Television in prison: how ‘they’ are watching ‘us’
Very interesting blog post here by Jennifer Turner, a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, UK, in which she draws upon findings from her own research to draw out some of the salient issues surrounding the watching of television in prisoners’ cells; not just the controversy around prisoners receiving such a ‘privilege’, but the interpretations of watching and being watched in this context of confinement.
On the one hand, the prison institution and in this case Her Majesty’s Prison system in the UK, can regulate the channels available to particular prisoners, making this information publicly available; on the other, as Turner points out, the channels being watched by prisoners in turn provide them with a partial view of the world ‘outside’ into which they will hopefully reintegrate after release.
For me this issue recalls Paul Adams’ 1992 paper “Television as Gathering Place” in which he explored television as a ‘center of meaning and as a social context‘ supporting the concept of ‘a place without a location‘. ‘Television‘, he argued, ‘functions as a social context, providing sensory communion and social congregation; it also functions as a center of meaning, helping a society define “us” and “them,” conferring value on persons and objects, and, possibly, supporting hegemonic social control‘.
In her blog Turner suggests that there is some mileage in further investigating this issue, and it would seem that for carceral geographers interested in the place or perhaps the placelessness of prison, the television both as a ‘window’ on the outside and a means of control and surveillance on the ‘inside’, or perhaps as a liminal space between outside and in, demands further study.