Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Can your city change your mind?" (Jeremy Bentham does a cameo)

The linked article used a photo of Illinois' Stateville Prison which reminded me of this from Alex Wellerstein, historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

I like the idea of Santa as Panopticon. Bummer kid, ho, ho, ho.

From Curbed:
The design of our spaces can heal us, hurt us, and alter the way we think
There’s a significant chance that the room you’re in right now is controlling your mind. The room—if you’re like most North Americans, who’ve been found to spend roughly 90 percent of their time indoors, you’re probably in one—is exerting both strong and subtle influences on the way your brain functions. It may be making you anxious, or sad, or distracted, or highly efficient, or inexplicably tired, affecting not only your cognitive abilities and mental processes, but your emotional state, mental stability, and physical well-being.

All these consequences have been recorded scientifically, and it’s becoming evident that the way physical spaces are designed can have a measurable impact on the human brain. Architecture, interior design, and even city planning can affect human behaviors and mental processes, causing psychological, biophysical, and cognitive changes in people, often without them noticing. Mostly this influence happens by accident. But sometimes it happens on purpose.

A subset of neuroscientists and psychologists are now working with architects and designers to understand how and why spaces, from city sidewalks to buildings to individual rooms, have such strong cognitive and psychological impacts. How these spaces are designed can affect the way people think, feel, learn, and comprehend the world around them. And because we spend so much time in these spaces, how they are designed can have significant impacts on our lives.

The implications of this work are far-reaching. Researchers are exploring how design can help hospital patients heal faster, how office configurations can improve productivity, how homes can adapt to the hypersensitivities of children on the autism spectrum, and how simple features like windows and natural light can reduce our stress or improve our sleep.

Design affects the brain. Scientists and designers are starting to understand how and why. And as they learn more, they’re fueling the development of new design tools and approaches that are rapidly changing the built world around us. More and more, design can be used to achieve specific outcomes or to create certain effects. This scientific approach offers potentially groundbreaking and lifesaving ways of building spaces and cities. It’s also opening the door to a near future where design could be used maliciously to influence people's thinking, control their behavior, or even harm their health.

In the 1780s, English philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham developed a design for what he considered the perfect prison. It would be a circular building, with cells for individual inmates segmented within its circumference like slices of pie. Each would be walled off from the other, and the only view would be straight out through an iron grating to the building’s center.

At this point, there would be what Bentham called an Inspection Lodge, a circular room designed so that a guard inside could look out in any direction at the inmates. But the inmates would not be able to see in. His idea was that the inmates, unable to tell whether they were actually being watched at any given moment, would perceive that they were under constant surveillance and would acquiesce to the prison’s desired standards of behavior. He named this building the Panopticon, or the Inspection House, and its ultimate goal was design for psychological control.

Bentham saw other potential uses for this design. Factories could conceal supervisors to maintain control and partition workers to reduce distractions and improve productivity. Hospitals could use a modified inspection lodge so doctors and surgeons could ensure their treatments and instructions were being carried out properly. "Mad houses" could use the separated and exposed cells to reduce the need for "chains and other modes of corporal sufferance." Schools could separate students to eliminate "all play, all chattering."...MORE
A couple of our Jeremy Bentham posts:
Of Sexual Irregularities by Jeremy Bentham – review

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me The Dessicated Corpse of Jeremy Bentham Attended A Board Meeting At University College London?
This was a few months ago but still...
From Metro UK:
 Bentham's corpse attends UCL board meeting
181-year-old corpse of Jeremy Bentham attends UCL board meeting
Many board meetings are so tedious that members often end up looking like waxwork dummies. 
But at this gathering, the well-dressed gentleman in the corner can be forgiven for looking a little out of it – Jeremy Bentham died 181 years ago.

The ‘spiritual founder’ of University College London can usually be found in a cabinet in a university corridor.

But he was moved earlier this week to mark the last council meeting attended by retiring provost Sir Malcolm Grant.

Bentham, a philosopher regarded as the founder of utilitarianism, requested that his skeleton should be preserved and dressed in his own clothes.

One of the many myths surrounding him is that he attends every UCL council meeting and is always recorded as ‘present but not voting’....