Panopticon

The panopticon is a prison concept that was designed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. In the panopticon, prisoners have no knowledge or interaction with the guards. It is designed so the prisoners never see the guards or hear them moving about. The prison is comprised of individual prison cells stacked in a vertical wall forming a circular structure. A guard tower is centered inside the half circle so that a single guard manning the tower can easily survey every cell. Each cell is illuminated from the outside so that the prisoners are always visible as backlit silhouettes against the sky.

The theory of the panopticon is that the prisoners must assume they are being watched at all times. However it is insignificant whether there are fifty guards in the tower, or one guard, or zero guards because the prisoners believe they are under surveillance. Since the Information Age and the rise of the Digital Revolution the concept of the panopticon has taken on new meanings and is apparent in our work and everyday lives.

Panopticon

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