PanopticonWikipedia open wikipedia design.
The Panopticon is a type of institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The scheme of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all the inmates' cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that they are motivated to act as though they are being watched at all times. Thus, they are effectively compelled to regulate their own behaviour.
The design consists of a circular structure with an "inspection house" at its centre, from which the manager or staff of the institution is able to watch the inmates. The inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter of the structure, are unable to see into the inspection house. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison. It is his prison that is now most widely meant by the term "panopticon".
Bentham described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example". Elsewhere, in a letter, he described the Panopticon prison as "a mill for grinding rogues honest".
In 1786 and 1787, Bentham travelled to Krichev in White Russia (modern Belarus) to visit his brother, Samuel, who was engaged in managing various industrial and other projects for Prince Potemkin. It was Samuel (as Jeremy later repeatedly acknowledged) who conceived the basic idea of a circular building at the hub of a larger compound as a means of allowing a small number of managers to oversee the activities of a large and unskilled workforce.
Bentham began to develop this model, particularly as applicable to prisons, and outlined his ideas in a series of letters sent home to his father in England. He supplemented the supervisory principle with the idea of contract management; that is, an administration by contract as opposed to trust, where the director would have a pecuniary interest in lowering the average rate of mortality. The Panopticon was intended to be cheaper than the prisons of his time, as it required fewer staff; "Allow me to construct a prison on this model," Bentham requested to a Committee for the Reform of Criminal Law, "I will be the gaoler. You will see ... that the gaoler will have no salary—will cost nothing to the nation." As the watchmen cannot be seen, they need not be on duty at all times, effectively leaving the watching to the watched. According to Bentham's design, the prisoners would also be used as menial labour, walking on wheels to spin looms or run a water wheel. This would decrease the cost of the prison and give a possible source of income.
Morals reformed—health preserved—industry invigorated—instruction diffused—public burthens lightened—Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock—the Gordian Knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied—all by a simple idea in Architecture!— Jeremy Bentham
Abortive prison project
On his return to England from Russia, Bentham continued to work on the idea of a Panopticon prison, and commissioned drawings from an architect, Willey Reveley. In 1791, he published the material he had written as a book, although he continued to refine his proposals for many years to come. He had by now decided that he wanted to see the prison built: when finished, it would be managed by himself as contractor-governor, with the assistance of Samuel. After unsuccessful attempts to interest the authorities in Ireland and revolutionary France, he started trying to persuade the prime minister, William Pitt, to revive an earlier abandoned scheme for a National Penitentiary in England, this time to be built as a Panopticon. He was eventually successful in winning over Pitt and his advisors, and in 1794 was paid £2,000 for preliminary work on the project.
The intended site was one that had been authorised (under an act of 1779) for the earlier Penitentiary, at Battersea Rise; but the new proposals ran into technical legal problems and objections from the local landowner, Earl Spencer. Other sites were considered, including one at Hanging Wood, near Woolwich, but all proved unsatisfactory. Eventually Bentham turned to a site at Tothill Fields, near Westminster. Although this was common land, with no landowner, there were a number of parties with interests in it, including Earl Grosvenor, who owned a house on an adjacent site and objected to the idea of a prison overlooking it. Again, therefore, the scheme ground to a halt. At this point, however, it became clear that a nearby site at Millbank, adjoining the Thames, was available for sale, and this time things ran more smoothly. Using government money, Bentham bought the land on behalf of the Crown for £12,000 in November 1799.
From his point of view, the site was far from ideal, being marshy, unhealthy, and too small. When he asked the government for more land and more money, however, the response was that he should build only a small-scale experimental prison—which he interpreted as meaning that there was little real commitment to the concept of the Panopticon as a cornerstone of penal reform. Negotiations continued, but in 1801 Pitt resigned from office, and in 1803 the new Addington administration decided not to proceed with the project. Bentham was devastated: "They have murdered my best days."
Nevertheless, a few years later the government revived the idea of a National Penitentiary, and in 1811 and 1812 returned specifically to the idea of a Panopticon. Bentham, now aged 63, was still willing to be governor. However, as it became clear that there was still no real commitment to the proposal, he abandoned hope, and instead turned his attentions to extracting financial compensation for his years of fruitless effort. His initial claim was for the enormous sum of nearly £700,000, but he eventually settled for the more modest (but still considerable) sum of £23,000. An Act of Parliament in 1812 transferred his title in the site to the Crown.
Bentham remained bitter throughout his later life about the rejection of the Panopticon scheme, convinced that it had been thwarted by the King and an aristocratic elite. It was largely because of his sense of injustice and frustration that he developed his ideas of "sinister interest"—that is, of the vested interests of the powerful conspiring against a wider public interest—which underpinned many of his broader arguments for reform.
The building circular—A cage, glazed—a glass lantern about the Size of Ranelagh—The prisoners in their cells, occupying the circumference—The officers in the centre. By blinds and other contrivances, the inspectors concealed […] from the observation of the prisoners: hence the sentiment of a sort of omnipresence—The whole circuit reviewable with little, or if necessary without any, change of place. One station in the inspection part affording the most perfect view of every cell.— Jeremy Bentham, 1798
Bentham's proposal for a panopticon prison met with great interest among British government officials not only because it incorporated the pleasure-pain principle developed by the materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, but also because Bentham joined the emerging discussion on political economy. Bentham argued that the confinement of the prison, "which is his punishment, preventing [the prisoner from] carrying the work to another market." Key to Bentham's proposals and efforts to build a panopticon prison in Millbank at his own expense, was the "means of extracting labour" out of prisoners in the panopticon.
In 1812 persistent problems with Newgate Prison and other London prisons prompted the British government to fund the construction of a prison in Millbank at the taxpayers' expense. Based on Betham's panopticon plans, the National Penitentiary opened in 1821. Millbank Prison, as it became known, was controversial and failed in extracting valuable labour out of prisoners. Millbank Prison was even blamed for causing mental illness among prisoners. Nevertheless, the British government placed an increasing emphasis on prisoners doing meaningful work, instead of engaging in humiliating and meaningless kill-times.
In 1925 Cuba's president Gerardo Machado set out to build a modern prison, based on Bentham's concepts and employing the latest scientific theories on rehabilitation. A Cuban envoy tasked with studying US prisons in advance of the construction of Presidio Modelo had been greatly impressed with Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois and the cells in the new circular prison were to faced inwards towards a central guard tower. Because of the shuttered guard tower the guards could see the prisoners, but the prisoners could not see the guards. Cuban officials theorised that the prisoners would "behave" if there was a probable chance that they were under surveillance and once prisoners behaved they could be rehabilitated.
Between 1926 and 1931 the Cuban government built four such panopticons connected with tunnels to a massive central structure that served as a community centre. Each panopticon had five floors with 93 cells. In keeping with Bentham's ideas, none of the cells had doors. Prisoners were free to roam the prison and participate in workshops to learn a trade or become literate, the hope being that they would become productive citizens. However, by the time Fidel Castro was imprisoned in Gerardo Machado, the four circulars were packed with 6,000 men, every floor was filled with trash, there was no running water, food rations were meagre and government supplied only the bare necessities of life.
In the Netherlands Breda, Arnhem and Haarlem penitentiary are cited as historic panopticon prisons. But these circular prisons with their 400 or so cells fail as panopticon because the inwards facing cell windows were so small that guards could not see the entire cell. The lack of surveillance that was actually possible in prisons with small cells and doors, discounts many circular prison designs from being a panopticon as it had been envisaged by Bentham. In 2006 one of the first digital panopticon prisons opened near Amsterdam. Every prisoner in the Lelystad Prison wears an electronic tag and by design, only six guards are needed for 150 prisoners instead of the usual 15 or more.
It has been argued that the Panopticon influenced the radial design of 19th-century prisons built on the principles of the "separate system" (including Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, opened in 1829, and the later Pentonville Prison in London and Armagh Gaol in Northern Ireland). In these prisons control was exercised through strict prisoner isolation rather than surveillance, but they also incorporated a design of radiating wings, allowing a centrally located guard to observe the door of every cell.
Bentham always conceived the Panopticon principle as being beneficial to the design of a variety of institutions in which surveillance was important, including hospitals, schools, workhouses, and lunatic asylums, as well as prisons. In particular, he developed it in his ideas for a "chrestomathic" school (one devoted to useful learning), in which teaching was to be undertaken by senior pupils on the monitorial principle, under the overall supervision of the Master; and for a pauper "industry-house" (workhouse).[page needed]
A wooden Panopticon factory, capable of holding 5000 workers, was constructed by Samuel Bentham in Saint Petersburg, on the banks of the Neva River, between 1805 and 1808: its purpose was to educate and employ young men in trades connected with the navy. It burned down in 1818. The Round Mill in Belper, Derbyshire, England, is supposed to have been built on the Panopticon principle with a central overseer. Designed by William Strutt, and constructed in 1811, it had fallen into disuse by the beginning of the 20th century and was demolished in 1959. The Worcester State Hospital, Massachusetts, USA, constructed in the late 19th century, extensively employed panoptic structures to allow more efficient observation of the wards. It was considered a model facility at the time.
The Panopticon has been suggested as an "open" hospital architecture:
Hospitals required knowledge of contacts, contagions, proximity and crowding ... at the same time to divide space and keep it open, assuring a surveillance which is both global and individualising.— 1977 interview (preface to French edition of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon)
Criticism and use as metaphor
Despite the fact that no Panopticon was built during Bentham's lifetime (and virtually none since), his concept has prompted considerable discussion and debate. Whereas Bentham himself regarded the Panopticon as a rational, enlightened, and therefore just, solution to societal problems, his ideas have been repeatedly criticised by others for their reductive, mechanistic and inhumane approach to human lives. Thus, in 1841, Augustus Pugin published the second edition of his work Contrasts in which one plate showed a "Modern Poor House" (clearly modelled on a Panopticon), a bleak and comfortless structure in which the pauper is separated from his family, subjected to a harsh discipline, fed on a minimal diet, and consigned after death to medical dissection, contrasted with an "Antient Poor House", an architecturally inspiring religious institution in which the pauper is treated throughout with humanity and dignity.
In 1965, American historian Gertrude Himmelfarb published an essay, "The Haunted House of Jeremy Bentham", in which she depicted Bentham's mechanism of surveillance as a tool of oppression and social control. Parallel arguments were put forward by French psychoanalyst Jacques-Alain Miller in an essay entitled "Le despotisme de l'utile: la machine panoptique de Jeremy Bentham", written in 1973 and published in 1975.
Most influentially, the idea of the panopticon was invoked by French philosopher Michel Foucault, in his Discipline and Punish (1975), as a metaphor for modern "disciplinary" societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise. This means that the Panopticon operates as a power mechanism. "On the whole, therefore, one can speak of the formation of a disciplinary society in this movement that stretches from the enclosed disciplines, a sort of social 'quarantine', to an indefinitely generalizable mechanism of 'panopticism'". The Panopticon is an ideal architectural figure of modern disciplinary power which Foucault proposes had existed before it was named as such. Foucault references quarantine procedures in response to the plague at the end of the seventeenth century, which predate the model of the panopticon but resemble the control dynamic closely. A plague-ridden town would be partitioned, then each house would be locked with guards on each street end in a similar design to the later-theorized panopticon. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more. Instead of actual surveillance, the mere threat of surveillance is what disciplines society into behaving according to rules and norms. Furthermore, the spectator of the panopticon changes in Foucault's account, for the idea that fellow people are watching and spectating reinforces the disciplinary society. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham's Panopticon. The notoriety of the design today (although not its lasting influence in architectural realities) stems from Foucault's famous analysis of it.
Building on Foucault, another French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in his "Postscript on the Societies of Control", talks of the "transience of this model" that Foucault mentions, and that "the disciplines underwent a crisis to the benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted." The notion of surveillance no longer works as "factories" as Foucault pointed out, but "people can travel infinitely and ‘freely’ without being confined while being perfectly controlled."
The society may not be as free as people imagined. It is also true that people are able to do relatively whatever they hope to achieve under a structure, however, this does not mean people are totally being out of monitored and disciplined. Instead, people are in self-surveilliance. The self-surveillance is aided by people's devices through which they allow access to people's most personal data and is less and less impeded by physical barriers/distance. Therefore, as machines are doing so much of the work, there is no way of being truly anonymous.
In 1984 Michael Radford gained international attention for the cinematographic panopticon he had staged in the film Nineteen Eighty-Four. Of the telescreens in the landmark surveillance narrative Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), George Orwell said: "there was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment... you had to live... in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised". In Radford's film the telescreens were bifacial and in a world with an ever increasing number of telescreen devices the citizens of Oceania were spied on more than they thought possible. In The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society (1994) the sociologist David Lyon concluded that "no single metaphor or model is adequate to the task of summing up what is central to contemporary surveillance, but important clues are available in Nineteen Eighty-Four and in Bentham's panopticon.
Social theorist Simone Browne reviewed Bentham's theories in her book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (2015). She notes that Bentham travelled on a ship carrying a cargo of what he calls "18 young Negresses" while drafting his Panopticon proposal, and argues that the structure of chattel slavery haunts the theory of the Panopticon. She proposes that the plan of the slave ship Brookes, produced and distributed by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1789, should be regarded as the paradigmatic blueprint for what she calls "racializing surveillance". In his 1998 essay, "The Baha’i Faith in America as Panopticon, 1963–1997", academic Juan Cole compares the Bahá'í administration's control over members of the Baha'i faith to panopticon.
The metaphor of the panopticon prison has been employed to analyse the social significance of surveillance by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public spaces. In 1990 Mike Davis reviewed the design and operation of a shopping mall, with its centralised control room, CCTV cameras and security guards, and came to the conclusion that it "plagiarizes brazenly from Jeremy Bentham's renowned nineteenth-century design". In their 1996 study of CCTV camera installations in British cities Nicholas Fyfe and Jon Bannister called central and local government policies that facilitated the rapid spread of CCTV surveillance a dispersal of an "electronic panopticon". Particular attention has been drawn to the similarities of CCTV with Bentham's prison design because CCTV technology enabled a quasi central observation tower, staffed by an unseen observer.
Similarly, critical analyses of internet practice have suggested that the internet allows for a panoptic form of observation. Derrick Jensen and Gerge Draffan's 2004 book Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control seeks to demonstrate how our society, by techniques like the use of biometric passports to identity chips in consumer goods, from nanoparticle weapons to body-enhancing and mind-altering drugs for soldiers, is being pushed towards a panopticon-like state.
Employment and management
Shoshana Zuboff used the metaphor of the panopticon in her 1988 book In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power to describe how computer technology makes work more visible. Zuboff examined how computer systems were used for employee monitoring to track the behavior and output of workers. She used the term panopticon because the workers could not tell that they were being spied on, while the manager was able to check their work continuously. Zuboff argued that there is a collective responsibility formed by the hierarchy in the information panopticon that eliminates subjective opinions and judgements of managers on their employees. Because each employee's contribution to the production process is translated into objective data, it becomes more important for managers to be able to analyze the work rather than analyze the people.
Foucault's use of the panopticon metaphor shaped the debate on workplace surveillance in the 1970s. In 1981 the sociologist Anthony Giddens expressed scepticism about the ongoing surveillance debate, criticising that "Foucault's "archaeology", in which human beings do not make their own history but are swept along by it, does not adequately acknowledge that those subject to the power... are knowledgeable agents, who resist, blunt or actively alter the conditions of life." The social alienation of workers and management in the industrialised production process had long been studied and theorised. In the 1950s and 1960s the emerging behavioural science approach led to skills testing and recruitment processes that sought out employees that would be organisationally committed. Fordism, Taylorism and bureaucratic management of factories was still assumed to reflect a mature industrial society. The Hawthorne Plant experiments (1924-1933) and a significant number of subsequent empirical studies led to the reinterpretation of alienation, instead of being a given power relationship between the worker and management it came to be seen as hindering progress and modernity.
However, in 1993 David Steingard and Dale Fitzgibbons argued that modern management, far from empowering workers, had features of neo-Taylorsim, were teamwork perpetuated surveillance and control. They argued that employees had become their own "thought police" and the team gaze was the equivalent of Bentham's panopticon guard tower. A critical re-evaluation of the Hawthorne Plant experiments has in turn given rise to the notion of a Hawthorne effect, were workers increase their productivity in response to their awareness of being observed or because they are gratified for being chosen to participate in a project. The increasing employment in the service industries has also been re-evaluated. In Entrapped by the electronic panopticon? Worker resistance in the call centre (2000) Phil Taylor and Peter Bain argue that the large number of people employed in call centres undertake predictable and monotonous work that is badly paid and offers few prospects. As such, they argue, it is comparable to factory work.
The panopticon has become a symbol of the extreme measures that some companies take in the name of efficiency as well as to guard against employee theft. Time-theft by workers has become accepted as an output restriction and theft has been associated by management with all behaviour that include avoidance of work. In the past decades unproductive behaviour has been cited as rational for introducing a range of surveillance techniques and the vilification of employees who resist them. In a 2009 paper by Max Haiven and Scott Stoneman entitled Wal-Mart: The Panopticon of Time and the 2014 book by Simon Head Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans, which describes conditions at an Amazon.com depot in Augsburg, it is argued that catering at all times to the desires of the customer can lead to increasingly oppressive corporate environments and quotas in which many warehouse workers can no longer keep up with demands of management.
The concept of panopticon has been referenced in early discussions about the impact of social media. The notion of dataveillance was coined by Roger Clarke in 1987, since then academic researchers have used expressions such as superpanopticon (Mark Poster, 1990), panoptic sort (Oscar H. Gandy Jr., 1993) and electronic panopticon (David Lyon 1994) to describe social media. Because the controlled is at the center and surrounded by those who watch early surveillance studies treats social media as a reverse panopticon.
In modern academic literature on social media terms like lateral surveillance, social searching and social surveillance are employed to critically evaluate the effects of social media. However, the sociologist Christian Fuchs treats social media like a classical panopticon. He argues that the focus should not be on the relationship between the users of a medium, but the relationship between the users and the medium. Therefore he argues that the relationship between the large number of users and the sociotechnical Web 2.0 platform, like Facebook, amounts to a panopticon.
Fuchs draws attention to the fact that use of such platforms requires identification, clasification and assessment of users by the platforms and therefore, he argues, the definition of privacy must be reassessed to incorporate stronger consumer protection and protection of citizens from corporate surveillance.
Literature and the arts
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- In Gabriel García Márquez's novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), the Vicario brothers spend three years in the "panopticon of Riohacha" awaiting trial for the murder of Santiago Nasar.
- Angela Carter includes a critique of the Panopticon prison system during the Siberian segment of her novel Nights at the Circus (1984).
- Charles Stross's novel Glasshouse (2006) features a technology-enabled panopticon as the novel's primary location.
- In DC Comics' JLA: Earth 2, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika operates from a lunar base known as the Panopticon, from which they routinely observe everyone and everything on the Anti-matter Earth.
- In Battlefield 4, one of the single-player missions and multi-player maps features a prison constructed in the panopticon style.
- In Batman: Arkham Origins, Blackgate prison has a panopticon within the facility; and Batman refers to himself, in a sense, as a metaphorical panopticon to criminals and corrupt cops.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Justice", law on the planet Rubicun III closely follows the idea of the Panopticon, with lawmen known as overseers are randomly assigned to a given area at a given time. If a citizen commits any crime and falls within the randomly changing areas of the overseers, the citizen will be given the death penalty.
- The third location visited in Konami's 2004 video game Silent Hill 4: The Room is a cylindrical prison modeled on the panopticon, used by a cult to imprison and observe orphaned children in cells arranged around a central guardhouse.
- In the TV series Doctor Who, the centre of the Time Lord's capitol on Gallifrey is known as "The Panopticon". It featured heavily in the stories The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion of Time.
- In the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, the plane of Mirrodin features a structure called The Panopticon from where its warden Memnarch controlled his artifact minions and watched over his world through the eyes of his creations, the myr.
- The video game Freedom Wars features colossal, futuristic panopticons that are direct descendents of Bentham's original idea in which thousands of "sinners" are imprisoned and kept under constant surveillance.
- In the film adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kyln, a Nova Corps prison, is based on a Panopticon.
- In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the Panopticon is repeatedly mentioned.
- In Civilization: Beyond Earth, the Panopticon can be constructed as a wonder.
- The third studio album of the American post-metal band ISIS is entitled Panopticon.
- In the book The Scorpion Rules, the Children of Peace are kept in and live in a panopticon.
- The video game Persona 5 features a late-game boss resembling a panopticon's guard tower, complete with spotlights, surrounded by prison cells facing said tower.
- The book The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks is about surveillance society as virtual panopticon, and how pervasive surveillance by a "benevolent" government can be used as a panopticon after a change of personnel in the government.
- The TV series Person of Interest has an episode named "Panopticon". The main theme of the show is a all-seeing, super intelligent computer.
- The book The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, the main character Cassidy frequently mentions the Panopticon as a metaphor, "the greatest failing on everything she was, a prison she had built for herself out of an inability to appear anything less than perfect."
- The TV series Great News has an episode called "Love Is Dead" (season 2 episode 9) where the character Portia (played by Nicole Richie) repeatedly says her life is like a panopticon because fans are constantly posting photos and details of her activities on social media.
- The band Silent Planet’s full length album “Everything Was Sound” takes place in a Panopticon.
- The book series Magisterium, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, has a prison for mages called the Panopticon.
- In Black Mirror series episode "Nosedive", the plot revolves around a society ruled by a system that follows the patterns of a reverse panopticon, where individuals are controlled by the rest of the society through a mobile application. 
- Mass surveillance
- PRISM (surveillance program)
- Right to privacy
- Social facilitation
- Total institution
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