Disciplining the Ethical Couponer: A Foucauldian Analysis of Online Interactions

  • Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar Valdosta State University
  • Shannon K. Carter University of Central Florida
Keywords: surveillance, online interactions, social control, discipline


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 training—hierarchical 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.

Author Biographies

Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar, Valdosta State University
Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar is an Instructor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina Lancaster.  Her research focuses on social inequalities, namely homelessness and poverty.
Shannon K. Carter, University of Central Florida
Shannon K. Carter is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida.  Her research focuses on issues of power, specifically as it relates to gender, motherhood and the body.  Her work is published in journals such as Sociology of Health & Illness, Gender Issues, Sociological Forum and Journal of Family Issues.  Her current research focuses on public discourses of breastfeeding and the impact of race on mothers’ infant feeding experiences.