Academic research around my chosen theme

Below is a documentation of how Charlotte found the appropriate academic theme to justify the idea of Utilitarianism, taken from her blog:

Following our previous research on a chosen theme last term, I am going to be expanding this research broadening my knowledge on the theme, Information and Control.

Last term I was interested in looking at the Utilitarianism theory, which tied closely to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon method of surveilence.

Jeremy Bentham and Utilitariansm

  • Utilitarianism is a philosophical theory created by Scholars Bentham and Mill. Although split into Act and Rule Utilitarianism, the overall idea is to enable people to help make the correct decisions that they may face through maxmising the possibility of the best consequence. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)
  • Bentham answered the question of what good is through the idea of hedonism. Hedonists define something to be good if they are ‘intrinsically’ good (good within themselves). Not, because they produce some further valuable thing. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)

Loving big brother – John E. McGrath (2004)

  • Following on from the idea of the panoptican and Utilitarianism regarding surveillance within society. I found a link between these two ideas and how it is ‘just’ for a utilitarian to propose an ethical decision with the greater good in mind.
  • This for me links heavily to the idea of surveillance within society such as cctv. McGrath(2004) states in his Book ‘Loving Big Brother’ that “surveillance is routinely justified in terms of crime prevention and routinely criticised as an invasion of privacy.” He then goes on to discuss how the history of surveillance cameras within the UK is tied up to football related violence, initially attempting to curtail ‘hooligans’ from out-breaking and by the end of the 1980’s crowd surveillance at football matches were routine.
  • I would argue this idea of having CCTV cameras as a deterrent for misbehaviour has escalated enormously, leaving the UK with an estimate of between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras.
  • McGrath discusses the idea that even though some may argue this surveillance is an invasion of privacy, for some reason we love to be watched and watch whose being watched. He then goes on to talk about how he would endlessly enjoy watching the Television reality tv series Big Brother, and also footage from September 11. (911)
  • This concept for me brings out the human need, to want to see and know everything. However, this concept for me is something I would like to bring forward within my project, in the sense of control within society.

Which lead me on to the writer David Lyon.

Surveilence society – Monitoring everyday life (2001)

  • The first point that came to my interest when reading parts of this book, was Lyons idea of disappearing bodies. He describes this as being something when we do things at a distance, he uses the example of “making a phone call means communicating by voice alone, but even when we email, that trace of embodiment is gone…typed symbols like smileys are meant to stand in for the invisible face.”(Lyon, D. 2001)
  • Lyon goes on to explain that since the 1960’s bodies have been disappearing at an accelerating rate. He states that “Communication and information technologies enable not only fax and fixed phone communication, but also email, credit card transactions, cell phones and the internet”(Lyon, D. 2001).
  • This idea of disembodied communication for me relates heavily to the surveillance within society, whether it’s CCTV, cellular tracking, Wi-Fi tracking and so on. Although you’re not being followed by a physical person, the technology is able to track you.
  • Lyon then goes on to discuss some of the consequences of disembodied relationships, one of them being: Modern notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ are challenged. He states that “the boundaries between them are blurred when all manner of once ‘private’ life details circulate within a very ‘public’ computer.”
  • This consequence goes back to the whole idea of surveillance within society and the idea of privacy and freedom when communicating.

The electronic eye: the rise of surveillance society (1994)

  • In this book Lyon raises the very valid point that surveillance within society is not a recent occurrence. It started way back ever since modern governments registered births, marriages and deaths.
  • This to me is a very interesting point because it highlights that the government played a huge part in this. When I think of a controlled society I think of the power within, politics, the government and the jurisdiction. Although not formally surveillance technology, the idea of tracking specific life events, such as birth, marriage and death, still captures some sort of knowledge and control within the society.
  • Lyon says that “Surveillance expands in subtle ways, often as the result of decisions and processes intended to pursue goals such as efficiency or productivity…Most surveillance occurs literally out of sight, in the realm of digital signals. And it happens…in the commonplace transactions of shopping, voting, phoning, driving and working.”(Lyon, D. 1994)
  • This then raises the point that “people seldom know that they’re subjects of surveillance, or if they do know they may be unaware of how comprehensive others knowledge is.”(Lyon,D. 1994) However, if one wanted to remain anonymous they would have to use techniques which may take longer such a just paying with cash, having a phone which is untraceable or using systems such as Linux which provides a closed source operating system.


Nathanson, S., The Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Available from: [Accessed 06 December 2016].

Lyon, D. (2001) Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life [online]. ed. Buckingham: Open Univ. Press.

Lyon, D. (1994) The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society [online]. Cambridge: Polity Press.

McGrath, J.E. (2004) Loving Big Brother: Performance, Privacy and Surveillance Space [online]. London: Routledge

Artistic/Industry Research and Influence

Below is a documentation of how Charlotte developed her idea on her blog:

I have decided to tackle the second brief which is:

To create a project and user experience that explores information and data using interactivity and making use of still / moving images. Your project may use data, or it may represent, reflect or visualise it.

From this, and having more academic knowledge about my theme (Information and control) I was able to find various artworks and projects which could inspire me to and get my creative juices flowing! My first port of call was Blast Theory , who are a group of artists that create interactive and performance based projects. Last year I explored one of there most famous works called “Karen” who is a life coach that you can interact with. I knew that this artwork could influence me as I am interested in user interaction on a personal level.

“You interact with Karen through an app. When you begin, she asks you some questions about your outlook on the world to get an understanding of you. In fact, her questions are drawn from psychological profiling questionnaires. She – and the software – are profiling you and she gives you advice based on your answers.”(Blast Theory, 2017)

After reading about this artwork I found out that ‘Karen’ was developed after working with John McGrath who I have previously written about on my academic research! Blast theory wrote that “When John McGrath asked us to develop a project with National Theatre Wales in 2013 we were keen to create a personal and intimate experience for smartphones in which you interact directly with the lead character. We wanted you to be challenged about how honest and open you might be and to experience the thrill of having your personality appraised.”(Blast Theory,2017)

The second piece of artwork that enjoyed exploring by Blast Theory was‘Uncle Roy all around you’. Although made in 2003, the artists used forms of technology which meant interacting with another user you did not know and also the use of actors around the city to enhance the users experience. The artwork is a game, which was one main influence to why I was interested in exploring the project.

The idea of being able to create a game for this project seems very appealing, although I will need to brainstorm my ideas before I can put together a proposal.

Another idea which may influence my project is the MatrixThe Matrix is a film which is based on a man called Thomas A. Anderson who is a man leading a double life. By day he is an average computer programmer who carries out a normal lifestyle. However, by night he is a computer hacker by the name of Neo.  He finds out that most human beings are not born, but are created by machines so that the ‘agents’ can harvest their personal bio-electric and heat energy to fulfil their electricity needs. The minds of such people are imprisoned in an artificial reality known as the Matrix. Now a rebel, Neo learns about his role in the reality and must confront the agents programs which all rebels fear, who plan on destroying the rebels and destroying the entire human existence.

What interested me the most about the Matrix, is the whole ideology of a controlled society. This film was philosophically influenced by Plato. Plato’s Analogy of the Cave lies closely to the plot of the Matrix. Plato’s analogy explores an alternate reality in a parallel universe, where one does not follow the shadows but escapes into the light, releasing himself from his chains within the cave.

Karen.(2017) Blast Theory [online] Available from: [Accessed 18 February 2017].


Below is Charlotte’s account of what texts inspired her to develop her idea further, whilst defining the key themes:

Key Themes

  1. The Panopticon – surveilence, control, security
  2. Bentham – Michael Foucault
  3. Utilitarianism
  4. Effect Alturism


Interest/subject taken from the lesson:


  • David Lyon argues in his journal ‘Surveillance society’that to try and manage risk and uncertainty, one could achieve this through using surveillance techniques.(Lyon,D. 2002)


  • A historical method of surveillance was created by Jeremy Bentham and his brother. The Panopticon is a tower centralised in the prison, surrounded by open prison cells. Each cell is visible to the Supervisor within the tower. The tower let out an enormous light so that the in-mates within their cells could not tell whether the supervisor was present or not. Michael Foucault states (1977, p.200) that “this invisibility is a guarantee of order. If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future.” Therefore, creating a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. (Foucault, 1977, p. 201).


Jeremy Bentham/ John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism


  • Utilitarianism is a philosophical theory created by Scholars Bentham and Mill. Although split into Act and Rule Utilitarianism, the overall idea is to enable people to help make the correct decisions that they may face through maxmising the possibility of the best consequence. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)
  • Bentham answered the question of what good is through the idea of hedonism. Hedonists define something to be good if they are ‘intrinsically’ good (good within themselves). Not, because they produce some further valuable thing. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)


Stop the robot apocalypse – Amia Srinivasan


  • This article has an interesting and close links with Utilitarianism, the ideology of ‘doing good’ is discussed as a modern theory/‘community’ called ‘Effective Altruism’.
  • This article discusses how a new generation of moral philosophers are set out to breaking the traditional thought process and ineffectuality. “The goal of the ‘effective altruists’ is not only to theorise the world, but to use their theories to leave the world a better place than they found it.” (Srinivasan,2015)
  • Srinivasan discusses Willim MacAskills(28-year-old lecturer from at Oxford University) book ‘ Doing good better’ and how within this book he argues that one should not only try and do good but, do the best we can. MacAskville created a charirty called Giving What We Can, which encourages people to give over 10% of their future incomes for ‘philanthropic’ purposes and advises them how to do the ‘best’ with your money.
  • His book is essentially a “feel-good guide to getting good done. It doesn’t dwell much on the horrors of global inequality, and sidesteps any diagnosis of its causes. The word ‘oppression’ appears just once.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • “MacAskill does not address the deep sources of global misery – international trade and finance, debt, nationalism, imperialism, racial and gender-based subordination, war, environmental degradation, corruption, exploitation of labour – or the forces that ensure its reproduction.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • Srinivasan questions whether we really need a sophisticated model such as that for effective altruists to tell us something needs doing about the world we live in? “Effective altruists, like everyone else, come up against the fact that the world is messy, and like everyone else who wants to make it better they must do what strikes them as best, without any final sense of what that might be or any guarantee that they’re getting it right.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • Srinivasan then explores how Utilitarianism, like effective altruism both demand too much. Ignoring the how a human’s emotion and personal attachments, which is what makes us different to any other animal, should be ignored in order to do what is best to maximise the good for the most amount of people.


I then looked at a thread for discussing this critical review of ‘Doing Good Better. Written by Ben Todd.


These are some of the most interesting responses to the disadvantages of effective altruism.


  • “Our worldview is inherently biased in favor supporting this existing economic system, because we share many of its key assumptions, which will mean we’ll fail to see potentially better ways of improving the world that involve changing the economic system.” (Todd, 2015)


  • The author focuses heavily on effective altruism’s roots in moral philosophy, which makes sense in the context of a review of Will’s book, but is a bit unfair on the movement overall. The founders of the other organisations mostly don’t have backgrounds in academic philosophy. (Todd, 2015)
  • Our worldview is inherently biased in favor supporting this existing economic system, because we share many of its key assumptions, which will mean we’ll fail to see potentially better ways of improving the world that involve changing the economic system. (Todd,2015)


Reference List

Lyon, D. (2002) Surveillance society. Buckingham [England]: Open University Press.

Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and punish, The Birth of the Prison. Translated from French by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.

Nathanson, S., The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from: [Accessed 06 December 2016].

Todd, B. (2015) Effective Altruism Forum. Available from:[Accessed 06 December 2016].

Srinivasan, A. (2015) London Review of Books. Available from:[Accessed 06 December 2016].

Data Worlds Project Proposal

My data worlds project will be based on Donald Trump’s presidency, and more importantly, hi slogan’ Make America Great Again’. I chose to base my project around this topic because I want the app to be used as a tool for uninformed voters/public to track whether this term is being fulfilled correctly. This assessment aims to incorporate relevant statistics regarding the welfare of the citizensDonald Trump

For example, We’ll begin our journey defining what the term ‘Great’ means, so that we have a clear UNDERSTANDING of the topic we are about to explore. Tis definition will also serve as a point of reference, when the user uses their brain to configure a more educated analysis of the statistics given to them 

An example how this application would categorise or quantify this greatness could be based on Economic Figure, Death Rates, Rehabilitation rates, Learning Rates, Health patterns and Overall well-being statistics.

The basis for this project is not to defame Donald Trump, however, the intentions will be more focused on delivering statistics to people, ranging from naive to smart, in the most ‘Black and White’ way as possible. When I say ‘Black and White’ I’m referring to the way in I plan to communicate facts in the most non-biased way possible, there for the app in neutral.

Ultimately, this application should serve as a self reflection tool for its audience i.e Users, Society and OUTSIDERS. This self reflective aspect of my project aims to tap into the user’s ‘common sense’ and moral stand point, encouraging them to take a refreshing re evaluation, from a different perspective