"Pan-Opt-Icon” in Psybe(R)space—The Panopticon…Reframed. Lacanian Psycho-analysis in Relation to Narcissism, Psybe(R)ealization, and our Kaleidoscopic Mirrors from Early Animation to Social Media

視聽「完美的虛構自我媒體」: 拉岡的精神分析學於藝術、動畫歷史、新媒體,至主流社交平台之文化與科技的探究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Caroline Lok Ying LEE

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Awarding Institution
Award date12 Jan 2016


In the era of Big Data, there is a rapidly expanding literature of surveillance studies that focus on consumer surveillance and corporate data mining. However, theories such as Deleuze’s “societies of control” and even Foucault’s much contested Panopticism (based on Bentham’s utilitarian architecture of the Panopticon) no longer suffice to thoroughly dissect the digital world in which we are all submerged today. The absence of walls, or physical boundaries of any sort, in the digital world is coincident with and symptomatic of theories of Posthumanism developed from Cybernetics. This echoed the Cyberpunk predictions that humans and machines would become merged into unified entities.

As our ways of life are digitized, the proliferating platforms of social media have been designed to emulate, and to a certain extent, substitute for “real” life. The primary goal behind these platforms is to promote our sense of Self (Ego) in a skin of lifelike verisimilitude. So into the study enters my construct of the “Pan-Opt-Icon,” which is both a theory and a complementary qualitative methodology.

The “Pan-Opt-Icon” theory results from the combination of Foucault’s and Lacan’s notions of visibility. This dissertation argues that the Pan-Opt-Icon allows the psychology behind Bentham’s Panopticon to be retained while the internalized Gaze of Foucauldian Panopticism and that of the Lacanian Real and the Lacanian Other (Autre) are subject to concurrent investigation. The emphasis, however, is on the Lacanian construction of Subjectivity, Narcissism, perFORMativity, and most vital of all, the Self-centered process of creativity and meaning-making inherent in the Pan-Opt-Icon. This meaning FORMation is also a search for the long lost Real in the elusive social Web. It should be noted that my conceptual derivative of this Pan-Opt-Icon odyssey is “Psybe(R)ealization”, which connotes the meaning of the human mind guiding the developmental protocols, applications, and the desired purposes of social Web technologies. Hence, the prefix “Psyber-” suggests that humans possess supremacy over technology.

The Pan-Opt-Icon theory addresses Psycho-analytic questions such as “Who one is?” and “What ‘belongs’ to oneself?” amidst the infinite expanse of the Web with its seemingly random treasures of floating signifiers. What could be the Egocentric meaning of creating a fragmented Self when one is constantly under both the Foucauldian and Lacanian Gaze? Another case in point is that both the components “Pan” and “Icon” in Pan-Opt-Icon can be read with split meanings throughout this dissertation. The “Pan” is taken as Lacan’s precedence of the split between the eye and the Gaze in which the splitting traverses the Real and the seeing Subject/Subject of (R)epresentation. As for the splitting in the part of the “-Icon” in the Pan-Opt-Icon, the participants in social media are framed as the “Subjects qua Creators”. A “Subject qua Creator” creates a split-off Self that fulfills the role of an “-Icon”.

When applied as a methodology, the Pan-Opt-Icon embodies Lacanian Discourse Analysis to examine the semiotics and rhetorical devices of the social Web that fit the paradigm of Lacan’s Master Discourse and the Master signifiers that intersect with the theoretical part of the “-Icon” of one’s own Self in a Pan-Opt-Icon. This intersection reinforces a mode of interpersonal communication and the human relationship with technology that is prevalent in social media.

For a case study, Last.fm™ as a “social music revolution” is used to explore the psychology of listening to music as a perFORMative act under the watchful Eyes/Is of the many. The research employs discursive psychology as the primary methodology. The Pan-Opt-Icon is also integrated into the investigative approach.

From the wellspring of Lacanian Psycho-analysis, the Pan-Opt-Icon has been conceived as both a theory and methodology to study the intricate dynamics of how the design of social media targets our Self-image and encourages us to be Egoistically Self-aware. The research at hand extends new media studies beyond the Posthuman and Cyborgian Discourses of existing literature.