Saturday, December 22, 2012

Panopticism - Writing Task

The Panopticon was designed by Jeremy Bentham as a new sort of prison which through it's architecture created a new form of observation and surveillance. A tower was the central object within the Panopticon where all the cells contained within the prison were built around, everything was open and visible which was drastically different to a dungeon where the main function of it was to deprive light and hide. "Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap." (Foucault, 1997) Being on display, with nowhere to hide allows a person to be fully observed, and this observation is constant due to the central tower which leaves the people thinking they are always being watched. There comes a point where over time this would lead to the person becoming reformed as why do something wrong if you are forever being seen, the main drive is to achieve something without being caught "...they know they are under surveillance but cannot control exactly when they are really being observed - would have to lose the possibility, and finally the desire, of doing wrong." (Kaschadt, 2002). The main objective for the Panopticon may have been a way to reform prisoners, however because of the constant observation this could also lead to assessing different people such as psychiatric patients. It could have been seen as a place of scientific experiments due to the reforming of individuals and correcting their behaviour. "...the Panopticon was also a laboratory it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments..." (Foucault, 1997).

The architecture of the Panopticon could be adapted to suit other types of function such as schools - no copying off other students and no noise, hospitals - where any contagious illnesses would be kept apart, work places - where there would be no distractions between the people. "The arrangement of his room...imposes on him an axial visibility...this invisibility is a guarantee of order." (Foucault, 1997). Theatres influenced Bentham's Panopticon greatly as there was a central platform where the actor would be viewed from. They undertook a similar design, the actor would be constantly visible yet they would also be able to see the actions of the audience, observation takes place from both parties in this instance.

Taking this into the modern day, though Panopticons may not be in use anymore, the idea of it still is around. Certain spaces are laid out in a particular way to achieve the best outcome, open office spaces where everything is on view makes the workers be more productive as there is always the feeling of being watched. When looking at CCTV cameras, these are always watched society, trying to deter crime but there are so many in the world not all of them can be constantly watched. Our actions are always seen but are they always watched " is totally seen, without ever seeing..." (Foucault, 1997) Comparing functionality to scientific experimentation, the Panopticon seems to be more of a place of observation and reforming where experimentation can take place. "Under the watchful gaze, criminals would gradually mend their ways..." (Kaschadt, 2002)

Foucault, M. 'Panopticism (extract)' in Leach, N. (ed.) (1997) Rethinking Architecture: A reader in cultural theory, London and New York, Routledge, pages 356 - 367

Kaschadt, K. 'Jeremy Bentham - The Penitentiary Panopticon or Inspection House' in Weibel, Levin and Frohne (eds.) (2002) Ctrl [space]: rhetorics of surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, Cambridge Massachusetts, The MIT Press, pages 114 - 119

No comments:

Post a Comment