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People will do almost anything to avoid confronting this freedom, because it is not simply liberating, but profoundly terrifying.
Michel Foucault was influential in propagating the notion that power in modern societies is based on surveillance, and his work remains a cause of acute paranoia and depression among countless humanities students.
In , Foucault argues that Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon - a prison designed so that all inmates are potentially under constant surveillance by an unseen official - is a template for modern society, "a society penetrated through and through with disciplinary mechanisms".
A panopticon—the ideal mechanism for surveillance and control—has become embedded in our smartphones and our web browsers.
It now pervades the fabric of approximately 890 million daily lives. This platform, on which users document their own lives in front of an audience while simultaneously surveilling the lives of their “friends,” shares startling similarities to a prison model, the Panopticon, designed in the late eighteenth-century by Jeremy Bentham, and analyzed by French philosopher, Michel Foucault.
Bentham's prisoner gradually internalises the feeling of being watched, and in effect begins to police himself; he "becomes the principle of his own subjection".
Foucault uses this to argue that liberal societies are at heart profoundly authoritarian: even when we think we are acting freely, we are probably obeying the tenets of oppressive power structures that we have unwittingly absorbed through surveillance.
We structure surveillance theory in three roughly chronological/thematic phases.
The first two conceptualise surveillance through comprehensive theoretical frameworks which are elaborated in the third phase.
This paper aims to provide an overview of surveillance theories and concepts that can help to understand and debate surveillance in its many forms.
As scholars from an increasingly wide range of disciplines are discussing surveillance, this literature review can offer much-needed common ground for the debate.