Panopticon

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Bentham's diagram of the prison.

The original panopticon was a circular prison conceived by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787, designed so that central guards could view inmates at all times[1].

The name "panopticon" was also given to an invention that enabled viewers to see multiple images, such as scenic pictures, through a single opening.

Panoptic today means providing a panoramic view.

The philospher Michel Foucault also used the term to explain how society influences an individual's actions, even when that individual knows that their actions are private and undetectable. In short, according to Foucault, people internalize, or become accustomed to, the idea that they are always being watched by a moral force (such as God) and so behave morally even in the absence of an observer.

References

  1. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project/info/panopticonhtm.htm
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