Illustration by Joelle L.
In the late 18th century, a social theorist named Jeremy Bentham designed a building called a Pantopicon. Named after Panoptes, a mythical Greek monster with hundreds of eyes, the Panopticon is a circular prison with an observation room in the center that allows the watchman to see into all the cells in the prison at once, without the prisoners knowing they’re being observed.
Would you be surprised to know that generally, prisoners behave differently when they’re being observed by a guard? Since they would never know when they were being observed, Bentham theorized, the prisoners would change the way they behaved at all times.
Historically, the internet has been a space where we can express ourselves with the freedom of anonymity and privacy. We put some of our most personal and sensitive information online: we research our health conditions, we search for porn, we create dating profiles, we manage our finances. Perhaps most importantly (to some), we document the minutia of our personal lives on social media.
Over the last decade, however, the internet has changed from an anonymous space to a Panopticon where our every action is being scrutinized and analyzed. We’ve started to realize that everyone is paying attention to what we do online, and we’re changing what we do and say on the internet because of it.
What do you think? Does knowing every detail of information about you, what you search, buy, who you talk to, etc, change the way you behave online?
What would be different if you could act freely, without the threat of that kind of scrutiny?