Michel Foucault’s Approach to Surveillance

1. Introduction

Surveillance is defined as the act of monitoring the activities of individuals or groups, especially for the purpose of security or control. (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016). It has been a controversial topic since it was first introduced and many argue that surveillance invasion of one’s privacy. But from another perspective, surveillance may be seen as a necessary evil in order to maintain order and protect citizens from potential threats. theorist such as Michel Foucault have contributed to the understanding of surveillance and its implications in society. In this essay, I will be discussing Michel Foucault’s approach to surveillance and how it can be applied in today’s society.

2. Michel Foucault and Surveillance

2.1 Introduction

Michel Foucault was a renowned philosopher, sociologist, and historian of French origin, born on 15th September 1926 and lived for 58 years. He was known for his critical studies on various topics such as social control, prisons systems, medical treatment and power relationships. In relation to surveillance, Foucault’s most notable works are Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) and Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (1975). In these two books, he analyses the origins of modern day prisons and investigates how power is used to control people through surveillance.

2. 2 Bentham’s Panopticon

In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault introduces us to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. The Panopticon was originally designed as a way to economically run a prison by having a central guard tower in the middle with cells radiating outwards from it like spokes on a wheel (Bentham, 1791). The inmates would be locked in their cells at all times except for when they were being exercised or doing other necessary activities. The guard in the central tower would then be able to see all the inmates without them being able to see him/her. This would cause the inmates to believe that they were being watched at all times even when they could not see the guard, leading them to behave themselves out of fear of punishment.

2. 3 Foucault and the Panopticon

Foucault believed that the Panopticon was more than just an efficient way to run a prison; it was a metaphor for the way power is used to control people in society (Foucault, 1995). He argued that Bentham’s design can be applied to any disciplinary institution such as schools, hospitals or factories. In each of these institutions, there is always someone in a position of power who can see everything that is happening while those under his/her control cannot see him/her. This creates a feeling of unease and anxiety in those being monitored which leads them to self-regulate their behaviour so as not to get into trouble. Even though they cannot see the person watching them, they know that they are being watched which is enough to make them behave themselves.

2. 4 Applications of Foucault’s Approach to Surveillance

Foucault’s approach to surveillance has been applied in many different ways over the years. One example is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is a system that captures, stores, analyses and displays data that is geographically referenced (Dobson, 2006). It has been used for a variety of purposes such as mapping crime, tracking the spread of diseases and managing resources. However, it has also been used for surveillance purposes. In 2003, the United States military used GIS to track the movements of Iraqi citizens in Baghdad (Turner, 2004). This information was then used to target bombings and other military operations. Another example is Virtual Reality (VR). VR is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003). It has been used for many things such as entertainment, education and training. However, it has also been used for surveillance purposes. In 2001, the United States government used VR to simulate Afghanistan so that they could plan their military operations more effectively (Biocca, 2002).

3. conclusion

In conclusion, Michel Foucault’s approach to surveillance has been influential in the development of modern day surveillance methods. His theory of the Panopticon can be applied to any disciplinary institution and has been used in many different ways over the years. While some may see surveillance as an invasion of privacy, it can also be seen as a necessary evil in order to maintain order and protect citizens from potential threats.

FAQ

The surveillance society is a term used to describe a society in which various forms of surveillance are used to monitor and control the population. This can include things like CCTV cameras, GPS tracking, social media monitoring, etc. The impact of this on our lives is that we are constantly being watched and monitored, which can lead to a loss of privacy and freedom.

Foucault's approach to law differs from traditional approaches in that he sees law as something that is not fixed or static, but rather something that is constantly changing and evolving. He also sees law as something that is not just about punishing criminals, but also about controlling and regulating the population.

The implications of living in a surveillance society are that we may lose our privacy and freedom, as well as our ability to resist government control.

We can resist the encroachment of surveillance into our lives by being aware of it and by refusing to participate in activities that would allow us to be monitored or controlled.

The ethical considerations surrounding surveillance societies are complex, but one key issue is whether or not the trade-off between security and privacy is worth it.