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panoptic surveillance

Definition of Panoptic Surveillance

(noun) Surveillance that is constant and uneasing, sometimes barely visible, and the observed never engages with the observers.

Examples of Panoptic Surveillance

  • Security cameras in an office.
  • Watchtower at a prison.

Panoptic Surveillance Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: pan·op·tic sur·veil·lance

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /pa-nAHp-tik suhr-vAY-luhns/
  • British English – /pan-Op-tik suhr-vAY-luhns/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English: /ˌpæˈnɑptɪk sɚˈveɪləns/
  • British English: /pænˈɒptɪk sɜːˈveɪl(ə)ns/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: panoptic surveillances
  • Panoptic surveillance is a method of control.
  • Based in Jeremy Bentham’s (1748–1832) conceptualization of the panoticon, which is a circular tower serving as a prison, with unseen security located at the center.

Additional Information

Related Terms


Cite the Definition of Panoptic Surveillance

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “panoptic surveillance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 8, 2020 (https://sociologydictionary.org/panoptic-surveillance/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

panoptic surveillance. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/panoptic-surveillance/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “panoptic surveillance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://sociologydictionary.org/panoptic-surveillance/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“panoptic surveillance.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 8 Jul. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/panoptic-surveillance/>.