Is Foucault right?

As we know, panopticism is a system in which the belief that we are being watched forces us to behave “properly.” Based on my own understanding of Foucault’s discussion of panopticism, I think one way in which panopticism has been embedded in our society is through the use of surveillance cameras. My first example of this concept comes from my high school experience. There were security cameras in every single corner of my high school, and us students just assumed someone was constantly watching the cameras. It wasn’t until I started working in the school office my senior year that I learned that less than half of the cameras present on campus were actually functional and none of them recorded audio. My principal then told me that the cameras were just installed to deter students from behaving poorly. My next example comes from when I first started driving at 16 years old. When I first started driving, I quickly noticed surveillance cameras at different intersections in my hometown and I would be extra cautious at said intersections. It wasn’t until a year later that I learned that most of these cameras weren’t functional. I had a similar experience when I visited my friend in New Jersey this past winter. We were stopped at a red light and as we were about to continue driving once our light turned green, we saw someone in the perpendicular lane run the red light very recklessly. I, in complete shock, asked how they could do that with so many cameras present at the intersection, and this is when my friend informed them that traffic cameras are actually illegal in New Jersey now, but the pre-existing cameras were just never removed. Overall, the present of surveillance cameras in public spaces, workplaces, and even private residences creates an atmosphere where individuals are aware that they could be observed at any moment. This awareness influences behavior, as people may self-regulate their actions to conform to societal norms or avoid potential repercussions, even if surveillance isn’t actively taking place.

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