Controlled Space: From Panopticon to Cyberspace

Controlled Space: From Panopticon to Cyberspace

Today, more than ever, we find ourselves under surveillance. When we use a credit card, converse on the phone or surf the net, we leave traces. These traces are inpreceptable, however they do exist. The conflict between software and hardware, has dramatically changed the environment, in which we live and breathe. However, how does this influence architecture? The object of this dissertation is the transformation of the significance of space, when methods of new surveillance are applied. The term ‘’new surveillance’’ is defined as surveillance which is automated, based on new technologies, practised in everyday life and capable of creating classifications( because it targets groups of people rather than individuals). Our incentive to delve deep into this topic was inspired not only by the movie ‘’The Conversation’’ but also from our contact with Michel Foucault’s work on surveillance theory and panopticism.

This dissertation strives to pose questions that relate to architecture and surveillance, to the liquidity between public and private space and the contribution of emergent technologies to the reconsideration of space. We will attempt to achieve this through the following structure: The work is divided into two parts: The former concerns the spatial side of surveillance. It begins with a description of surveillance through the ages. A special reference to Panopticon is also presented.

Panopticon, although a project not yet realised, stands out as a masterpiece of architectural synthesis and surveillance practice. We present Foucault’s theory on contemporary panopticism, an aspect that transfers us to modern societies and the CCTV phenomenon. In the latter part of the work, we analyse the non-material side of present and future surveillance. To fully understand it, the transformation of body and space in the contemporary world is depicted. Moreover, a reference to the  Internet and Cyberspace in general is made. We concluded on the term, Electronic Panopticon, because combined all the previous matters in one simple idea:

In our day and age, the idea of Jeremy Bentham is instilled more than ever in our society’s stucture. We are all parts of a system that is tantamount to Panoptic prison, but here, the architectural elements are replaced by new media and technologies.