The consumer as foucauldian "object of knowledge"

Ashlee Humphreys*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This article adapts and extends Michel Foucault's theorization of technologies of power, originally formulated with regard to the paradigm of the prisoner, to the paradigm of the consumer. Using examples of marketing practices and Internet technologies employed by, the author explores how sight-based technologies of power - individuation and surveillance - shape consumer agency and, employing the Panopticon metaphor, theorizes the link between surveillance and consumer spectacle. In addition to analyzing these techniques, the author indicates the formation of consumer resistance to them. The analysis of sight-based technologies of power is opposed to phenomenological analyses and analyses of discourse in the service of (a) providing an alternative hermeneutical viewpoint from which to view the consumer, (b) positioning marketing practitioners in our theories of consumer behavior, and, most importantly, (c) exploring how the consumer subject is constructed through technologies of surveillance and individuation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-309
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Computer Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Consumers
  • Cookies
  • Internet
  • Marketing
  • Resistance
  • Surveillance
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law

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