One of the artworks in the Panopticon Sculpture Trail, Lancashire, UK

Panopticom? Is that a word? And, if it is, what could it mean? Well, ‘pan’, as a prefix, is the Greek for ‘all’. ‘Optic’ is also Greek, and it refers to the eye. So, perhaps, a panopticom is a device that sees everything. But, if we want to go beyond guesswork, we need to understand how Peter Gabriel, the word’s inventor, defines it. According to his website, it is:

an infinitely expandable accessible data globe

Peter Gabriel. January 2023.

This virtual globe will allow activists in the physical world to upload evidence of injustices wherever they occur, record them in electronic indelible ink, and make the truth available to us all. A panopticom, then, is a tool that will “allow the world to see itself better and understand more of what’s really going on”. It is only an idea at this stage, but PG says he is assembling a group of like-minded people who “might be able to bring this to life”.

Panopticom is also the lead single from Peter Gabriel’s forthcoming album, i/o. It was released on 6th January 2023, the date of the first full moon of the year. Further singles will be released at each full moon in the hope that this will remind us of our connection with nature and encourage us to protect the increasingly fragile ecosystems that we humans inhabit. No release date for the album has been announced, but dates for a European tour have been booked for May and June.

This track has the unmistakeable stamp of Peter Gabriel’s compositions and production skills. It rocks along as occasional rumbles of thunder gently shake the sonic foundations. Curiously, though, it seems to be a remix, which makes you wonder what was wrong with the earlier takes. Perhaps we’ll never know. Or, perhaps we’ll need a panopticom to see.

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