I like the concept of ‘participatory panopticon’ for it clearly suggests the well-developed pattern of interpersonal communications in the ubiquitous media era. Participatory panopticon, according to Mark Andrejevic in Ispy, means ‘a form of consensual submission to surveillance in part because the watched are also doing the watching.’ It could be widely adapted to various aspects of our daily life.
Social media platforms are apparently good study objects for lateral monitoring. It is interesting to observe some common but unspoken social psychologies there. For example, there’s a function on Renren.com, a Chinese social networking service, called ‘invisible visit’. It enables us to set up a list of people who will not find our visits in their ‘Recently visitors’ list. Therefore, we can go to his or her personal page, view every texts, pictures and even others’ comments on them, without leaving a trace. It delicately reveals our desires of surveillance without being found out. However, it is also part of ‘participatory panopticon’, because while you invisibly monitor someone, the others are watching you in the same way.
Part of reason why people spend so much time on social media, as for me, is the mutual lateral monitoring. Before social media gets popular, the way people get to know each other is based on face-to-face communication. They did google someone when they want to have a better idea of him, but what they can get are his fragmentary traces online. However, social media save this situation. Take Facebook as an example. For the first time, up to 1 billion people with their true identities are gathered in one communication platform, carefully building up their virtual images by posting words and pictures of their lifestyle frequently. It greatly satisfies our voyeurism. When we are interested in someone, we are likely to ask for his Facebook account and look through every posts of his page.