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What is the Panopticon

The idea of the panopticon was originally proposed by philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century as a model of an ideal prison. The structure of the panopticon consists of a circular building with a central tower in which an overseer can watch over prisoners without being seen. This design allows for constant and unobtrusive surveillance, creating the psychological effect of "panopticism," or the feeling of being watched at all times, even if you do not know whether you are actually under surveillance.


floor plan of the prison designed by Bentham | Wikimedia Commons


The panopticon was originally conceived as a means to improve efficiency and rationality in prison management, but it quickly evolved into a broader symbol of surveillance and social control. Bentham argued that the panoptic effect would cause prisoners to modify their behavior to conform to society's expectations, but his idea has been criticized for its disregard for human rights and privacy.



Panopticon in architecture

Panopticon architecture has been used in a number of buildings throughout history, both for prison and other purposes. A notable example of a panoptic building is Pentonville Prison in London, built in 1842, which has inspired numerous other buildings around the world. Today, panopticon architecture can still be found in many modern buildings, such as government buildings and security facilities.

Panopticon architecture has a significant impact on privacy and surveillance. Panoptic design creates a sense of constant observation, which can have an intimidating and suffocating effect on those who live or work inside the building. In addition,


panopticon architecture can be used to conceal surveillance and control, creating a sense of insecurity and distrust of authorities.

At the same time, panopticon architecture can be used to create a sense of security and control, such as in security facilities and public places. However, it is important to consider the psychological effects and ethical implications of panopticon architecture and assess whether the benefits of surveillance and control are worth the loss of individual privacy and freedom. And in a sense an economic idea of structure, in the sense that the very presence of a monitor is practically superfluous. For it is the feeling of control that determines a kind of self-control over the observed. The philosophical implications are enormous: note the correlation between this idea of organization of space and a certain oppressive idea of religion.


Panopticon in contemporary society

The concept of the panopticon is also reflected in contemporary society through technology and the use of data. With the increasing amount of information we share online and the prevalence of surveillance through cameras and mobile devices, there is a growing feeling that we are always being watched. Sometimes this feeling is real, as in the case of companies collecting data on our online behaviors to improve advertising and personalized content, and other times it is just a perception, but both effects are present nonetheless.


copertina dell'album Panopticon del gruppo post-metal Isis


Contemporary society is also characterized by a growing concern for safety and security, both individually and globally. This has led to an increased acceptance of surveillance and control, both by authorities and by private citizens. However, there are also concerns about the ethical and philosophical implications of this trend, including loss of privacy and limitation of individual freedoms.


TV series Lost, one of the characters was named "Bentham"


In this context, it is important to consider the effects of the panopticon in contemporary society and assess whether the benefits of surveillance and control are worth the loss of individual privacy and freedom. In addition, it is important to promote greater transparency and accountability on the part of authorities and companies that use technology to surveil and collect data on citizens.



from Bentham to Orwell

Jeremy Bentham's concept of "panopticon" and the concept of "big brother" in George Orwell's famous work "1984" are both symbols of control and surveillance in society. Bentham proposed the idea of a panoptic building, a prison in which an overseer could observe the prisoners without being seen, creating the psychological effect of "panopticism," or the feeling of always being watched.

Orwell, on the other hand, described a totalitarian society in which the government exerts total control over the lives of citizens through constant surveillance and the use of technology. "Big Brother" represents this oppressive and omnipresent power of the government, which uses technology to control and manipulate people's minds.


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Both concepts have been used as metaphors to represent a society in which privacy and individual freedoms are sacrificed for control and security. Bentham's panopticon and Orwell's big brother represent the fear of a society in which surveillance and control are ubiquitous and in which individual freedom is compromised. At the same time, both concepts also represent the concern for safety and security, both individually and globally. It is important to consider the psychological effects and ethical implications of these concepts and to assess whether the benefits of surveillance and control are worth the loss of

privacy and individual freedom.


 

A studio project that draws on the notion of the panopticon, reversing its meaning: that is, using the idea of the vantage point as a tool for observing the landscape.











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