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A hypothetical prison proposed by Jeremy Bentham, having circular tiers of cells surrounding a central observation tower.

[Earlier, a peepshow device used to exhibit pictures : pan- + Greek optikon, neuter of optikos, optic; see optic.]


1. a round prison in which all cells are visible from the centre point
2. archaic an optical instrument enabling wide views of cities
3. archaic an exhibition room


(pænˈɒp tɪˌkɒn)

a building, as a prison or library, so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point.
[1760–70; pan- + Greek optikón sight, seeing (neuter of optikós; see optic)]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.panopticon - an area where everything is visible
area - a part of a structure having some specific characteristic or function; "the spacious cooking area provided plenty of room for servants"
saleroom, salesroom, showroom - an area where merchandise (such as cars) can be displayed; "in Britain a showroom is called a salesroom"
2.panopticon - a circular prison with cells distributed around a central surveillance station; proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1791
prison, prison house - a correctional institution where persons are confined while on trial or for punishment
References in periodicals archive ?
While Information Panopticons can be defined as a form of centralized power that uses information and communication technology as observational tools and control mechanisms often and unlike Bentham's subjects, surveillance is made of willing participants who give their consent to the system of control and performance culture, sometimes where online self-disclosure means the voluntary surrender of privacy.
The Panopticon digitally enhanced creates a consciousness of permanent visibility and data capture as forms of power, where spatial enclosure and lock ups are no longer necessary for control any more.
In these pages then I want to take up, very briefly, such surfacings of the uncanny--repetition, ambiguation, and the subject's intimacy with representation, focusing on the third as a way of specifying the effects generated by such haunted houses as panopticons and novels.
Just as the murderesses break the panopticon of their prison, so does Fevvers provide the means by which the panopticons of the whorehouse, the freak show, and the circus are ruptured.