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <;.
  4. “Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?” Haq’s Musings. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <;.

A child walks above an exposed sewage pipe. This is one of many health concerns that contaminate local water supply and endanger the health of the locals.SourceAHI:US

A small labor force brushes through plastics and other waste debris. The indigenous labor force contributes to a much larger regional industry: recylcling. Source SavingEarth