Panopticism at Work

After reading the excerpt from Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, I understand that panopticism is the idea that people behave better when they think they are being watched. I think this is a fair observation to make and I believe that we see elements of this take place in our daily lives. One way that I feel panopticism is present is through the use of security cameras in grocery stores like Walmart or Target. To be specific, Walmart has these cameras in certain aisles that will show a clear image of you in the aisle. Although I don’t necessarily believe there is a person carefully watching all of the footage of the security cameras at Walmart, I wouldn’t take my chances and steal something when I can fully see my image on a security camera. Similarly in Target, there is a security camera in the self checkout aisle in addition to the person that is standing there to watch and assist people in the self checkout. Again, I wouldn’t try to steal something in this area because there is a camera there recording my every move. I’d like to add that I have also seen really funny videos online of people trying to steal items at different stores until they look up and see a security camera pointing straight at them. These people then carefully put the item back after believing they are being watched by the camera. Overall, security cameras don’t prevent 100% of all theft but I do think that it works especially if the camera clearly shows the person’s face in a similar way to the examples I gave above.

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