Monday, 15 November 2010

Panopticism - Surveillance & Society

"Literature, art and their respective producers do not exist independently of a complex institutional framework which authorises, enables, empowers and legitimises them. This framework must be incorporated into any analysis that pretends to provide a thorough understanding of cultural goods and practices" - Randal Johnson in Walker and Chaplain (1999).

Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
  • Madness and Civilisation
  • Discipline and Punish : The Birth of The Prison
The Great Confinement (late 1600s)

The socially unproductive were locked away from the eyes of society.

Vagabonds, tramps, unmarried pregnant women

Houses of correction' to curb unemployment and idleness. 

People are shut away from society so that society seems perfect. 

Inside the houses people would corrupt each other. The mad would make the sane mad, etc.

They were forced to work in these 'houses'.

The emergence of forms of knowledge – biology, psychiatry, medicine, etc.,  legitimise the practices of hospitals, doctors, psychiatrists.
Foucault aims to show how these forms of knowledge and rationalising institutions like the prison, the asylum, the hospital, the school, now affect human beings in such a way that they alter our consciousness and that they internalise our responsibility.

Criminals were put on a Pillory for society to throw things at them and judge them. 

Discipline is a ‘technology’ [aimed at] ‘how to keep someone under surveillance, how to control his conduct, his behaviour, his aptitudes, how to improve his performance, multiply his capacities, how to put him where he is most useful: that is discipline in my sense’ (Foucault,1981 in O’Farrrell 2005:102)


Jeremy Bentham's design The Panopticon - proposed 1791

We should reform people. Make them responsible for their own productivity - Panopticism. 

Panopticism was the opposite from dungeons and confinement. Prisoners can always be seen. The Panopticon internalises in the individual. They have the consciousness that they are always being watched. Because the prisoners always thought that they were being watched, guards didn't need to watch them, they were so paranoid and 'knew' that they would get caught.

Mental forms of constraint create physical ones. 

‘Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.’
(Foucault, 1975)
Panopticism works in all areas.

Pubs are more ope plan theses days so you can see your customers better. 

Society is monitored by surveillance - Big Brother - a higher power. 

Knowing that we are always being watched causes us to act differently. 

\registers give the college a power over students. 

CCTV - Panoptic Gaze.

Disciplinary society produces what Foucault calls - Docile bodies - easy to be controlled.

TV - Panoptic experience.

People can even see your house on google maps.

People only have power over you because you submit.

'Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at'. 

What Foucault is describing is a transformation in Western societies from a form of power imposed by a ‘ruler’ or ‘sovereign’ to……….. A NEW MODE OF POWER CALLED “PANOPTICISM”

The ‘panopticon’ is a model of how modern society organises its knowledge, its power, its surveillance of bodies and its ‘training’ of bodies.
Relationship between power, knowledge and the body

'Power relations have an immediate hold upon it [the body]; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs’ (Foucault 1975)

Where there is power there is resistance - Foucault

Chris Burden - Samson 1985

This installation was designed as an experiment, but one that Burden already knew the answer to.

To enter the room you need to walk through a turn style, every time the turn style rotates it turns cogs which connect to the wooden beam. The more the cogs move the further away the beams will be pushed, if the beams are pushed so far then the whole building would collapse. Burden knew that people wouldn't enter the room because they were scared of the consequences. 

Would they be the ones to pull the whole building down?

Would they get found out?

What if?

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