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Vote for us in the DH Awards!

Melissa MTerras15 February 2016

We’ve been nominated in the “Best use of DH for fun” in this year’s Digital Humanities Awards, which are a set of international awards in different categories, with the winner chosen by public vote. We’ll be your best friend if you vote for us! Thanks. The projects listed there are also a great way to start exploring other examples of Digital Humanities research.

Some More Favourite PanoptiCam Views

Melissa MTerras20 November 2015

Over at the Museums and Collections blog, you can see a round up of some more panopticam shenanigans!

Jeremy! a message to you, Jeremy!

Melissa MTerras20 October 2015

man holds a sign saying "what are you looking at"

You lookin’ at me?

Over the past few weeks, a visiting researcher to UCL, Rodrigo Firmino, has been interacting regularly with the Panopticam, providing commentary and insight into issues this project highlights:

since I am currently working at UCL, I decided to pay Jeremy a visit, every week day, so that we could “talk” about surveillance. Every time, I show Jeremy a different sentence while he watches me watching him. I guess, in the end, I am “watching Jeremy watching me watching Jeremy”! But this is not all… I want people to contribute. Anyone can suggest sentences in the text box at “Send Your Message to Jeremy“, and I will select some of them to be shown online with the help of Jeremy Bentham! [about the project]

It’s great to see the Panopticam being used in this way, and to follow the interactions on the Panopticam stream…

The PanoptiCam in the Age of Digital Surveillance

Melissa MTerras23 July 2015

“The parallel between Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon and CCTV may be clear, but what happens when you step into the world of data capture?” – an article featuring PanoptiCam over at the Guardian, today!

Also, please see some favourite PanoptiCam captures, over on the UCL Museums and collections blog!

Some choice views from Bentham

Melissa MTerras2 June 2015

Three months in, and we’re still up and running! The daily timelapses show the changing events held in the cloisters at UCL.  Over at Panoptistream an hourly still image is broadcast during normal waking hours: it is suprising how often this is empty (we hear tales of people now avoiding the box at the time it broadcasts the images…). You’ll see the camera move a bit – it gets shifted for various reasons, sometimes nudged when the box is closed for the night, sometimes tweaked (by us? by others?) and sometimes we decide that the images being captured need a bit of an improved viewpoint! Here we show some of the interesting things captured over the last few weeks at UCL.

‘A great gogle eye’: Some panopticon iconography

RudolfAmmann17 March 2015

The PanoptiCam logotype is derived from a design the English jurist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) created in the early seventeen-nineties to promote the panopticon.

Jeremy Bentham: Panopticon surmounted with the Eye of God (1791)

Figure 1: Panopticon and Eye of Providence (Jeremy Bentham, 1791)

 

The panopticon is Bentham’s grand unfulfilled project. The penitentiary with prison cells arranged in a circle, open to inspection at all times from a central observation tower, was a cornerstone of Bentham’s legal reform agenda. It was intended to improve the inmates’ behaviour through the possibility of surveillance taking place at any given time. Great benefits to society were supposed to accrue from the use of such a ‘mill for grinding rogues honest’, but no panopticon was ever built.

This was not for lack of trying. Between 1791 and 1802, Bentham expended a great deal of fruitless effort to get his model prison built. When the government of the day was showing some interest in 1810–11, he resumed this effort, to no avail.

Bentham first started his campaign for the panopticon by writing a book that outlined his project: Panopticon; or the Inspection-House (1791). He also wanted a memorable visualization of the panopticon, and he drew a first rough sketch (Fig. 1) in a piece of private correspondence he penned the same year. In this message he intimates that only lack of time had prevented him from adding a frontispiece to the book that would have shown ‘a great gogle eye’ in a triangle – an Eye of Providence – hovering above the plan of the prison, inscribed with ‘Mercy’, ‘Justice’, and ‘Vigilance’ along the sides of the triangle.

In 1794 Bentham drew another sketch of this emblematic design:

 

Jeremy Bentham: Panopticon or the Inspection-House (1794)

Figure 2: Panopticon or the Inspection-House (Jeremy Bentham, 1794)

 

This second sketch (Fig. 2) adds a radiant gloriole to the design, an element associated with the Eye of Providence in conventional religious iconography.

By 1794, Bentham had managed to drum up some support for the panopticon; the prime minister, William Pitt, paid him £2,000 for preliminary work on the project. In the same year, Bentham asked Willey Reveley, the architect he had commissioned to draw up plans for the panopticon, to create the finished artwork:

 

Panopticon emblem by Willey Reveley (1794)

Figure 3: ‘I have drawn the design as well as I can‘ (Willey Reveley, 1794)

 

Reveley produced a finished version of the design (Fig. 3) that interprets Bentham’s oval rendition of the panopticon as a perspectival projection and, deviating from Bentham’s sketch, embeds the divine goggle eye in the projection plane, thereby demoting the representation of the all-seeing deity into a representation of such representation, and into a representation of the divinely sanctioned, benign legal surveillance that would operate from the centre of the panopticon’s prison cells.

Reveley dispatched his drawing to Bentham with a recommendation to have it engraved. Bentham apparently did not follow this advice: no prints are known.

For the PanoptiCam project logo, we helped ourselves to key elements of Reveley’s work:

 

panopticam-rmx

Figure 4: PanoptiCam logo

 

The PanoptiCam logo (Fig. 4) retains Reveley’s schematic drawing of the penitentiary cells, moving them from perspectival projection into the more conventional top view and replacing the Great Gogle Eye with a camera lens.

This final version of the logo is a simplification of an earlier development state in which we also retained a reference to the triangle:

 

panopticam-rmx

Figure 5: PanoptiCam logo (early alternate take)

 

An instance of this earlier version (Fig. 5) is seen in the poster we put up in the UCL South Cloisters to notify people that they are being watched. The poster’s triangular shape is reminiscent of DIN 4844-2 / ISO 3864 hazard warnings.

Additionally – and somewhat satirically – another early state of the design retains the inscriptions around the three sides of the triangle:

 

panopticam-rmx

Figure 6: PanoptiCam logo (early alternate take)

 

In this version (Fig. 6), the trinity of Mercy, Justice, Vigilance in the 18th century design (Fig. 3) is substituted with equivalents from a less elevated plane of abstraction.

The fact that Bentham and Reveley’s panopticon emblem can so readily be converted into a contemporary visual format is evidence of a peculiar quality: The design looks back to the visual genre of the emblem, which during its heyday in the 17th century invoked religious iconography in densely symbolic compositions that sought to express deep verities to live by. However, Bentham and Reveley’s piece also appropriates this iconography towards mundane ends, and so it already bears a signature rhetorical paw print of our own days: the use of iconographically dense representations to convey the presumed essence of a mundane undertaking, such as a business or a project.

Bentham and Reveley’s piece (Fig. 3) invited the modernization we undertook because it already is a logo.

 

—   ❡   —

 

Jeremy Bentham’s and Willey Reveley’s drawings are reproduced courtesy of the Transcribe Bentham project. Thanks to Tim Causer for fact-checking a draft version of this post.

Rudolf Ammann is designer at large of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

Highlights of Jeremy’s gaze so far…

Melissa MTerras15 March 2015

The Panopticam has been up and running for a couple of weeks now. The daily timelapses show an interesting ebb and flow of activity in the cloisters, from visitors, to events, to dance practices (the open space in front of Jeremy is a favourite for dance troupes, who often rehearse into the small hours).  Over at Panoptistream an hourly still image is broadcast during normal waking hours: it is suprising how often this is empty, or shows the feet of those walking past, but there are some gems emerging. Here we round up our favourite captures over the last few weeks – showing the range of visitors Bentham gets, and the type of different activity he sees at UCL.

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

PanoptiCam is go!

Melissa MTerras24 February 2015

auto-icon1It was nearly two years ago that we first had the idea for PanoptiCam. We were having a meeting about the informational touch screen that sits in front of Jeremy Bentham, and we joked that we should put a webcam in Jeremy’s head. (We’re funny like that at UCL, he is a real part of our culture). Then the questions started… what would it take to get a network cable into his box? Would we get ethics clearance to do this? What was the best way to go about it, and was there any real point?

Here we are, two years later, showing you the life of UCL through the eyes of an incredibly important figure for the college. It’s been a fantastic piece of team work to bring this project together. How long will it last? We dont know. What will the reaction be? We can only imagine. We plan on bringing you updates soon on the design of the PanoptiCam logo, the system that is driving this, and the cultural and heritage stand point of the project.

But do tell us what is feels like to see through the eyes of Bentham… we’d love to hear it. Most of the discussion will be over on twitter no doubt – and we are looking forward to the questions this raises.