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Residential Panopticon

Invited Distinguished Professor:

Casey Rehm.


Gabriel Esquivel,  Studio Professor

Texas A&M University


Team:Christian Stiles, Austin Madrigale, Ysaac Bustamante, Ozzy Veliz.

In Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish he gives a critique on the American prison system with a particular discussion of disciplinary mechanisms of panopticism. This social theory is named after the Panopticon, referring to Jeremy Benthams proposed prison concept which is an experimental laboratory of power in which behavior can be modified.

New media technologies as well as increased governmental surveillance has created a Virtual Panopticon in contemporary society. In under a decade, free online services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have utterly transformed how we work, play, and communicate. Our generation has turned into a group of stalkers and exhibitionists, a social entanglement of both panopticon and synopticon. Foucaultian perspective on social media targets sharing as the basic mechanism for how it works. By sharing we make our thoughts, experiences, and feelings transparent, and visible to an always watching digital audience.

This new typology of surveillance has led way to an increase in social isolation. In a similar way that the panopticon isolates the prisoners by disallowing social interaction amongst inmates, our increased technological immersion has led to introvertedness and isolation. The inability to communicate in person has become a growing problem amongst millenials due to a loss in physical interaction and a growth in technological use. Those that work 15-18 hours a day from home, Amazon’s Mechanical Turks for example, also experience a decrease in social interaction because they don’t leave their homes, nor do they need to. Virtual reality has grown more appealing to marketers because of the rare opportunity to capitalize on viewer’s undivided attention, isolating them from reality.

Addressing these problems of contemporary panopticism and social isolation, we began to speculate on an architecture  for solidarity through an environmental immersion of technology in which a synergy of machine and architecture creates a virtual reality through use of programmable screens embedded in the geometry.​



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