The Panopticon is Bentham’s architectural model of a potential prison. This model includes a large watchtower in the middle of a cylinder shaped tower of cells. Each cell is back lit by windows on the outside of the prison as well as clearly visible from the watchtower through windows inside the prison. So when in the watch tower the guards could potentially have an eye on any cell at anytime. Due to the layout though, the members of the cells could not tell if the guard was in the watchtower. This presents the interesting idea that has spread to surveillance in today’s society, the fear of being watched is just as effective as actually being watched.
Imagine you see a security camera; your immediate response is that someone is watching you on the other side. The system is effective and keeps crime rates low, and keeps people on their best behavior. But is it necessary for anyone to even be on the other side of the screen? We are so regulated by the idea of being watched that the necessity of the watcher is relative. But why are people so worried about being watched? Often they are doing nothing at fault. It is the idea that some larger force, some higher entity can regulate and observe what they are doing. And in doing so this gives the watcher “power”.
A main idea of this passage that can be transferred down to surveillance today is the power of an unverifiable source of surveillance. When unverifiable, surveillance can prove effective whether or not someone is even watching. This is even taken to the next level when one considers that some surveillance can be retraced or replayed. Or the possibility that one’s records, text history, emails, and phone calls are all stored in cyberspace. In our digital age we are technically always being watched, regulated or recorded, because the material we put out can always be accessed through research and hard investigation. While the internet gives us a large amount of freedom technology has also put a giant burden of responsibility on its users. Teenagers are being held accountable years later for content posted on the internet and most people’s social media content is under surveillance by their workplace. With all the new outlets for self expression and communication publically online the amount of online users has doubled. As a result, the large audiences and traceable databases cause trouble for many internet users. The giant ring of social media can be compared to the cells of the Panopticon. The watch tower represents the possible employers, spouses, and school teachers who could potentially be watching your content at any moment.