In the Season 3 finale TPTB dropped a bomb on us in the form of the Flash-Forward. Within this FF were some hints for us to research further, which is one of the reasons why we love this show so much! In Jack's tear-sogged newspaper clipping was a possible lead on some information in the sketchy obit, a name in particular, which people have fleshed out to possibly be Jeremy Bentham.
Bentham we learned was the designer of an interesting theory on prison architecture called the Panopticon: "A building with a tower at the center from which it is possible to see each cell in which a prisoner is incarcerated. Each individual is seen but cannot communicate with the warders or other prisoners. The Panopticon induces a sense of permanent visibility [of the prisoners] that ensures the functioning of power. The prisoner can always see the tower but never knows from where [or when] he is being observed. It is also a laboratory in which experiments are carried out on prisoners and staff. It gives power over people's minds through architecture." Within this structure inmates are inspired to be on their best behavior under an all-seeing eye. Knowing what we do at this point about Smokey as a mobile force, the Dharma Initiative's obsession with observation and psychological manipulation, and the prison-like qualities of the inescapable Island, this Panopticon idea fits very well into the architecture of LOST.
First; the island has it's own prison guards in the entity of Smokey. TPTB have confirmed that smokey is Cerberus mentioned on the blast door map, and so we have a roaming security system to keep the island inmates' actions in check. Smokey also seems to be able to read an islander's conscience as well. Second; the Panopticon all-seeing-eye aspect to ensure that inmates function on a level of personal honor and culpability via the "threat" of constant observation, is also close to the heart of LOST. The DI has many observation stations: the Pearl's closed circuit video bank, Patchy's communication video console, and the monitors that were in the Hydra which could apparently also pan-and-scan the jungle. Jack also told Kate that there were cameras in the Othertown house that he was staying in. Third; we know that the DI was interested in the idea of experimentation on its members, but we're not sure yet to what extent they carried out this idea. They manned the Pearl station to, "...observe a psychological experiment in progress", and, "...for the ongoing refinement of the initiative as a whole", according to Dr.Wickmund. But the information seems to have gone unanalyzed at some point as far as we can tell, by the enormous pile of info tubes in the field.
The big question is, were the Dharma people privy to the fact that they were being constantly monitored in their everyday lives so that they would function on their best behavior? If they did know, then the island set-up was a communal version of the Panopticon. If they did not know they were being observed, then they were living under unethically intrusive conditions. But even if they were aware of existing under the watchful eye of "Big Brother", it's still not an ideal situation to be in. As far as we know, the DI recruits were not convicts, and did not sign away some of their rights as human beings when they came to the island. Or did they? And has Ben and the Hostiles' coup-society degraded not only because of the arrival of outsiders, but because of a general breakdown of the Panopticon system in keeping control over the ever-increasing number of inhabitants and intruders?