Saturday, November 28, 2009

Panopticon and the invisible eye

Foucault's concept regarding the relationship between power and knowledge is something I feel like we deal with everyday. Because "citizens willingly obey laws, participate in social norms, and adhere to social values," the "functioning of power in modern political states is less visible" (Sturken and Cartwright 96). We know how to behave in different setting, so without coercion, we cooperate in a society (96). For example, knowing that it is wrong and against the law to steal, people will not take items out of a store until it's paid for. I'm sure we all have thought at one point how easy it would be to walk away with an unpaid for item, but we won't, if we have the guilty conscience not to, at least. There are consequences that aren't worth it.

This is the theory that brings about Foucault's Panopticon, an "architectural model, originally for a prison" in which "a central guard tower looks out on a central set of prison cells," and this regulates behavior whether or not there is a guard in the center because they "feel that gaze upon them" (98). As this chapter in Practices of Looking mainly deals with different kinds of looking, I feel like the Panopticon is a very real and interesting concept. It's true that we won't stray from normal behavior because we fear others judging us or if it would be wrong.

In 2009, the movie Look was released. It's a film shot from surveillance cameras, inspired by the acts we are tempted to do when we think no one is watching. I haven't seen it, but it seems really interesting. Yes, it's a scripted movie, but it's true that we are under surveillance cameras more often than we imagine...


  1. this film looks so interesting i really want to see it. i was thinking about some reality shows not so much the scripted ones but shows like big brother and what not's interesting to think about being filmed without knowledge of it and it surrounding us 24/7. kinda freaky

  2. The movie looks good! And I think this is the first movie that was shot from this kind of surveillance camera style. Very creative.

    You bring up an excellent point about how people behave differently when they know they're being watched, hence CCTV in Britain. Creepy, futuristic, Big Brother Is Watching vibe? yes. But will it prevent people from committing any crimes or running red lights? Probably.

    Smile you're on CCTV.