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September 13, 2013

Essay on Foucault's Panopticism

12:11 PM
Foucault’s Panopticism

The panopticism is a type of prison architecture envisioned by the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The purpose of the panoptic structure is to enable an individual, housed in a central tower, to observe all prisoners confined in individual cells around the tower, without they can know if they are observed. This device would thus create a "sense of omniscience, invisible among inmates.
The use of the design is to enhance the security through the efficiency of the surveillance. Placed in a cell, inmates are unable to see each other through the concrete walls. The cells are full of light to an extent that they can be observed from the central tower. Foucault defines an additional function of the central tower in his book titled “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison,”  “ We have seen that anyone may come and exercise in the central tower the functions of surveillance, and that this being the case, he can gain a clear idea of the way the surveillance is practiced." In this way, with the inclusion of the public and non-institutional members, the disciplinary mechanism of observation is decentered, which has the effect of increasing the efficacy of the disciplinary mechanism.(Lang, 2004)
Jeremy Bentham defined the idea of Panopticism in his book as “Morals reformed, health preserved, industry invigorated, instruction diffused, public burdens lightened, strengthened the economy - the Gordian knot of the Poor Laws not cut but untied - all by a simple idea of architecture. "(Bentham, 1995)
This type of design can be used for any population that needs to be kept under observation, such as: prisoners, schoolchildren, medical patients or workers. Foucault built on the conception of Bentham to explain and illustrate the concept of Panopticism. “If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future, bad reciprocal influences; if they are patients, there is no danger of contagion; if they are madmen there is no risk of their committing violence upon one another; if they are schoolchildren, there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time; if they are workers, there are no disorders, no theft, no coalitions, none of those distractions that slow down the rate of work, make it less perfect or cause accidents.”
He saw a modern technique of observation transcendent school, factory, hospital and barracks, or a "chart"of the "disciplinary society". Foucault defines the diagram as "abstract operation of any obstacle or friction ... and we shall remove from any specific use "5, which allows him to speak of panopticism.  Variations on the panopticisim can be seen today participating in a less noisy than the equivalent criminal, the "surveillance society ".  When Foucault defines the Panopticism, he sometimes identifies as a practical optical arrangement or light that characterizes the prison, sometimes he determined abstractly as a machine that not only applies to visible matter in general (workshop, barracks, schools, hospital as a prison), but also through all functions in general statements.
Foucault's interpretation of this panopticism is flawed in several respects. The idea of panopticism may said to be a draconian one but we must remember that for a prisoner in the early 19th century, it was much more desirable to be detained in such prison in the dungeons wetlands that existed at that time.
Moreover, Foucault forgets to say that a fundamental objective of the panopticon was to ensure that the guards can be monitored by the people, so they cannot abuse their power over inmates.
Lastly, contrary to the claims of Foucault, Bentham never intended to apply the principle of the panopticism to society as a whole. He actually wanted to make government and public institutions fully transparent, so that citizens verify that the authorities do not abuse their power. But transparency stops there, with regard to citizens, instead he wanted to protect their privacy against outside intrusion.
Foucault's critique of utilitarianism additional criminal Beccaria, arguing that his philosophy would be guided more by the desire to aggravate social control than by the need to humanize both. So rather than be thankful that atrocious tortures of the old regime are gradually replaced by more humane punishment, Foucault emphasizes that this "streamlining" of the criminal sanction led to a deepening of state power over individuals: "What emerges is probably less a new respect for the humanity of the condemned a trend toward greater justice and untied finer grid to a criminal tighter social body."
Or if the intention of the reformers was actually to "punish better,"  and streamline the sanctions and to calculate carefully the effects, the ultimate goal - and the actual effect that these reforms have produced - was to reduce the suffering of the citizens (seeking to reduce the number of crimes while punishing less severely). It is unclear therefore why would we want to reform practices that inflict needless suffering could not be a sign of "humanity."
On the epistemological level, Foucault has a tendency to pour into a form of anthropomorphism. He personalizes the concepts of "power" and "discipline" to the point of presenting them as systems that regulate with precision all the institutions of a society whose objective is to expand and apply more effectively.
Yet it is undeniable that the power exerted on individuals by the discipline in the prison, the barracks or hospital, it seems odd to argue that there is a coherent system of power (the "discipline") which would cause (and not just the effect) of the existence and operation of correctional institutions, military, hospital, etc

Panoptic Surveillance
It can be noted with irony that those who decide to forge a new life away from the public eye are paradoxically under constant surveillance, virtual incarnation, but at the same time very real, the panopticism of Jeremy Bentham, that allows one person to monitor all of those it is supposed guarded. As in virtual worlds, developers, telephone operators, postal or bank are one and the same entity. And they may also find it particularly interesting to watch as well, constant flux, what their customers.
"Virtual worlds are huge cameras" of panoptic surveillance, concluded Fairfield, but the worst is yet to come. And as we spend more and more time, they collect more data. It is not impossible that, eventually, the courts or legislators decide that the rules that apply in virtual worlds should also apply to physical space, they are increasingly intertwined.
It is to Michel Foucault as one must, in Discipline and Punish, the rediscovery of the Panopticon invented in the 1780s by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham and his brother Samuel, a naval engineer. Foucault gave what remains today one of the most eloquent descriptions: a building on the periphery ring, in the center a tower it is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner ring and the peripheral building is divided into cells, each of which passes through the entire thickness of the vessel; they have two windows, one inward, corresponding to the windows of the tower, the other to the outside, allows light to pass through the cell from side to side. It is sufficient to place a supervisor in the tower, and in each cell enclosing a lunatic, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. The effect of the cons-day, you can enter the tower, standing out exactly light, small captive silhouettes in the cells of the periphery.
The panopticon is all about the look, a device that can "see everything", but also listening: for Bentham, there should also ensure that the guardian can "hear everything," listen without being itself heard. If at the end of the eighteenth century, the first requirement can be achieved just the second is almost impossible. Bentham attempts to solve this problem by devising 'conversation tubes "that allow the governor, since the central tower, to apply individually to each prisoner by activating a kind of valve will. (John, 2006)
The reading proposed by Foucault, which is the emblem of the panoptic disciplinary turn in contemporary society, popularized the concept of "panopticon." Today, this practice is widespread in several contexts. In line with Foucault's analysis, a prison or, by extension, any kind of disciplinary institutions (orphanages, schools, reformatories, etc) can be described. More broadly, the use of the term spreads for the analysis of a surveillance society, including video surveillance has become a commonplace. This monitoring may be suffered (in the case of cameras placed in public for deterrence) or chosen (as in reality television shows or in social networking websites). If our contemporary society is characterized, writes Michael Foessel, "the end of the off-field" can be provided about a panopticon society.  
As Foucault has defined the concept of the panopticon can thematize power relationship that is established by capturing the intimate, that power is institutional (police or prison) or, more accurately understood as constituting interpersonal relationships. It is this latter direction that will take Foucault's analysis after Discipline and Punish, in defining the springs of biopolitics by appealing again to the panopticon. "The panopticon is not limited to mechanical and regional institutions. Panopticism to Bentham is a political formula which characterizes a type of government ". (Michael, 2006)
Foucault immediately highlights the theatricality of this "laboratory of power"  emphasizing the diffraction of light that comes panoptic device: "We are not in the stands or on the stage, but in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power that we roll ourselves, since we are a cog.”(John, 2006)  
Source of inspiration for writers and composers, but also a tool of analysis for thinking about contemporary society, the panopticon is a rich concept for addressing the issue of intimacy and politics in the contemporary arts. Foucault explains the important role a TV can play in ensuring and encouraging panopticism in the modern setting. “He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection"(Lang, 2004)
Rhetoric of surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother could be seen echoing many more than a historical program, a topical contemporary art gripped by its two references or two texts that have shaped the readings and ideologies of control and surveillance in recent decades. The reflection led by Michel Foucault on the surveillance society, building on analysis of his "Panopticon" to monitor and punish is cornerstone in its own right. It is important to note how many were the work of artists during the past thirty years, in conjunction with CCTV.
The term is inspired by the "panoptic surveillance system" created from a strategic point where the field of vision is as broad as possible. TV panopticism, in the farthest corner of the continent, from which one can, from a glance, embrace the world, is gradually becoming like a tower on top of which you can see everything. Small screens, themselves, are the poles of panoptic in our homes.
Functionally, television offers, more and more, three major aspects: information, buying and selling goods and services, education. These new facets of television complement and gradually develop to offer, such as cybernetics, a panopticism of services: it is also the beginning of challenging interactive TV viewers.
Systematic competitiveness of television fundamentally changes the nature of the data in the audiovisual landscape: the mission is redeploying a string according to a broadening of specific services that the chain can offer its users. The panopticism provides an audiovisual showcase to the burgeoning economic, social and cultural area around a practice of television communication, not necessarily longer, but relatively more intense and varied with European viewers spending an average of 500 hours per year in small screen.
TV panopticon is an expression of political community, not overbearing, now in the plurality of thought journalistic research of political or financial independence of audiovisual production. This audiovisual policy is a challenge to the Europe of communication groups which are the structural changes due to deregulation in Europe. The status of private owner, through the ownership of share capital, terrestrial, cable or satellite broadcast is increasing in parallel with the increased sources of financing (advertising, subscriptions to pay television or other business resources, rights to the transfer of programs).
Contemporary social critics often aver that technology has permitted the deployment of panoptic structures imperceptibly throughout society. Surveillance by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public spaces is one fine example of a technology that monitors the daily lives of the populace.
Moreover, a number of cities in the United Kingdom, including Middlesbrough, Bristol, Brighton and London have lately installed loudspeakers to a number of their present CCTV cameras. They can transmit the voice of a camera supervisor to issue audible messages to the public. Similarly, the onset of internet, social media websites, and video games have also allowed for the monitoring of users’ and viewers’ activities. ISPs can track the activities of the users’ on the web which implies that the daily activity of people can easily be recorded broadcast online. TV and other means of communication have a universal value due to panopticism and their very Orwellian nature.  


Lang, Silke Berit.(2004) "The Impact of Video Systems on Architecture", dissertion, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Bentham, Jeremy.(1995) Panopticon (Preface). In Miran Bozovic (ed.), The Panopticon Writings, London: Verso, 1995, 29-95.

Jeremy Bentham.(2005) Panopticon. In Miran Bozovic (ed.), The Panopticon Writings, London:

Mitchel P. Roth (2006), Prisons and prison systems: a global encyclopedia, Greenwood, p. 33
In Miran Bozovic (ed.), The Panopticon Writings, London: Verso

John, Muncie (2006) “The Sage dictionary of Criminology”  Pine Forge Press


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