URBAN EYES is a critical design concept combining RFID technology, aerial photography and pigeons to create an explorative experience for urban spaces. This Blog is a documentation of the project's development and related issues and articles list.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham's famous concept as covered by Wikipedia. Interesting to see is that the public believe of it's similarity to the CCTV system is faulty in one essential part:

"The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience" (more)

With the CCTV system, we know that we are observed around the clock, as modern camera and storage technology allows. There is also the fact that the prisoners are in the state of having been found guilty, whereas in public space, this still has to be individually proven. This fact indeed shows a major shift in how police and the system perceives the public. From an old-fashioned view, only the suspects were observed. With CCTV everyone is observed and recorded, turning everyone into a potential suspect without filtering.

The Panopticon is also a centralised system that includes all surveillance data, where as CCTV (Close Circuit TV) exists "as a series of discrete, localised schemes run by a myriad of different organisations rather than a single state monolith." - Armstrong and Norris, p.7

Another big difference between Panopticon and especially Foucault's concept of Panoptic Surveillance and the CCTV system is the level in which disciplinary power is implied upon the surveillance data. You can read more on that in "The Maximum Surveillance Society", as mentioned in an earlier entry.


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