Prisoners are students of society like employees are students of corporate functionality. Surveillance, order, routine and hierarchical power are characteristics commonly associated with the modern penal system; how largely are these factors echoed in modern organisations? This essay critically explores the claim that the modern corporation is as good an example of 'disciplinary power' as the modern penal system. This claim derives from a Foucauldian perspective, that is, disciplinary power is of utmost significance. This essay begins by outlining and defining Foucault's (1977) principles of disciplinary power and the Panopticon (section 2). In exploring these issues, the essay considers the two opposite schools of thought by (1) Supporting Foucault's concept, namely that, 'the modern corporation is as good an example of 'disciplinary power' as the modern penal system' (section 3); (2) Considering evidence against the idea that disciplinary power exists in the modern corporation (section 4). This essay takes the standpoint; that disciplinary power does exist in the modern corporation (section 5).
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An important reference for this essay is Michael Foucault's (1977) book, 'Discipline and Punish: The Birth of The Prison' which examines social and theoretical practices occurring in the western penal systems during the modern age. Although Foucault (1977) focuses on historical accounts from France, the issues it examines are relevant to every modern western society. 'Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?' (Foucault, 1977:228). The institutions named are all very different, however they bear a resemblance to one another as they are described by the same model of power- the Panopticon. This can be related to modern corporations which; like factories, schools, barracks and hospitals; might too resemble the penal system.
Defining 'Discipline' and the 'Panopticon'
Disciplinary power is a universal phenomenon which governs every moment, every judgement, every act (Foucault, 1977). In order to exert this power, a 'docile body' needs to be created, namely one that is economically efficient but politically obedient (Foucault, 1977). Foucault discussed the making of a docile body in three processes. Initially, there was the 'scale of control' (Foucault, 1977:136) that is, implementing cohesion upon the body in terms of movements, gestures, rapidity and so on. Secondly, the 'object of control' (Foucault, 1977:137) is the concept of objects upon which control is required; control is by no means limited to the body. Lastly, Foucault refers to the method of coding activities within a given time, space and movement, namely the concept of 'modality' (Foucault, 1977:137). Such processes, according to Foucault (1997:137), make possible a particular control of bodily actions, which subjects the body of its forces and imposes a relation of docility-utility, namely, 'discipline'. Disciplinary power exists in all practises. It empowers but at the same time marginalises (Foucault, 1977:138).
Foucault (1977) talks of disciplinary machinery, individuals are like machines whereby every minute detail practised is important-'no detail is unimportant' (Foucault, 1977: 140). In order to produce effective discipline, strict organising is needed. Firstly, discipline requires individuals being organised into a set, in a given space (cells), in order to function adequately, whilst establishing presences and absences and holding adequate ranks (Foucault, 1977:148). Secondly, the activities required of the individuals should feel 'natural' to them by establishing rhythms and repetition (Organic), For instance through the use of time tables: 'On arrival in the morning, before beginning their work, all persons shall wash their hands, offer up to God and make the sign of the cross' (Foucault, 1977:149, Saint-Maur, article 1). Thirdly, discipline requires controlling the evolution over time of the activities of the bodies-organisation of genesis (Foucault, 1977:156). Lastly, Foucault argued (1977:162) that by allowing for the combination of the force of many individuals into a single massive force an 'effective machine' could be obtained (Foucault, 1977: 162). Means of training and correcting, according to Foucault (1977) may be obvious such as torture, confinement and dressage but may also be more subtle such as hierarchical observation, normalising judgement and the examination (1977:170).
Another key feature of Foucault's notion of disciplinary power is the emergence of new forms of surveillance. While the worker was constantly observed, disciplinary power endorsed a new method of surveillance, self-surveillance. Bentham (1975) himself described the Panopticon as 'a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example' (Bentham, 1975). In Bentham's design a guard stood with a view into each cell, but the prisoner never knew when he was being observed. The surveillance lead to the prisoner feeling like they were always being observed, thus conveying what one architect has called the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience."(Lang, 2004). Foucault (1977) mentions this design using it as metaphor for modern 'disciplinary' societies and its persistent tendency to observe and normalise.
Figure 1 demonstrates the Panopticon, whereby those on the periphery of the Panopticon are disconnected from one another (the 'Prisoners'), yet are constantly viewed from the central column (the 'Guard').
Figure 1: The topology of the Panoptic Design
Support that the Modern Corporation is as good an example of 'disciplinary power' as the modern penal system
Foucault proposes that this idea of a panopticon as a form of discipline not only exists in prisons but all hierarchical structures like the school, the hospital and the factory. Examples of this phenomenon in the modern corporation can be seen in; (a) individuals with expertise such as accountants and personnel managers (e.g., Miller & O'Leary, 1987, 1990; Miller, 1992; Morgan, 1988; Townley, 1995);(b) group meetings, for example in project progress, which act as a form of self-surveillance particularly at the managerial levels (e.g., Roberts, Sanderson, Hendry and Barker's, 2004) and participation programmes, whereby many factors are made salient, such as competencies (e.g. Fournier,1998); (c) examinations (e.g., Hoskin and Macve,1986); (d) in discourse, which can divide, marginalise and reinforce hierarchical power (e.g. Knights and Morgan, 1991) and lastly (e) in business etiquette. Each of these factors will be discussed in turn in this section of the essay.
Accountants, Disciplinary Power and the Modern Corporation
Many authors maintain that individuals with knowledge and expertise mimic the observer in the panopticon framework. Experts and specialists in corporations operate to create 'normalized' knowledge and operating procedures. Examples of individuals with expertise in the modern corporation are accountants. A dominant theme is of accounting as language; a way of providing order and a way of viewing the world. Miller and his colleagues (Miller and O'Leary, 1987, 1990; Miller, 1992) argue that accounting is not a neutral and objective process but rather an organizational and social practice with implications. It can be argued that accounting normalizes individuals by numbers, rendering the individual as visible, observable and accountable. According to Miller and O'Leary (1990:3) accounting is 'the establishment of an economic language of organizational motive'. Similarly, Morgan's (1988:40) view satisfies the Foucauldian framework 'accounting practice is framed by an overarching metaphor encouraging a numerical view of reality'. Moreover, for Miller (1992) accounting attributes financial values and rationales to a range of social practises and thus makes them visible, calculable and operational.
Furthermore, Townley (1995) looks at how individuals are viewed in terms of mathesis and taxonomies and then ordered into a mathematically discernable rank. Townley (1995: 563) argues that accounting creates a language and divides the internal space into costs, assets and liabilities. Accounting divisions leave a population distributed in groups with little additional differentiation (Townley, 1995: 563). Townley (1995:564) further contends that personnel management is the matching procedure to accounting which again controls the labour process. A number of personnel practises are highlighted which illustrate how personnel management acts in this calculative manner; (1) job analysis, (2) job evaluation, (3) selection procedures and (4) appraisal. Firstly, Job analysis is the practice of gathering data and making judgements about what a specific job entails (Townley, 1995:565). In the past, job analyses used narrative practises but these have been replaced by taxonomies (Gael, 1988). Tasks are arranged in a hierarchy according to the level of 'complexity'. For example; in the 'relationships dealing with people' paradigm, the role of 'serving' is considered 'less complex' than 'mentoring'. Moreover, more precise job analysis includes estimates of time spent on tasks, learning time taken for each task and the importance of each duty. Such factors are translated numerically and again arranged hierarchically. Thus, jobs are scaled down into a language of numbers which again ties into Foucault's concept of hierarchies and normalisation.
Secondly, 'job evaluation' is the process of establishing the importance of jobs based on the job content (Townley, 1995:565). Again, factors are numerically scaled and ranked (Townley, 1995:565). Thirdly, 'selection procedures', such as examinations or CVs, involve comparing individuals according to codes and numbers rendering the persons observable, measurable and comparable. Testing represents the numeric difference. Lastly, a huge proportion of performance 'appraisal' includes the grading of activities (1995:566). Some appraisals rate scales of performance levels to 'anchored' job related behaviours. Once more, this relies on a taxonomy whereby job related behaviours are evaluated on a numerical scale. An overall score is then computed and a 'global rating' emerges. This method translates individuals to numbers, thus allowing them to be located on a disciplinary matrix, each individual located in relation to the population as a whole. This discipline may also become integrated into a person's subjective assessment (Townley, 1995:566).
Therefore, both accounting and personnel have been considered as calculative practices operating through taxonomia and mathesis. Personnel, however, allows more depth to this calculative practice whereby individual acts and thoughts are made measureable. Individuals are correlated to the population at large on a disciplinary matrix. Thus individuals are rendered visible, predictable and calculable. Both accounts of personnel and accounting can be viewed as presenting an ordering of the world, specifically by organising workers into a productive force. Such mundane and recognizable procedures as job evaluation have been reframed for the role they play in formalizing normative systems of classification which contribute to the hierarchy and serial ordering of workers.
Group Meetings, Participation Programmes, Disciplinary Power and the Modern Corporation
Group meetings act as a form of self-surveillance. Managers attach central importance to their group meetings and face-to-face interaction. 'For fund managers, formal meetings offer an opportunity to assess the company's strategy and the ability of management, in the light of information from previous meetings as well as the performance record in the report and accounts. The meetings are also perceived to offer a competitive advantage in terms of investment performance relative to rival funds' (Barker, 1998:16). Specifically, meetings act as a method of monitoring performance. Rao and Sivakumar (1999) believe that meetings serve to recognize the property rights of their shareholders and their entitlement to monitor managers' performance in order to hold them accountable. 'We view financial analysts as nascent professionals monitoring the firm on behalf of shareholders, and test whether their scrutiny impelled firms to establish investor relations departments' (1999:28).
Building on Rao and Sivakumar's (1999) framing, Roberts and colleagues (2004) specifically view meetings as ways to exercise disciplinary power. Roberts and colleagues (2004) consider meetings between the managers of the FTSE 100 companies and their institutional shareholders in terms of visibility, norms and hierarchies. Meetings serve, according to Roberts and colleagues (2004), as a system of visibility prompting the managers that they are accountable and are being watched. Norms serve as a basis for acceptable corporate practise and performance to the wider context. Hierarchies are established and maintained in meetings in relation to the communities both within and beyond the corporation (e.g. finance directors are able to speak on behalf of their 'owners' to their colleagues within these meetings). Foucault's account of disciplinary power thus seems applicable to modern corporations in the form of meetings; specifically mimicking the Panopticon model by rendering individuals as accountable.
Building on this idea of visibility through group meetings and group interaction, Fournier's (1998) article discusses the making and working of the enterprise and discourse in a large British service sector organization. This article relates to Foucault's ideas as it emphasises the visibility of the subjects; the individuals are like prisoners in a circular prison unaware as to whether or not they were being viewed at any moment in time, so must always behave appropriately. In this paper, not only were competencies and performance criteria made salient but so were employee attitudes, dispositions, self-conceptions and goals for development. Fournier (1998) proposes that the new career model and culture of excellence is set up to sound enriching and empowering however has strong disciplinary effects. Thus, the new career model of the entrepreneurial path is a way to render disciplinary power on the subjects but at the same time leading individuals to believe that they have endless opportunities and are in control of their own futures.
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Examination, Disciplinary Power and the Modern Corporation
Surveillance may not be solely present in terms of words and actions. It can also be seen in testing methods such as examinations. Hoskin and Macve (1986) focus on the examination as a practice of knowledge and a tool of disciplinary power. They first consider Foucault's example of the examination and disciplinary power in a school (Foucault, 1977, pp 184-187). Testing enables an efficient observation of pupils. Students become subject to a system of 'micropenality' or 'penal accountancy' with the distribution of grades. Individuals are normalised based on records and a 'history' of each pupil can be generated simultaneously (Foucault, 1977: 184-187). This same process can be seen in accountancy as a profession (Hoskin and Macve, 1986). A graded examination is taken to ascertain control over competence. In turn entry is controlled, standards are set and the status of those who have passed is validated. Thus, surveillance is seen in the modern corporation in a number of ways. Deetz (1992) further contends that self-assessment techniques act as a way of making individuals observable. With the upsurge of self-assessment tests, individuals are trusted to self-assess on the corporations behalf (Deetz, 1992). This anxiety of being 'caught out' or being 'seen beneath the surface' to detect dishonesty or the fear that one's own beliefs or identities will be rejected enforce these norms.
Discourse, Disciplinary Power and the Modern Corporation
Others argue that the Foucauldian concept in the form of discourse plays an important part in creating hierarchies and cellular spacing (e.g., Knights and Morgan, 2001). Discourse refers to the written or spoken communication or debate (Oxford Dictionary, 2001). According to Foucault, discourse has a particular meaning. It is 'an entity of sequences of signs in that they are enouncements' (Foucault, 1969:141). An enouncement (or statement) is not an agreement, but rather an abstract matter that permits the assignment of objects, subjects and other enouncements (Foucault, 1969: 140). Discourse produces its own truth effects and is fixed in social practices. Therefore, for this reason, Foucault highlights the inseparability of power and knowledge. Knights and Morgan (1991) specifically distinguish a discourse of strategy that has a specific relation to the modern corporation. Specifically, they view the power effects of strategic discourse in organisations in a number of ways. This essay will specifically look at two examples whereby disciplinary power is seen to exist in strategy discourse. Firstly, strategy discourse maintains and develops the privileges of management and denies other perspectives on organisations. This leads to managerial hierarchies and the justification of the inequalities of income and work conditions (through reference to their expertise through their use of strategic discourse). Secondly, strategic discourse assists and legitimizes the exercise of power in terms of groupings. For example accountants will emphasise the significance of figures, thus their particular expertise in measuring costs is emphasised. Knights and Morgan (1991) argue that there are a number of features within organisations where Foucauldian's concept of discourse exists. Specifically, they considered the unintentional effects of strategy in which it helps to assure the exercise of power in a number of ways, such as by 'locking' individuals and groups into their responsibilities and commitments (referring to Foucault's notion of cellular arrangement) whilst also securing individuals privileges in the organisation thus legitimizing inequalities.
Business etiquette is seen in the written and unwritten rules of conduct which act to normalize individuals (normalization as a method of discipline through training). When conducting group meetings in the United States, 'Robert's Rules of Order' (a short book containing rules of order) is likely to be followed if there are no other company policies to control a meeting. Etiquette even extends to technology; 'netiquette' is the social convention for using computer networks (e.g. typing in all caps reflects shouting/ anger). Such regulations are often echoed throughout an industry or economy. For instance, 49% of employers surveyed found that non-traditional clothing would be a 'strong influence' on their opinion of a potential job candidate (American National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2005). Another example is seen in hand shaking; In the United Kingdom and United States a single right hand is used to shake. Thus, it seems in every action, every movement, discipline is resonated.
Evidence against the idea that disciplinary power exists in the modern corporation
Technology is of utmost importance in modern organisations, thus, many are convinced that Foucault's concept of the Panopticon is 'outdated'. For example, Burrell (1998) argues that the Panopticon has been updated by computer networking and 'computer architecture'. Thus, with technology, information and details can be obtained, which has convinced many authors that technology marks the end of the era of 'disciplinary power'. Munro (2000) proposes a new network diagram that might be better suited to the modern world than a Panopticon. The new non-disciplinary forms of power (described as Network Power), which Munro (2000) argues are now more present in this modern world than were at the times of Foucault's writings, are as follows. Munro (2000) argues that shifts, from 'a panopticon' model of power to 'a network', have occurred in terms of 'techniques', 'space', 'time' and 'the body', which will be discussed. In terms of 'techniques', there is a shift from 'the panopticon' which consists of visual surveillance to 'the panspectron' (2000: 689) which consists of data surveillance. DeLanda (1991: 206) argues that in this modern world electronics have brought upon this shift to the 'Panspectron'. This data surveillance has been restricted to the security services. Information technology does not rely on 'enclosure' or visual hierarchical observation, two important techniques required to exert discipline on docile bodies in order to make individuals mechanical and effective (see section 2). For example, customer profiling does not rely on direct contact or 'cellular enclosure'. However, this is not to say that data surveillance is a method to exert less control than visual surveillance. It could in fact be argued that when information is separated from its action context and symbolically represented, events can be controlled and combined in new ways thus facilitating greater control (e.g. Cooper, 1992). Thus, the shift of surveillance has moved from visually monitoring the individual to data surveillance and the flow of information. Zuboff (1988) argues how information processing in the modern corporation is changing the nature of the workplace. Further, she argues that this shift is causing two contradictory movements namely; greater panoptic control and egalitarian access to electronic text (1988:361). Thus, the modern shift may be both enhancing and controlling.
If we now consider 'Space', Munro (2005) argues that a shift from confined cells (in Foucault's conception of disciplinary machinery) to connected nodes (today) has occurred. The Panopticon works by isolating communication between different workstations and having a central column which has complete control over information. This differs to how modern corporations tend to operate today whereby there is lateral communication and workers can communicate between and within workstations. Poster (1990) contends that modern information technology uses 'participatory surveillance' rather than being viewed hierarchically. Thus, individuals can supply information when they are willing to do so; this is very different to the panopticon whereby every movement is constantly scrutinised. Next, Munro (2005) looks at how the concept of 'time' has changed from Foucault's writing to today. There is a distinct difference between timetabling (in Foucault's time) and global time (in the Modern Corporation). With the use of webcams and increase in technology; time become irrelevant when communicating globally or locally. Additionally, the work-life shift has changed considerably. With webcams and flexitime, this work -life boundary has become more blurred. In the past, work was kept in the work station; today, work can invade people's homes and leisure time. Thus, control in forms of cellular arrangement is less possible as the strict 'timetable' is diminishing.
Finally, Munro (2005), in his new diagram of power talks of this shift from the 'docile body' to the 'motile body'. Accordingly, information technology reduces the need for dressage, for example, Foucault talks of the correlation of the body and the gesture and argues that a well-disciplined body forms the operational context of the slightest gesture. An example from Discipline and Punish, on good handwriting, follows; pupils must always... 'hold their bodies erect, somewhat turned and free on the left side, slightly inclined, so that, with the elbow placed on the table, the chin can be rested upon the hand, unless this were to interfere with the view; the left leg must be somewhat more forward under the table than the right'(La Salle, 63-4). Conversely, in modern corporations today, movement around the node/station becomes unnecessary and undesirable. Virilio (1998) predicts that:
'Having been first mobile, then motorized, man will thus become motile, deliberately limiting his body's area to influence a few gestures, a few impulse, like channel surfing.' (1998: 17)
According to Foucault, one of the major techniques of disciplinary power was the concept of exercise: 'To punish is to exercise' (1977:180). However, in the modern corporation, the body is stationary for the majority of the time. Thus, Munro (2000) has shown that Foucault's disciplinary power framework does not fit control in the modern corporation today on a number of levels. The argument of this paper has not been that disciplinary power has completely faded and has been replaced by network power; rather, the modern corporation is eliciting other means of power. In reality, it seems that it is only in modern corporations whereby network power is emerging. Disciplinary power is still seen in schools, factories and prisons. Thus, according to Munro (2000) the modern corporation is by no means as good an example of 'disciplinary power' as the modern penal system.
In line with Munro's (2000) argument that much has changed since Foucault's time of writing, May (2005) argues that we have entered a new historical period which does not adequately explain the present. Specifically, May argues two points in line with Munro (2005). Firstly, that we are no longer restricted to confined cells, which ties in with Munro's idea of this shift from 'confined cells' to 'connected nodes'. Secondly, May looks at this idea of globalization and time, which relates to Munro's idea of a shift from 'timetable' to 'global' (real time). May (2005) uses three approaches to explain these shifts; (1) disciplinary society versus 'control' (2) in terms of the 'outdated' view of power (3)globalization; I will outline these concepts below. May (2005) cites Gilles Deleuze's (1972-1990) idea that in contrast to the disciplinary society, we have now entered a society of 'control'. Today, we are less determined by training taking place at specific sites than when Foucault presented his ideas of disciplinary power. Hospitals and teams providing home health care are not new. Furthermore, education is becoming not as much of a closed site but rather progressing to continual training. Thus, according to Deluze (1972-1990), we are no longer confined to these precise spaces where we can be continually monitored and normalised but rather by a 'digital web' that is around us and that we are 'woven' into. Secondly, Jean Baudrillard (1987) argues that the concept of power producing us is 'outdated'. The concept of power and production is fabricated, which Baudrillard (1987) calls 'hyper-reality'. The analogy Baudrillard (1987) gives is to Disneyland whereby there is an illusion that the world outside its gates is real. Thirdly, May (2005) argues that with globalisation instantaneous communication has changed the structures of societies. Our identity is now more determined by us being consumers than producers of goods. Gone are the jobs for life, today we are shifting jobs quite readily. Finally, companies exist globally; each nation is ending its short lived reign and we now use other means of communication which cross global boundaries or office boundaries i.e. confined space. These changes have arisen from the technological advances in the past thirty or forty years. Thus, much has changed since the time of Foucault's writing in 1976. Thus, Foucault's ideas of discipline may not necessarily apply to this present 'digital culture' whereby we consume more than we produce, we have more control in our work lives, boundaries are more flexible and everything is more easily accessible.
In addition, May (2005) argues that if we are to view Foucault's concepts in a methodological way we must observe what is going on around us rather than looking down. For example considering the modern corporation as a penal system today may not be as appropriate as it was at the time of Foucault's writings. As Deleuze (1972-1990) argues that today communication is more flexible and decentralized, at Foucault's time communication was more confined. However, this does not necessarily mean that we no longer continue to control through normalisation. Rather, we may be seeing a shift of the operation of observation and intervention from closed to more open sites. May (2005) argues that the answer to such a question is not so simple- it requires investigating and unfolding history.
Hamann (2005), as a response to May (2005), argues that, although May (2005) is correct that Deleuze's and Baudrillard's work moves us in a way which questions the applications of some of Foucault's concepts today, Hamann (2005) argues that perhaps it merely moves us towards a new position of interpreting Foucault's work. May (2005) argues that Deleuze and Baudrillard's articles 'tell us something, but they do not tell us enough' (May, 2005:75). Hamann argues that instead of May (2005) merely stating this, we should actually do this 'difficult' work to make the approach 'more genealogical, more Foucauldian' (May, 2005:81) before dismissing Foucault's ideas entirely. McWhorter (2005) further poses the question to May (2005) regarding the extent normalization is dependent on globalisation and technological forms (McWorter, 2005: p86). McWorter (2005) contends that 'biopower' (Foucault,1998); a technology of power whereby people can be managed as a group; actually functions relatively well in the modern, decentralized environment whereby quicker access to individuals actually make normalization easier rather than more difficult. Thus, accordingly, biopower, as a form of disciplinary power is still seen in the modern corporation, for example, through surveillance cameras or computers. McWhorter (2005) further contends that oil and petroleum has made such innovations possible. For example, without plastic made from petroleum, we would not have mobile phones, laptops, recording devices, or vehicles. Thus due to oil and petroleum, surveillance has become even more possible. In line with this, McWhorter (2005) actually argues without oil; biopower and surveillance would actually collapse as it is impossible to measure and normalise millions of individuals without such equipments. According to McWhorter (2005), we need a genealogy of petro-bio-power. This would enable us to understand the biggest difference between Foucault's time and our present time, which is that we are caught up in a culture based upon a sole resource: crude oil. This should be approached, according to McWhorter (2005), in Foucauldian and genealogical terms. Thus, both Hamman and McWhorter denote, like May (2005) that since Foucault's writings there have been critical global changes, however they argue that a genealogical approach is fundamentally needed in order to elucidate our understanding in this area. And this, accordingly, is why Foucault's work still remains very much relevant. Rather than take an 'armchair approach', the Foucauldian perspectives need to be fully explored in the modern corporation today (Hamman, 2005; McWhorter, 2005). May (2005) contends that his paper nonetheless highlights issues surrounding changes since Foucault's time. May (2005) contends that the historical trajectory needs to be researched as this understanding is important not just for our understanding but also so that we can recognise how to resist the workings of power upon us.
To conclude this section; certainly, the workplace is moving away from cellular arrangement and confined space but individuals are still nonetheless controlled through discipline. They are still assessed on their performance, ranked hierarchically and they still must comply with the rules and regulations. Additionally, other emergent forms of monitoring at a distance are pertinent; due to electronic technology, automatic surveillance systems are possible which act as the panopticon. For example passwords on computer systems, ID cards on arrival, security passwords and so forth can track individuals instanta
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