Friday, September 7, 2007

"Welcome To Panopticon Island"

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?


pgtbeauregard said...


Remeber when Kate comes to rescue Jack in Otherville, and he says "Kate, they're watching".

That would lead one to believe all the cottages have surveilance systems, as well as the labs and stations.

Interesting concept this Panopticon.

capcom said...

Right, that's what I meant. You're right, I bet that all the houses did have surveillance systems, what a way to live!

And what a concept for TPTB to throw out in the last episode of the season!

pgtbeauregard said...

Do you think they occupants knew they were being watched? We know that DI was big into keeping secrets. If they did know, did this alter their behavior?

Before Ben and Richard eliminated everyone, who was Big Brother?

Sorry about so many questions, but one good question leads to another.

capcom said...

Yeah, I don't know either. Those are the puzzle pieces and Qs that remain to be seen, thanks to TPTB! :-)

It seems that the DI set up all the "1984" type cameras and TVs for their physical surveillance projects. But if Smokey and/or Jacob are involved also, any paranormal remote viewing belongs to them (and ESPers like Walt), I would guess. ???

Maybe Smoeky is a combination of a mechanical/human interactive remote viewing project that went crazy and took on a "life" of its own?

pgtbeauregard said...

You've hit on something that's been bothering me for a while. Smokey is probably not what it was origianlly intended for. It has mutated into something that's being manipulated by Jacob, or something else. Something has happened, and that's why they wanted Walt so badly - perhaps to communicate w/Smokey, or even control it.

Ben is out of touch w/Jacob, and maybe needed Walt for that - but something is wrong, and they need someone w/esp or extraordianry powers to get it back.

Could be way way off base here, but it's alway fun to speculate.

capcom said...

Sounds good to me PGT. Heck, speculations and guesstimations are all we have for now! :-)

Cool_Freeze said...

So they are hinting at something they threw at us in Tale of Two Cities when Juliet told Jack that his life was in the folder in front of her.

They did it again when they showed Juliet her sister on a monitor in Mikhail's station.

very interesting.


capcom said...

You're right CF, not only can they spy on islanders, but on outside-the-islanders as well like the FBI.

Cool_Freeze said...

It is chilling to think that these people can generate files on you, so THEY HAVE to have some power in goverment and such.


Very Quickly...I am letting all the lost bloggers know that I at least have the blog available now...if any of you are interested in becoming a moderator tell me. I would love to have it up and running by Season 4.


You can email me at

thanks! CF

capcom said...

Yeah CF, government dossiers. Yow!

Ange said...

Capcom! Yet again you managed to come up with a great post!

This Panopticon is just such a juicy idea for the show. I am inclined to think that the DI people didn't know that they were being watched...well all the time at least.

One thing that has always bothered me about the things we've discovered are the notebooks that all went into the tube to nowhere. Finally ending up in a big random pile right there in the open. I think that in order to keep taking copious notes like that, the job areas, it's safe to assume, knew they were watched. But in their homes...I think they didn't know (if indeed they were).

Also Smokey: In the "Answers" special. Dalton did confirm that Smokey is a We-don't-know-what, but that it was indeed taking pictures and observing. So security/observation system run amok totally fits with the being watched idea.

Great Post!

capcom said...

Thanks Ange! I learned from the best, like you and Fenris and Memphish! :-)

Yes, and what puzzles me about the Pearl notebooks also is the duration of time that it must have taken for those things to pile up like that. Does it indicate that the notebooks were just left there to rot from the beginning of the Pearl project? Or, were they picked up for a while until the Hostile coup, and then the people left in the Pearl after the purge, didn't find out about the purge until their couple weeks (or however long it was) duty was up?! Or, until they too were gassed. Very curious situation!

Cool_Freeze said...

Those notebooks are a mystery now that I think about it. LOL

That would be nice to see what was with those.

It might have just been a mindgame. Hard to say.

pgtbeauregard said...

Cool Freeze,

I forgot about all the dossier's they have on everyone until you brought it up - more powerful than just a big corporation. How did they get all that information so quickly?

It smacks of big time government involvement.

Keep your thinking cap on!!!

capcom said...

I did too PGT. That really gave me the creeps when Juliet pulled that out. Up to that point, the Others' intel seemed to be restricted to within the island.

memphish said...

Capcom, I was listening to an archived edition of The Transmission podcast today for Episode 2.3, Orientation. Near the end, about the 5 minute to go mark, they played a call where the caller describes a conversation between people from ABC that he overheard. He said they described the Island as a prison and that it had been a prison since WWII. There was some sort of genetic component to it as well. Just thought I'd point it out to you since I immediately went - Panopticon when I heard it.

capcom said...

Interesting Memphish, thanks!