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Study Task 3 - Panopticism


Choose an Institution or modern day example and refer this to the points raised in the Panopticism piece of text written by Michael Foucault.

- Write 400 words and use 5 quotes
- Weave the quotes into own writing
- Use Froucoudian Language
- Find Good Quotes

Quotes / Meanings from the Text.


"Each Street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; if he leaves the street, he will be condemned to death."

In this first paragraph, Foucault is writing about something that actually happened in the 1600's. Actual events of plague caused an extreme form of social control and surveillance. 

"This surveillance is based on a system of permanent registration: reports from the syndics to the intendants to the magistrates or mayor..." 

"...The registration of the pathological must be constantly centralised". 


"The plague is met by order..."

"omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimate determination of the individual, of what characterises him, of what belongs to him, of what happens to him."

Omniscient power is all powerful, all seeing. 

"A whole literary of fiction of the festival grew up around the plague:suspended laws, lifted probations, the frenzy of passing time, bodies mingling together without respect, indivisuals unmasked, abadoning their statuory identity nd the figure under which they had been recognised, allowing a quite different truth to appear...

Here, he is talking about the development of festivals. The plague is a metaphor for social evil. The festival is a metaphor for freedom. He is talking about 5/6 day community festivals. 

"...But there was also a political dream of plague."

Raves / Drugs / Sexual. They allowed people to be who they wanted to be. Freaky; somebody who they aren't in everyday life. Metaphorically collectively, Breaking Laws, Transgressing. Free Society as a metaphor

In opposition, the plague is strictly divided. Making more laws and regulations. It's not about masks and different identities, but a solid identity for every individual, which they could see and control. 

"Capillary functioning of power ..."

Power Flowing through the veins. 

"The plague is a form, at once real and imaginary, of disorder had it's medical and political correlative discipline..."

It heralds discipline society. 

"The plague gave rise to disciplinary projects..."

Lapars were isolated and forgotten about. Put on an island together and left to die. Or made to carry a bell so that everybody knew when they was near them. 

"The exile of the leper and the arrest of the plague do not bring with them the same political dream. The first is that of a pure community, The second that of a disciplined society..."

"...this is the utopia of a perfect governed city."

Characteristics of Panopticism. Same method as what the Nazi's chose. Gays, Gypsies and Jews were all killed. 


"In order to see perfect disciplines functioning, ruler dreamt of the state of plague."

Imagining a form of social order. Modern societies invent mass problems and diseases in order to introduce panoptic control. 

An example of this would be Al Queda. It is now coming out that this doesn't exsist. There is no organised group of terrorists, just the odd single idiot. the big conspiracy with 9/11 being a conspiracy so that the USA can start to introduce extreme levels of social control. This is in the form of security and ID cards. etc. 


"They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualised and constantly visible."

Great sentence that describes the experience of a Panopticon. A good example would be a small theatre on stage on your own with everyone looking at you. Facebook has the same qualities of a small stage. 

"Visibility is a trap"

If everything is light and in the open, somehow this is better. Constantly visible. Always detectable. Being in the light is not nessceerily being protected. 


"He is seen but he does not see... axial visibility... lateral invisibility. And this invisibility is a guarantee of order."

"The crowd, a compact mass, a locus of multiple exchanges, individualities merging together, a collective effect, is abolished and replaced by a collection of separated individuals. "

It is much easier to control the mass. People in black hoodies can slip in and out unknown but Individuals are much easier to control. 

"The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the intimate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in it's action."

Great Summary of the Panopticon. It doesn't matter if there is an observer because the panopticon is  a 'MACHINE'. 

Panopticism in The Social Media

 (400 Word Essay)

When Looking at the initial concepts of the Panopticon, it is clear that you can see how some of these effects function in todays societies. "The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the intimate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in it's action."(Foucault, Page 65). Foucoult's thoughts could quite easily be applied to Facebook as the ultimate panopticon in todays society, and in fact, social media suits the ideologies of the Panopticon alarmingly well. 

Currently, there are over 955 million users on facebook, each with their own profile, information and photographs of themselves. This makes it, probably the biggest part of the surveillant society and mentality which believes in trading surveillance for security in todays ever growing population. Whist engaging with Facebook on a day-to-day basis, we are actively becoming the surveirer as we 'stalk' peoples profiles, whilst also being constantly and critically observed in depth, by the hundreds of online 'friends'; Many of which, we don't know personally, or have never met in person. 

Facebook, in a way, is like a stage in a theatre. It's, much like the Panopticon, in the fact that it's like a "Capillary functioning of power."(Foucault, Page 62). It allows you to broadcast your life, or more realistically, elements of your life that you choose you want people to see. This causes us to be selective with what information we want to share on our profiles and also encourages to fabricate situations or even act differently in order to achieve something that we want our surveyors to see. 

On another level, we privately act as the surveyor. We can delve deep into peoples lives without them ever knowing who exactly is watching. But we do know we are being watched, which in turn makes us carefully craft our perfect life in order to feel wanted in social society. "He is seen but he does not see... axial visibility... lateral invisibility. And this invisibility is a guarantee of order." (Foucault, Page 65) When comparing this to the forces of the Panopticon, the feeling of togetherness "is abolished and replaced by a collection of separated individuals." (Foucault, Page 65) The prisoners are seen but without knowing who and when people are watching them, causing them to be on their best behaviour at all times, just like how we function across our online presence through social media websites.  

The power relation between Facebook and the user is not one of discipline, but one of coercion.  As there are increasing powers of surveillance forced upon us by the different institutes we fall under, Facebook is playing into the hands of the institutions, and in a way, becoming an institution in it's own right.  When users “share” and do so often, the value of the platform goes up, and this means that there is only one winner, Mark Zuckerberg (owner of facebook) and his advertisers . Facebook, along with other forms of expanding, extreme surveillance is slowly creating "a utopia of a perfect governed city." (Foucoult, Page 62) One in which, we are constantly trying to please each other, and inadvertently, the bigger institutions,  in a way that can give us a false sense of security, in our false online lives. 

In conclusion, I  think that those who fail to see the resemblance between the panopticon and facebook are oblivious to the amount of information Facebook knows about millions of people all over the world. When you look into applying the concepts of the panopticon to Facebook, it's easy to see how the social media site could be used for the government to help keep an extreme form of social control over us. Personally, I feel it's important to keep tabs on how much personal information is being shared through social media websites because it doesn't take much for an institution to take complete control of our lives. 

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