The panopticon is a prison design that was proposed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. The idea is to have a circular building with a central tower that can see all the cells around it, but the prisoners cannot see the tower. The prisoners would never know if they are being watched or not, and would behave as if they are always under surveillance. Bentham believed that this would be a more efficient and humane way of controlling the inmates, and that the same principle could be applied to other institutions like schools, hospitals, and asylums.
The panopticon is a concept that has fascinated and horrified many people, especially in the age of mass surveillance and social media. The French philosopher Michel Foucault, who wrote extensively about the history of prisons and discipline, described the panopticon as a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.
The panopticon is also a symbol of the oppressive power of the state over the individual, as well as the self-regulation and self-censorship that people impose on themselves. The panopticon is a prison that is designed to make the prisoners feel like they are always being watched. It is a circular building with a tower in the middle. The tower has windows that look into each cell, but the prisoners can’t see into the tower. The tower has a guard who can see into every cell, but the prisoners don’t know when he is looking. The prisoners think that they are always being watched, so they behave better. The panopticon is a way of controlling people with their own minds.
However, no panopticon prison was ever built according to Bentham’s specifications, although some prisons have elements of the design. One of the few examples of a panopticon prison that actually exists is in Cuba, where a prison was built in the 1920s with a circular shape, with cells arranged around a central tower. The tower has windows that can see into every cell, but the cells have no windows. The prisoners have no idea if they are being watched or not, and live in constant fear and paranoia. The prison was abandoned in the 1960s, and is now a ruin.
The panopticon is a prison that is both fascinating and terrifying, as it shows how the human mind can be manipulated and controlled by the mere possibility of being watched. The panopticon is a prison that makes you watch yourself.
– TIL That a Panopticon is a specifically designed jail that allows all prisoners of an institution to be observed by a single security guard, without the inmates knowing whether or not they are being watched, Reddit, 2013-02-03
– The Panopticon: The Controversy Over an 18th Century Prison Concept That’s Still in Use Today, How to Become a Correctional Officer, 2018-06-06
– Inside an Abandoned Panopticon Prison in Cuba, Atlas Obscura, 2017-06-19
– Panopticon, SpringerLink, 2017-01-01