The Corpse of the Panopticon Creator Now Has an All-Seeing Eye

By Adam Clark Estes on at

Jeremy Bentham was an eccentric guy. The 18th-century British philosopher is known for designing the Panopticon, a type of prison building with an all-seeing eye. He also asked for his skeleton to be dressed and put on public display. And that display now has an all-seeing eye of its own.

It's called the Panopticam. The display box that holds Bentham's remains — which is another one of the philosopher's inventions, called an auto-icon — lives in the main building of University College London. Anyone can view Bentham's auto-icon, but now, visitors will be in clear view of the new Panopticam which sends the footage to YouTube. In addition to creeping people out, the Panopticam also tests algorithms that count museum visitors.

The Panopticam has been up and running for a few weeks now, and Bentham's caretakers just think the whole thing is so funny. Melissa Terras, director of the UCL Centre Director for Digital Humanities, wrote in a blog post:

It 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).

Let's review: the corpse of the Panopticon's creator is on display in London and now has a Panopticam watching every single visitor that walks by. They're funny like that at UCL.

[UCL via Fusion]

Image via Bentham's Gaze