“From Panopticon to the Playground”: An analysis of today’s schools

Walking into my first day of placement. I looked around the school* and was amazed by the architecture that the school had. The school has been designed in a way that the buildings of the school form a circular shape around the centre of the school. The architecture has been designed to resemble a community with many students spending the majority of their classes in one particular building.

The spaces are designed to accommodate around 150 students per area. The spaces allow for interaction and collaboration with the traditional classroom (the teacher standing at the front of the room) space being changed to accommodate twenty-first century needs. Now, I know it sounds like I am taking a completely utopian view about how great the spaces are. But, the first time I saw the buildings I instantly thought, the style of them is very panopticon-esque.

 

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Students in the classroom (https://flic.kr/p/bqPDKT) by Alvin Trusty (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

 

The panopticon is a building design, designed by Jeremy Bentham, it was originally used in a prison, to enable one-way viewing of prisoners at all times. The notion of the panopticon was to allow for prisoners to be ‘watched’ and controlled. (Chalkley 2015, p. 262)

 

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panopticon by jiattison (CC-BY 2.0)

“Schools have adopted this [panoptic] system of organisation, and it quickly became the norm for all classroom… [it allows] for all students to be visible at all times.” (Tait 2000, p. 10).  With these ideas in mind, the panopticon is still very present in today’s classrooms as teachers generally stand in a position where they can see every student at one time and also watch what they are doing.

It isn’t just happening in schools; tertiary education institutions also resemble the panopticon. Take this panorama of Deakin University’s Burwood Campus, many of the buildings are quite high and one would assume that if you stand at the top of the building, you’d be able to see across campus, thus reiterating the big brother idea of ‘always watching’.

 

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Image taken by Reid Morris, July 2016.

 

Panopticon style classrooms are not the only forms of surveillance in schools. Security cameras, Learning Management Systems, mobile phone tracking and blocking and network monitoring are also present. Surveillance is everywhere in schools and with the digital age growing it is only going to increase.

Schools are even now going to the extreme of implementing policies that provides the principal the ability to peruse and copy contents of a mobile phone brought to school (as shown in the below article). This form of edu-veillance is very extreme and is not being used correctly to protect students. This is a form of exploiting one’s power and should not be lawful.

{This blog post was inspired by staring out of a window at university and seeing someone taking a picture out of a high building window}

That’s all for now!

Reid 🙂

 References:

Chalkley, T 2015, ‘Surveillance’. In Chalkley, T, Hobbs, M, Brown, A, Cinque, T, Warren, B & Finn, M (Eds.) Communication, digital media + everyday life, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia : Oxford University Press, 2015. Second edition. pp. 259-72

Tait, G 2000, ‘From the panopticon to the playground: disciplinary practices’. In Meadmore, D, Burnett, B & Tait, G (Eds.) Practising Education: Social and Cultural Perspectives, Prentice Hall-Sprint Print, New South Wales., Australia pp. 7- 18

 

*I have decided not to name the school in which I attended placement, for privacy reasons and as much of this blog post is a critique of the architecture.

 

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Reid,

    Congrats on a very interesting and well thought out blog post!
    I really like how you have used your own experiences from placement and applied them to this unit.
    It goes to show that we are always engaged! You have used excellent images to compliment your post and I found the one of the Panopticon layout particularly beneficial. I also like that you have created the second image yourself- it shows great initiative and creativity! Your tweets further engage your readers and you have utilised your academic sources well.
    Overall, great job!
    Can’t wait to read more from you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Reid,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I loved how you drew correlations between the classic panopticon theory and modern day architecture to emphasise the sustaining prevalence of surveillance today.
    Your reference to personal experience provides a unique insight, and your discussion about Deakin creates a relatable element for all Deakin students reading your blog, an effective way to engage with your readers! I studied the Panopticon theory in another media subject so I found your discussion particularly interesting, as you application of the theory to the layout of Deakin is something I hadn’t considered before. The inclusion of your own photography also shows the extra effort you have put in and sets you apart from many other blog posts!
    Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Reid

    Interesting post and made a good read. jogged my memory about the panapticon and Michele Focout. as Caitlyn had mention love the fact that you used your own experience from your placement to highlight the facts. personally i think its pretty sad that a panapticon-nic style of surveillance where the subject is made to feel the “presence” or the sensation of being observed as a way of controlling the behavior of the proverbial “inmates”. i feel that its questionable as to how it may affect the psyche of young children or even that of future generations when the idea of a “safe space” is becoming increasingly scarce. your post was engaging and insight full

    I particularly enjoyed the fact that you used your own pictures and how they rather clearly depict the grid-ed nature of own university.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Reid!

    Very well-thought and interesting blog post. This would never had crossed my mind if it had not been for you. Considering everyone is on their phones, iPads or laptops more often that not… It’s good to see someone looking around for ideas outside of searching Google. You have a good balance between your own thoughts and scholarly references, therefore adding credibility to your arguments. Adding to this, you used relevant images and an embedded Tweet.

    My only tips would be to finish as strong as you started, leave the reader wanting more, as well as adding more working hyperlinks through your writing. Keep up the good work!

    Emily

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Reid
    Very interesting article! I was engaged when you used your own experience to tell us how panopticon theory was applied to modern schools’ architecture. It’s true that surveillance is everywhere in schools nowadays. Your blog post reminded me of my high school life in China. Usually in China, there always exist a window on the back door of the classroom in high school. Teachers generally stand outside the back door and watch through the window to see what students are doing during the class, especially those naughty students. I enjoyed your own picture and it’s amazing to find our campus also resemble the panopticon.

    Your post provided me with good insight! 🙂

    Annabel

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Reid,
    I always love reading a blog post that discusses the panopticon, I find it so interesting.
    I appreciate the word “Panopticon” in hyperlink form but I would recommend a more informative site rather than Wikipedia since it’s not always the most reliable source.

    Your image is referenced correctly with creative commons which is great to see. It was interesting to get a perspective of the panopticon and surveillance from an architectural point of view as well. You can never go wrong coming in from another perspective to analyse an argument or topic.
    I also appreciated a balance of paraphrased and directly cited scholarly sources.

    I also loved how you included where you got the inspiration from this blog, it really gives it context! In my opinion I wouldn’t present the references in block quote format as it’s hard to tell if you’ve done them properly (for example, using italics, etc.)

    Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Reid,

    This was a really interesting take on surveillance, as I’d never considered the actual structure of a learning institution playing part in a teacher’s capability to monitor their students. Your research was well-done and relevant to your topic, and all your hyperlinks and tweets were embedded correctly. I really appreciated the link explaining what a panopticon is, too, as I was wondering what that meant from the moment I read your blog title. I also appreciate that you kept the location and name of the school private out of consideration for others in attendance there.

    I couldn’t really see anything to improve upon here – great job! I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

    Ayla

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Reid,
    Very interesting and good read. I liked your idea for the blog post about panopticon designs of school and educational organisations in order to have proper surveillance on students. You have cited your blog where needed which. Great use of scholarly material to support your writing. The blog is well structured with right use media, embedded tweets and the hyperlinks. What i liked most about your blog Reid is that you used example from day today life and analyzed it. I liked the way you used Deakin panorama to support your argument about the theory. I was not aware of the panopticon theory of design before i read your blog. Thank you for putting this out in your blog.

    There is no much room for improvement except that you can work a bit on a strong concluding paragraph. Great work and keep it up 🙂 Wish to read to more of nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Reid!

    Really great blog post! The panoptic theory is a great interest of mine, and up until your blog post I had never really thought of the educational system being similar to it. I really enjoyed reading your blog, it was well written and well structured, easy to read (due to you short sentences and paragraphs) and your use of scholarly resources as well as your research was impeccable. The embedded media you have used is effective and fits well with what you are trying to say, I especially like the panorama of Deakin. Overall, your blog is insightful and I cannot see any need for improvement. Fantastic job!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great read Reid!

    As an education student myself, I can totally see how this relates to a school setting/environment! You have very strong opening points, use of embedded media is great, which break up your writing pretty perfectly so as the reader doesn’t get bored but also fits in with your writing, but would like to see a concluding sentence.

    Overall, insightful read and good job! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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