Mass Surveillance And The Panopticon Analysis

1662 words - 7 pages

In Michael Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”, the late eighteen century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham's model of Panopticon was illustrated as a metaphor for the contemporary technologies of mass surveillance.
Originally derived from the measures to control “abnormal beings” against the spreading of a plague, the Panopticon is an architecture designed to induce power with a permanent sense of visibility. With a tower in the center, surrounded by cells, the prisoners can be monitored and watched at any given time from the central tower. The goal of this architectural plan was to strip away any privacy and therefore create fear induced self-regulation amongst the prisoners, with an unverifiable gaze - The prisoners can never identify when and by whom they are being observed from the tower.
In Foucault’s analysis, the concept of Panopticon is developed based on the manipulation of knowledge and power as two coexisting events. He believes that knowledge is obtained through the process of observation and examination in a system of panopticon. This knowledge is then used to regulate the behaviors and conduct of others, creating an imbalance in power and authority. Not only can knowledge create power, power can also be used to define knowledge where the authority can create “truth”. This unbalance of knowledge and power then marks a loss of power for the ends being watched, resulting in an unconditional acceptance of regulations and normalization.
In this sense, self-regulation and normalized behaviors can be achieved through imposed threat and fear of punishments and discipline. With every movement supervised and all events recorded in a system of total surveillance, violence is no longer a necessary component of social control, making the transition to a self disciplinary society. As Foucault states “ There is no need for arms, physical violence, material constraints. Just a gaze. An inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual under its weight will end by interiorising to the point that he is his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over, and against, himself. A superb formula: power exercised continuously and for what turns out to be a minimal cost. (Foucault) ”
Despite the dehumanizing effect of Panopticon as an disciplinary mechanism based on constant observation and examination with every movement supervised and all events recorded. The Panopticon system as one of the most effective and economic models of exercising power and control over an constantly increasing population, soon became a formula, wide spread throughout our society. Along with the growing ethnology and capitalist economy, various methods of Panopticon through mass surveillance soon earned it’s place in numerous regimes, becoming one of the most infinitely expandable Panopticon of the contemporary society.
Schools, factories, hospitals and prisons today resemble each other, they are fit into the format of a panopticon structure,...

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