Panopticon

“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” (Foucault, in Panopticism)

This is a panopticon: a prison design first proposed by social “reformer” and all around weirdo Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is impossible for the watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly.

Michel Foucault’s theory of Panopticism concerns the systematic ordering and controlling of human populations through subtle and often unseen forces, as is apparent in many parts of the modernized and increasingly digitalized world of information, with continued advancements in technology and surveillance techniques making Foucault’s theories especially pertinent to any scrutiny of the relationship between the state and its population.

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