(Frontpage) -- In the 18th century, Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer, introduced the idea of the Panopticon, a disciplinary concept brought to life in the form of a central observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells. Each cell is flooded with light, which creates an environment in which prisoners are under constant watch. Even if no guard is on duty, a prisoner will always feel as if they are being watched. Bentham described it as “[a] new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind.” The Panopticon is the optimal prison; it enables an unprecedented level of surveillance.
When we discuss the concept of surveillance, one country automatically springs to mind.
China’s transition from what Rebecca MacKinnon calls a “networked authoritarianism” to what is now a form of networked totalitarianism is almost complete. The difference is not merely semantic. As John Naughton writes, “An authoritarian regime is relatively limited in its objectives: there may be elections, but they are generally carefully managed; individual freedoms are subordinate to the state; there is no constitutional accountability and no rule of law in any meaningful sense.”
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