The topic of this video is “digital surveillance.” I was inspired to make it after Leiden University made an announcement last week that they been using ceiling scanners to count the number of staff and students in attendance. After the announcement, many of the student meme accounts at Leiden began posting about the news, and there was a strong feeling that this move by the university was an invasion of privacy. Hearing and reading about the outcry, I was reminded of the concept of the panopticon which was revitalised by French philosopher Michel Foucault in the 1970s. The set up of the panopticon is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman and in the cells there are prisoners. The tower shines a bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. However, the people in the cells aren’t able to see the watchman and so they must assume that they are always under observation. Foucault argued that the panopticon was being used as a disciplinary mechanism in modern society to subjugate citizens. However, the goal of the modern panopticon is to make those in the system forget they are under observation. In this way, I believe Leiden University’s digital surveillance exemplifies the modern panopticon.
Information on Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/23/panopticon-digital-surveillance-jeremy-bentham
Michel Foucault: Discipline and Punish: https://monoskop.org/images/4/43/Foucault_Michel_Discipline_and_Punish_The_Birth_of_the_Prison_1977_1995.pdf
Mare’s article on the ceiling scanners: https://www.mareonline.nl/achtergrond/opeens-hangen-er-overal-slimme-cameras-en-die-zien-alles/
Leiden University’s announcement: https://www.staff.universiteitleiden.nl/announcements/2021/11/university-using-ceiling-scanners-to-count-students-and-staff-in-attendance?cf=governance-and-global-affairs&cd=fgga-board-office
Memes about the ceiling scanners: https://instagram.com/intstudies.memes.leiden?utm_medium=copy_link
Image of the ceiling scanner: https://www.mareonline.nl/achtergrond/opeens-hangen-er-overal-slimme-cameras-en-die-zien-alles/
Image of the panopticon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon
Image of the panopticon: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/books/review/the-panopticon-by-jenni-fagan.html
Image of the panopticon: https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/courses/13things/7121.html
video clips of Leiden University: https://youtu.be/5l1gccCR2Mo
Great video Isabel! I really enjoyed watching this after seeing so many articles, memes, and school group chat discussions on such matter. Your comparison to the panopticon definitely made me think deeper about the affect this new implementation has on our privacy. Reflecting on the matter of surveillance and privacy in public spaces, it makes you wonder how much privacy we really have. While many of us enjoy posting photos on our social media of our day to day adventures, when we are not in control, we start to fear our data is being used for no good. I wonder what will happen to the scanners in the coming weeks!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
This video is very well made, I liked the memes included at the beginning! I do agree with your point that the University has made a mistake by only just now telling the student body that this has been going on since the beginning of the year. Your explanation about the panopticon was very comprehensible and interesting. I think most of us aren’t as concerned about (digital) surveillance as we should be, myself included.
Thank you for taking the time to watch the video!