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Feeding the Panopticon

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Wednesday 2 May 2012, 13:00
LT11, Management School


Jean-Grégoire Bernard
Victoria University of Wellington 

Abstract: The contemporary trumpeting of transparency and the traditional reverence for secrecy point to a tension between two competing views of surveillance, surveillance as caring and surveillance as control. To sharpen this tension I will present an account of the use of transparency in a Canadian software development company. The privately held firm uses a high degree of transparency with all employees, a transparency that provides, as a bi-product, an extraordinary level of control. I will provide this account in the tradition of Barker’s (1993) use of concertive control, control by employees themselves. In Barker’s ISE, one of the consequences of self-managing teams was the figurative construction of an iron cage, a cage containing tears, recriminations and a much stronger form of peer pressure than in Weber’s iron cage. In our field site, the electronic version of employee self-policing produces no tears but a strong form of normative control, a control marked by commitment, compliance and pride as well as the suppression of deviance. I will then explain how consent to the transparency arrangements is secured and conclude by drawing some implications for the exercise of disciplinary power, control, and surveillance in organizations. This presentation is based on a manuscript co-authored with R. Brent Gallupe and William H. Cooper, both from Queen’s University (Canada)


Bio: Jean-Grégoire Bernard is a Senior Lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). He holds a PhD in Management from Queen's University (Canada). He is currently conducting research about how new entrepreneurial firms operating in high-velocity environments adopt IT innovations to scale their business model. He is also investigating the institutional and cultural dynamics of markets for IT innovations and the sustainability of online communities. Before joining the Victoria University of Wellington, Jean-Grégoire lectured at HEC Montréal and acted as project manager at CIRANO, a Montréal-based academic research center.


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