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Communication Studies


Reality TV allows us to gaze at others. Some critics link such watching, along with the reliance on new communication technologies in contemporary culture, to Foucault’s use of the panopticon metaphor in his analysis of modernity. Perhaps in watching we have become Big Brother ourselves. This paper argues that linking reality TV (and the idea of Big Brother) to Foucault’s use of the panopticon metaphor is mistaken. For Foucault, surveillance is only half of the story in the metaphor. The other half is that we are the ones who are exercising power over ourselves. We are our own masters. The article sets out the implications of this reading of Foucault on recent debates in connection with the preoccupation with Big Brother in contemporary culture.


This article was originally published in Canadian Journal of Communication, 26(4): 33-45.