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Presidio Modelo prison, Cuba.

Could the social media be considered the 21st century panopticon?

In the 18th century, philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham proposed a new way to manage structures that require control and power concepts. The original concept was not only center in his applicability on a repressive ways like the prison, he tried to extend more this philosophy and argues that design could be extensible to all types of structure that contents the concept of power and continuous supervision, like hospitals ,asylums, schools… But for some reason, the meaning of panopticon evolve and now is just related with prisons. Some other philosophers like Foucault argued about control and knowledge of this structure, and show that conception is just an evolution of the control concept and his material representation. But probably Bentham went another way, and the original idea had the origin on the concept that God sees everything.

But now let’s talk about the idea behind the design. Is designed to make feel the prisoner like there is somebody controlling him all the time, even if it's nobody looking at him.The design of the panopticon is based on circular shape, where there’s a big tower in the center. In this tower, is where the inspection house is located. This tower is too far from the all cells or is opaque, keeping impossible for the prisoners to know if there is someone looking at him, but keeping the feeling that somebody is looking at all of his moves. The perimeter of that big circle contains all cells at several levels, where each of that levels keep visible from the central tower.

How is panopticon related with social networks?

Let’s answer this question, the first thing we have to do is take a look at the two main concepts of social networks. They are based in two thing: the first one is to know what is happening in our social circle, and the second one is to share with them what we are doing us. The first can gives us a big hint, about what exactly is happening when we decide to share what we are doing at every time. We feel anxiety about being forgotten for the society and this push us to the necessity to share what we are doing constantly. The mentality have changed and now if the content of what you made last night its not online, probably people thinks that you have made nothing on yesterday nights. This is the equivalent of a modern panopticon, now we are prisoners feeling that we have the necessity to keep in system (being always observed), but at the same time we are the new watchmen monitoring what the others do constantly.

In this there’s a big contradiction, this amount of information that everybody is sharing just make us insignificant and boring. Everything that we make is probably less cool that what others are doing at the same time. This push us to the necessity to expose ourselves more and more, or the equivalent being like dandies extravagant as possible to notice the people about us. And there is a second part, we are noticed about everybody is cool on the social media but this doesn’t avoid us to keep consuming content. This became an habit. Most people do not even entertain themselves looking to the others, the initial curiosity have became hurtful, but we fell the necessity to be tuned about what our friends or couple are doing to keep felling still connected with them. This is just putting more and more weight on our shoulders and will be interesting seeing how this enormous self-destructive exercise ends.