Theory of Surveillance: The Panopticon: Background information when reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart X
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry
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Theory of Surveillance: The Panopticon

This article relates to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Print Review

The Panopticon was proposed as a model prison by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a Utilitarian philosopher and theorist of British legal reform.

The Panopticon ("all-seeing") functioned as a round-the-clock surveillance machine. Its design ensured that no prisoner could ever see the 'inspector' who conducted surveillance from the privileged central location within the radial configuration. The prisoner could never know when he was being surveilled.

Instead of traditional 'cellblock' designs, many modern prisons are built in a 'podular' design influenced by Bentham's Panopticon. Instead of rectangular buildings with tiers of cells and walkways, modern prisons are often constructed in triangular or trapezoidal-shapes with the cells laid out so that a single prison-officer sitting in an elevated central control station can see, and control, all cells within either a 270° or 180° field of view. An early example is the Presidio Modelo in Cuba, now a museum.

The concept of the panopticon has had a resurgence in modern day use, with some complaining that CCTV surveillance has become a panoptic structure; especially in the UK, which boasts 1% of the world's population but 20% of its CCTV cameras - over 4 million, 1 camera for every 14 people. As of 2006 and the introduction of the first 'talking' CCTV cameras, Big Brother is not only watching you he's shouting orders - the system allows control room operators who spot any anti-social acts, from dropping litter to late-night brawls, to send out a verbal warning!

Filed under Society and Politics

Article by Jo Perry

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It originally ran in April 2008 and has been updated for the August 2009 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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