Looking back to the 15th century surveillance can be traced to Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. It uses religion to instil a change of behaviour into people condemning sins and undesirable behaviour. The text in the centre of the image “Caue caue d[omin]us videt” translates to “Take care, take care, God sees you” alluding to the idea of an all seeing eye or constant watcher. The form of the piece also suggests towards an all seeing figure with the symbolism of an “eye” in the centre.

This idea of images and symbolic references can be seen through out history and literature for example Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in his book The Great Gatsby uses the symbolism of eyes to translate a running theme of the characters being aware of being watched, they are referred to as the eyes of god. “…their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.” (1992 p.27) Her Fitzgerald describes how overpowering and controlling the eyes can be suggesting their power of surveillance in terms of  changing behaviour.

This links to theories of panopticism put forward by French philosopher and social theorist, Foucault based upon Social Reformer, Jeremy Bentham’s proposed structure of the Panopticon Penitentiary, a prison build around a central tower with the idea of the inmates always having the possibility of being watched. Foucault believed that human behavour changed when we know we are being watched, this theory has been proven over and over in art, literature, and social constructs and surveillance methods such as CCTV over hundreds of years in society.


Fitzgerald, F. (1992) The Great Gatsby. Ware, England: Wandsworth Editions

Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish. Translated by Alan Sheridan, London: Allen Lane, Penguin.

Glavey, P. et al. (2017) Surveillance [Lecture to BA Graphic and Media Design Year 1], London College of Communication. 5 May 2017

Glavey, P. et al. (2017) Surveillance [PowerPoint presentation]. Principles Unit. Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2017)


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