Foucault Theory

Panopticism entails the perception of being observed, compelling adherence to societal norms. It is a system in which the belief that we are being watched forces us to behave “properly”. This idea was formulated by French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault. He is the well-known author of Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. His goal was to explore the history and evolution of punishment in different Western societies. He mentions a prison system, called panopticon which exercises a form of disciplinary power over inmates using surveillance. It operates through constant observation and the threat of punishments. He gave examples of many institutions that applied this form of internal punishment like prisons, schools, factories, and hospitals. In contemporary society, a way panopticism manifests is through surveillance systems like security cameras and speed cameras. Speed cameras compel motorists to abide by traffic regulations, altering their behavior. The prospect of receiving a citation instills a sense of vigilance, prompting drivers to reduce speed and conform to road rules they might otherwise would ignore. This surveillance-induced conformity reflects the panoptic principle, wherein individuals modify their actions due to the belief they are being monitored, despite not always being directly observed. Another way panopticism manifests itself in modern society is security cameras. Similarly, security cameras in stores deter potential thieves, influencing their behavior out of fear of detection, despite occasional malfunctions. Another facet of modern panopticism lies in online surveillance. Government entities, hackers, and various apps continuously track our online activities, shaping our behavior on the internet. The awareness of being monitored alters our online conduct, reflecting the panoptic effect even in virtual realms. Thus, panopticism manifests itself in contemporary life through many different surveillance variations, shaping behavior through the anticipation or perception of observation without physical violence, whether in physical or digital environments. 

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