Disciplining the Ethical Couponer: A Foucauldian Analysis of Online Interactions

Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar, Shannon K. Carter


As the internet becomes increasingly important in establishing identities and social networks, it becomes a mechanism for social control.  We apply the components of Foucault’s means of corrective traininghierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and examination—to the comments section of a popular couponing blog to analyze tactics participants use to discipline each other’s couponing behaviors.  We find Foucault’s framework applicable with some modification.  Participants use discursive techniques to establish hierarchical surveillance however hierarchies are not upheld throughout the interactions, making lateral surveillance more applicable.  Participants engage in normalizing judgment by critiquing and correcting “deviant” behavior and positively reinforcing “good” behavior.  The blog itself mirrors the examination; as the blog master describes activities, participants try them, and return to the site to report their results, which can then be compared to others.  These findings illustrate online interactions as a mechanism of informal social surveillance and control.


surveillance; online interactions; social control; discipline

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22439/fs.v0i18.4656

Copyright (c) 2014 Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar, Shannon K. Carter

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