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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Jeffrey H. Reiman, "Driving to the Panopticon"

  1. Resources
  2. Concepts
  3. Guide Questions
  4. Smartboard Notes


Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:


Concepts & Terms to Know:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: These are the learning objectives you should have mastered after attending the lectures and completing the questions below

  1. Explain Bentham's panopticon and how it works to control behavior.
  2. Draw parallels between Bentham's panopticon and video surveillance.
  3. Detail Reiman's claims concerning the dangers of the technological panopticon.
  4. Explain how losses to extrinsic and intrinsic freedom impact creativity and innovation.



Bentham's Panopticon:

As discussed in class, Bentham was a lawyer and social activist with an agenda to improve the lives of the powerless in his culture. Seeking to improve upon the abhorrent prison conditions that predominated in Britain at the time, Bentham designed the panopticon as the modern model for a rehabilitative prison.  The general idea behind the design is that prisoners are distributed around a centrally located watch tower.  Prisoners were able to view the tower and knew they were being watched (which theoretically should have induced behavioral changes) while the guards surveyed all of the prisoners easily from the tower.  A much touted secondary benefit for the prisoners was an opportunity to be in an isolated environment that provided time for contemplation of the behavior that brought them to prison.  Below is the design drawing of the panopticon above a modern day application from Stateville Correctional Center, (Crest Hill, Ill May 14, 2002).  Another prime panopticon design is the nearby old Allegheny County Jail.


Bentham's panopticonZ  Bentham's design

modern panopticon Z  A modern counterpart...


Here's another great example of the panopticon from the Washington Times (September 27, 2002) Use of surveillance cameras on public streets is the most rapidly growing threat to privacy in the United States.

Mayor says cameras will make city money

By Brian DeBose

     D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he wants to expand the use of traffic cameras because the city needs the money.

     "The cameras are about safety and revenue, and the way not to pay that tax is to not be speeding," Mr. Williams said.
     The mayor's comments were a change from earlier this year, when Mr. Williams told a radio audience in February that the purpose of the traffic cameras was to "calm" dangerous streets - not generate revenue for the city.
     The latest comments also contradict months of disavowals by Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who has steadfastly contended that the cameras are about safety, not revenue.
     But on yesterday's "Ask the Mayor" program on WTOP Radio, Mr. Williams said looming fiscal problems forced the city to get creative in closing a potential $323 million budget deficit.
     "The only reason we're looking at the enforcement with revenue figures is because we're in such a bind now," Mr. Williams said.
     D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, who has been skeptical of the city's electronic law-enforcement programs, said the latest expansion is a clear indication that the city is starting to see the cameras as revenue sources.
     Mr. Williams also discussed on the program his ongoing budget negotiations with the council. He said he is still hoping to gain support for a surcharge tax for the wealthy.
     Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, said there is no support in the legislative body for income-tax increases.
     Mr. Williams appeared to back off the initiative, saying, "I'm turning to my own counsel and the people to determine whether I should continue to put up this fight."
     He said he turned over his final proposal to the council yesterday. The council will hold hearings on the revised budget today and vote on the new fiscal package Tuesday.
     The budget plan includes significant cuts in new spending, and several more cuts for city agencies.
     The mayor and the council also have put in several revenue generators, such as an increase in the cigarette tax, and fees for 911 service and fire-code violations, as well as the expanded traffic-camera program.
     The new budget must be in the hands of Congress by Oct. 2.
     The expanded camera program was part of the mayor's budget proposal submitted to the D.C. Council this week. The plan calls for five additional speed cameras, bringing the city's total to 10, and exercising the speed-camera function in the District's existing 39 red-light cameras.
     The "Speed on Green" program will utilize red-light cameras to identify and ticket aggressive speeders, said Kevin Morison, spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department.
     "An extra computer chip is installed that tells the camera to photograph vehicles that are traveling above the posted limit when the light is green," he said.
     Like the photo-radar cameras, a speed threshold will be set for the computers. If a car passes the camera traveling above the threshold, the camera will activate and a citation will be issued.
     D.C. police have not said what the average speed threshold is, but city officials have told The Washington Times that it is between 9 and 11 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.
     There will be a 30-day warning period at all new locations before the ticketing process begins, Mr. Morison said. He said there will be no "double-ticket" for motorists who speed and run a red light.
     The city is looking to implement Speed on Green at a small number of intersections, "probably two to three at first," he said.
     He said two accident fatalities this year at the intersection of Firth Sterling Avenue and Suitland Parkway SE puts that red-light camera location high on the list for the new system.
     "We think that Speed on Green, along with the expansion of photo radar, will help us address that problem more effectively," he said.
     The computer chips for Speed on Green cost about $10,000 per unit. The five new photo-radar vehicles will cost the city about $500,000.
     City officials said it is too early to estimate how many tickets and how much money will be made from the Speed on Green program.
     The program's technology does not rely on radar, as the mobile photo-radar vehicles do, Mr. Morison said. The red-light cameras use a time-distance calculation, based on data collected from devices embedded in the roadway, to measure speed.
     The city also will have to modify its monthly-fixed-fee contract with Affiliated Computer Services Inc. - the Dallas-based company running the cameras - for the additional services and increased ticket-processing costs.
     As to the revenue-versus-safety issue, Mr. Morison said, "We have never contended that photo enforcement does not generate revenue. But I think most people recognize that the primary benefit of photo enforcement - and the primary motivation - remains getting people to slow down."

Guide Questions:

  1. How does Bentham's panopticon work to control behavior?
  2. How does Reiman define privacy?
  3. What is the difference between privacy and the "right to privacy"?
  4. How does the informational panopticon affect individual liberty?
  5. How do big databases that track consumer behavior contribute to the loss of liberty and/or privacy?
  6. How are privacy , freedom and conformity related?
  7. How does a loss of privacy impact our freedom to act spontaneously?
  8. How are privacy and a sense of self-ownership related? Why is a sense of self-ownership necessary in a free society?
  9. How does the condition of privacy contribute to the maintenance of a creative and rich inner life?
  10. Distinguish between formal and material privacy?
  11. How are privacy- reducing initiatives sold to the public?

Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Week 6 Lecture:
















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