Has the mass media become a form of Panopticon, constantly scanning society, and ourselves for signs of deviance, with threat of punishment by disclosure?.
Media and The Panopticon.
"It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself "anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face was itself a punishable offense."(Orwell 1987:54) .
It is everywhere, the gaze of another human being examining you, persistently watching each of your movements, making you the constant object of observation without ever being aware. This was the central idea behind the Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham's dream, later rephrased by Michel Foucault. He dreamt of a penal structure where the inmate never knew when under observation, therefore, behaving obediently at all times, producing a state of conscious and permanent visibility assuring the automatic functioning of power. (Sheridan 1980:153) ". [C]reating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it . where the inmate is caught up in a situation where they are themselves the bearers." (Foucault 1979:20) For Foucault, the structure of the Panopticon resonates throughout society, and can be adapted to many institutions within modern times. The media, an industry highly dependant upon power relations and modes of surveillance, is an organization very similar to the Panopticon. It manifests itself in the way which we are constantly scanning celebrities, and ourselves for signs of deviance. Shows such as Big Brother, have allowed millions of individuals to act as the "observer"and thereby, placing the shows contestants in the role of the prisoner.