This fall, universities have been faced with an unprecedented crisis in the form of COVID-19. Colleges around the world have taken wildly varied approaches, many of which have been harshly criticized. At Penn State, for example, faculty warned administrative leaders about a second wave of the pandemic in the fall, yet classes were held face-to-face – and indeed, a fairly large number of students and employees contracted coronavirus, thus causing even more controversy. In one recent account, the author drew on Michel Foucault’s ideas about the panopticon as a way to understand what was happening on campus: instead of heeding the warnings, “the university instituted a series of panoptic measures to surveill and control students and faculty, hoping to obtain full compliance with social distancing rules through draconian means. But the history of Penn State surveilling and controlling campus members precedes the recent pandemic.”
Using these words as a cue, in this Blogpost I want you to think about the rise of “surveillance society” in the modern age. More specifically, I want you to consider the way in which “panoptic” forms of surveillance, policing, and power exist in your own life. Write two paragraphs on the following: 1) In what ways is Stockton University guilty of functioning as a “panoptic institution”? And how do you feel about this? 2) What are some other ways, or realms, that a de facto panopticon plays a role in your life? I’m thinking here of things like your cellphones, social media, your parents, the local police, and the list goes on. Is this acceptable, or should something be done about it? CAN anything be done about it given our technology-driven world?