I’m watching you :) Panopticism

Michel Foucault’s concept of panopticism has been a framework for understanding and establishing power and control in modern society. This idea of panopticism suggests that individuals are constantly surveilled (or believed to be), which in turn allows them to “simultaneously [play] both roles… [becoming] the principle of [his or her] own subjection”. I would say that panopticism is 100% alive and well in today’s society. Have you ever heard that people change their behavior when they are being watched? One example of this that is clearly evident in New Orleans are the traffic lights. I was driving in the passenger seat with my friend the other night. It was pretty late, there weren’t any cars on the road and as they approached the red light, they made sure there were no traffic light cameras and continued to drive. They proceeded to tell me, unless someone was watching them, they would not be sitting there waititng for the light to change. Now, let’s think about another example. If you’re anything like me (clumpsy), you might drop something on the ground look around and decide if you want to get on your knees for 5 minutes picking up whatver you might have spilled or save the trouble and walk away. Now, when we revisit this scenario, and add a sign that says “smile, you’re on camera”, your decision to pick up the spilled items might increase significantly. Another example, that occurs with children, is with the use of fantasy. Santa Claus (who is real), the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are all ways of panopticism. Ways of making children police themselves and their actions for the purpose of receiving gifts, candy, or money. Another example that comes to mind, is the everyday. As soon as you leave the comfort of your house, you are subject to a panoptic system. Althougth you might not be isolated and trapped in a box, you are constantly surviveiled by the people around you. The reason you don’t walk outside naked yelling obscentities is because the people around us, are our tower. They keep us in check and make us conform to societies standards.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.