Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Panopticon

I'm currently reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (unfortunately not the same as Gilderoy Lockhart), in which it often talks about the panopticon.
A panopticon is an institution (usually a prison), created by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham during the late eighteenth century. It's a prison in which the guards can watch the criminals without the criminals knowing that they are being watched. Thus, the criminals are supposed to act better because they assume that they are always being watched. At this time, the panopticon was ideal because is required less guards because you don't have to watch all the time, but you know that the criminals are going to be on good behavior (as good as criminal behavior can get).
I think this is really fascinating. It plays tricks on the mind. I don't think I would be able to survive in any type of panopticon, because I would be paranoid all the time. But we also do live in a world where this kind of tactic-acting better because we think someone might be watching-is very prominent.
If you know your teacher might give you a pop-quiz on the reading, you read the assignment. She doesn't have to give you a quiz all the time, but this way, she can make sure you're reading. However, this would have worked better in a world without Sparknotes. I could make my bed in the morning because my dad may be looking in to see if I did so, and because I know that eventually my bed-making skills will be judged by a person who attended the Air Force Academy, I make my bed.
This is also interesting because it brings to life the idea that people act better when they're being watched. This is just plain fact. You're on better behavior when there's a guest in the house. You dress nicer for a job interview. It also goes back to the fact that people just care about what other people think about themselves.
I also just found out that the Allegheny County Jail (the jail in Pittsburgh) is a panopticon. It's one of only three or four in the U.S. That's awesome.

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