The Panopticon, designed by Jeremy Bentham, can be defined as a type of institutional building that allows all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be watched (-opticon) by a watchman. The concept of the design doesn’t allow the inmates to know they if they are being watched or not. Because of the uncertainty, inmates act as if they are being observed at all times thus their behaviour is controlled. The centre represents the ”inspection house” where everything can be seen and around it are the inmate cells.

The Panopticon was designed to be a physical structure but can be treated as a metaphor for disciplining the modern society. Bentham believed the concept could be used in any environment that requires supervision such as schools and hospitals. The principles of the Panopticon can be found in contemporary forms of surveillance such as CCTV. The key is uncertainty. People will act differently because of the constant threat of surveillance.

I find the concept of the Panopticon quite frightening. The thought of having someone watching us at all times unsettles me even though I don’t do anything illegal or wrong. In spite of this, I believe surveillance is necessary for our protection. If there were no CCTV, there would be nothing stopping criminals. I am not saying the world is crime-free but  the concept of Panopticon creates uncertainty and people change their behaviour due to the thought of being watched and the repercussions that could arise, therefore they might be less likely to commit a crime.

What do you think about Panopticon and surveillance?




1 Comment

  1. In my opinion, the idea of Panopticon is useful and justifiable for places such as a prison, where behaviour must be monitored and the inmates are being punished.

    However, I don’t think it’s right to use such a system in society. Surveilling us in such a way would make me feel more than uncomfortable. We do not need to be “monitored” 100% of the time. If this were to happen, society would quite literally become something like from the movie “The Divergent”, where they are constantly watched and almost controlled. Yes, CCTV is important in order to keep us safe, but we should not have to use a system like panopticon to stop us from doing wrong.


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