Monday, 28 March 2011

Contextual studies task 1 – panopticism

I have chosen CCTV as a panoptic aspect of contemporary culture.

CCTV is short for closed-circuit television and refers to the use of video cameras for surveillance in areas that need monitoring. These areas may need monitoring for a number of different reasons but the main reason I am going look at CCTV as panoptic is in relation to its use for the purpose of crime prevention.
CCTV is a mechanism designed to control the mass population by leading people to assume that they are constantly being watched and therefore adapt a sense of self-regulation. Foucault states that “He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.” (Foucault in Thomas. 2000. Pg66)
Foucault’s idea behind this “permanent visibility” is that it “assures the automatic functioning of power” creating a disciplinary society made up of docile bodies who are constantly self-monitoring and self-correcting in their behaviour. (Foucault in Thomas. 2000. Pg65) This reinforces Foucault’s theory that “it is not necessary to use force to constrain [the convict] to good behaviour.” (Foucault in Thomas. 2000. Pg66)
The nature of this form of control means that the controller; the person watching the video in the central control unit, does not have to have any special kind of training or qualities, all they are required to do to carry out the task is to watch. As Foucault states “it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine.” (Foucault in Thomas. 2000. Pg66)
Foucault argues that the “Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad” stating that the controller “sees everything without ever being seen” and that the individual who is being watched “is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.” (Foucault in Thomas. 2000. Pg65)

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