Just a hundred years ago, or a few ten years ago, many countries carried out public executions of criminals, and it is still happening in some countries. In the past, those in power tried to maintain their power by using the fear of the people as physical punishment, but the occurrence of prisons and prison sentences has changed from a fear politics involving violence to a system of monitoring the people through invisible surveillance.
Many scholars now refer to human society as a panopticon- society. We are being recorded unknowingly by store security cameras, car dash cams, and street cameras. In addition, the use of credit cards stores personal records of where and how much we spent, and the government uses these records to levy taxes. Michelle Foucault feared that the database, where all the data on a person’s private life is stored, might be misused as a tool of power to control and manage the public from birth to death, just as Panopticon monitors prisoners. Most people have an antipathy to this surveillance and are afraid just by the thought that they are being watched by invisible power. Also, several artists have produced works of art and films related to this monitoring and control, and these works of art are usually focused on the negative.
The coronavirus has brought many changes to human life. Many liberal countries have created laws to keep people at home for weeks in the name of preventing the spread of infection and punish them if they violate them. Currently, the U.S. and European countries have restricted access to markets and public transportation without masks. In Western cultures, where people don’t usually wear masks, viruses have changed their way of life. In the journal “the world after Coronavirus,” Yuval Noah Harari argues that many countries will establish a system to legally monitor the people. The government requires surveillance programs to install smartphone apps for public safety reasons, but no one knows if they will be used for public health. The fear of viral proliferation is also changing people’s perception of surveillance.
In South Korea, for example, one of the recent visitors to a club in Seoul was infected with the coronavirus, and the virus spread nationwide through those who contacted him. Although the number of confirmed cases is not increasing as the government is coping better than in the early days of the virus, many people are starting to hate those who enjoy the entertainment in clubs. In addition, the government requires people there to be tested for viruses through broadcasting and public text message and is trying to figure out the contacts of those who were there that day through telecom companies. If it had been in the past, this government intervention would be considered an invasion of personal privacy, but now many Koreans hope that those who went there will be inspected quickly and want the government to respond more strongly.
As such, the coronavirus creates numerous dilemmas between public safety and individual freedom. Just as no one knows what life will be waiting for us after Corona, I wonder how art should adapt to people’s changed perceptions.