Free Panopticism Essay Sample

Foucault was of the view that extremely sophisticated societies provide significant opportunities for controlling and observing. This is based on the assumption that the modern society grounds on the ideology that all its citizens are free and have some entitlements towards the state; an ideology that was developed during the 18th century and manifested through the techniques of control. A common manifestation of panopticism is through the organized ordering and controlling people using unseen forces that are always restrained. Hille affirms that this technique of control is a common phenomenon in the post-modern societal discourse, which has been facilitated through technological advancements in surveillance. The operation of such techniques of public control bases on Foucault’s theories to instill discipline and transformation; this derives from the assertion that individual placed in a field of visibility and is aware takes responsibility for the certain constrains. This can be used to ensure conformance within the public. From this perspective, this paper discusses the systems of surveillance and discipline in the society. The paper explores how people are numbered, labeled, categorized and counted; implying that the acts of surveillance and tagging function as a system of discipline that is designed to make sure that an individual transforms into a “useful individual”.

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According to Bart, surveillance systems are fitted in urban places as a system for regulation, which is a typical manifestation of Foucault’s theories. The urban setup under the surveillance cameras serves as one of the contemporary approaches to surveillance. The primary objective of surveillance in the urban space is to exercise power through controlling deviant behavior and to ensure that crime is reduced in the public space in order to enhance security. In the context of urban cities, it is vital to note that individuals are figuratively imprisoned, the increasing security and deviance issues in such places. The most significant effect of the Panopticon, through surveillance, is to result in a state of awareness and an unending visibility that guarantees the automatic functioning of disciplinary power. Visibility is a core requirement during surveillance and forms the principle towards the effective functioning of panoptic mechanism in the sense that regulation using visibility serves to exercise disciplinary power. The ability to see provides the fundamental condition required for the collection of knowledge and being in control. Therefore, in the context of an urban space, visibility is usually associated with security, with the main objective being to transform the person into a “useful individual” by ensuring minimal violations of the rule of law. Surveillance systems in the urban space take the form of traffic cameras and CCTV surveillance cameras that are placed in the open in order to remind members of the public that they are being watched constantly.

The functioning of Panopticon was based on the power of the visual in the sense that visibility guarantees power. In the context of urban surveillance, the concept of visibility plays a significant role because it overpowers other senses and creates what Foucault referred to as super-panopticon, whereby the individual exercises surveillance over oneself. The constant feeling of being watched by law enforcement authority compels an individual in public space to obey the rule requirements of the law. The urban systems of regulation through surveillance are adopted with the primary objective sanitizing the urban space through elimination and identification of deviant behavior. The signs of control are usually visible since surveillance cameras are usually positioned in visible locations. The principle of lack of verifiability is essential in the context of urban surveillance cameras. This is because a member of the public should never know that he/she is being watched at any given time, although he must be sure that he/she may be always watched. The sporadic nature of watching and non-ending threat of being watched results in a constant torture of unexpected, but always possible watch. The outcome of enhancing urban surveillance is that individuals are extremely visible to watchers who are invisible. This plays an integral role in transforming a person into a “useful individual”, since the private actions of the watched is a public spectacle for the watchers. The fact that it is not possible to know whether somebody is behind the surveillance camera plays an integral role in increasing individual surveillance. In addition, it is hard to establish the location of the people watching from the surveillance camera; a member of the public is unaware if there is one looking, who the watchers are and what is their location. It is apparent that camera surveillance in urban cities imposes spatial and temporal barriers. Control rooms are always hidden from the public, implying that the public cannot detect the location of surveillance. As a result, people who are being surveyed are compelled to establish their trust with another person, whom they cannot see, but has the capacity of seeing them. An outcome of this view is that members of the public become subjects of the self-control. This is consistent with Foucault assertion that any individual placed in the scope of visibility and is aware of it takes responsibility for the constraints imposed by power; such a person becomes the principle one’s own subjection due to the unpredictable nature of surveillance.

Constant awareness of being watched by people from an invisible end results in internationalization of control. This is because people tend to internalize the rules and adjust their individual behavior even in undemanding situations; as a result, one is likely to exercise power over the self in order to transform into a “useful individual”. Power functions through the establishment of bad conscience. On a similar account, video and camera surveillance results in self-vigilance by enhancing conscience. Internalization of control is an effective approach towards the exercise of power. Urban surveillance is primarily concerned with the regulation and control of visible human activities. There is no need to control and regulate people under surveillance because there is the tendency to regulate oneself. From a personal standpoint, surveillance is somewhat an emotional experience since it brings to mind numerous feelings. For example, the people being watched are likely to feel guilty without any reason; surveillance also results in discomfort, embarrassment, fear and shame. Guilt and embarrassment plays an integral role in influencing individual discipline in the public space. The emotional element of surveillance associated with fear makes people be submissive to the rule of law, even when they are not being actually watched behind the camera.

The goals of urban surveillance are similar to imprisonment, in what Foucault refers to as an “operation of correction”. Urban surveillance is used in the normalization of the public space using the effects of social norms used in the control and regulation of behavior. Urban surveillance is done by the law enforcement agencies as a measure for eliminating delinquency. Surveillance serves to control and monitor groups that are deviant in terms of visual appearance; as a result, law enforcement authorities make use of urban surveillance to enforce exclusion. Surveillance is an effective risk management tool that can be deployed to improve security through maintaining a catalogue and analysis of behavior that has been observed. Additionally, it is evident that public surveillance can be used to influence individual behavior. There are a number of powers generated by public surveillance, which include a direct, authoritative, response, and seen. For instance, law enforcement can force an individual observed to behaving badly to cease the behavior. The second type of power is deterrence, whereby members of public avoid engaging in deviant behavior because of the fear of being caught; this is because when under surveillance, there is the perceived capability to be identified. The third type of power is to eliminate the probability of deviance, whereby a surveillance system has the capability of transforming individuals under surveillance through the concept of internationalization of power. It is evident that public surveillance has the capacity to transform a person into a “useful individual” to the society. Public surveillance is usually done by law enforcement with the main objective of ensuring that there is public safety through elimination of deviant behavior in the public space. The watching and labeling under surveillance usually affects one’s ability to create the “self” to put on and take off masks using the aspect of internalization of control as discussed above.

In conclusion, it is evident that public surveillance has the capacity of influencing individual behavior using the techniques for creating useful individuals. Basing on the Foucault’s model, space is critical in having an understanding of the power relations. The strength of public surveillance in transforming people to “useful individuals” is due to the power of internationalization of control, lack of verifiability and lack of force. Public surveillance influences individual behavior because people are subjected to their own surveillance. As a result, citizens, who are being surveyed, are compelled to establish their trust with another person, whom they cannot see, but has the capacity of seeing them. An outcome of this view is that members of the public become subjects of the self.


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