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Jeremy Bentham's Memorial Now Watches Its Visitors

Jeremy Bentham came up with the idea of the Panopticon, a circular prison that would allow one guard to observe all inmates without the prisoners knowing whether they were actually being watched at any given time. So it’s fitting that the memorial dedicated to the 19th century British philosopher, located in a hallway at the University College London, has been fitted with camera that provides a 24-7 livestream of the people watching it. Its creators call it the “PanoptiCam.”

Bentham, who died in 1832, did not want a regular burial. Instead, he requested in his will that his friend, Dr. Southwood Smith, create what he called an Auto-Icon for his body. Bentham wrote that his skeleton should “be put together in such a manner as that the whole figure may be seated in a chair usually occupied by me when living, in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought in the course of time employed in writing.” He continued:

I direct that the body thus prepared shall be transferred to my executor. He will cause the skeleton to be clad in one of the suits of black occasionally worn by me. The body so clothed, together with the chair and the staff in my later years bourne by me, he will take charge of and for containing the whole apparatus he will cause to be prepared an appropriate box or case and will cause to be engraved in conspicuous characters on a plate to be affixed thereon and also on the labels on the glass cases in which the preparations of the soft parts of my body shall be contained.

Visitors to Bentham’s memorial are able to see his body, minus one very important part: His head. Desiccation made the head too grotesque for display—you can see it hereso a wax stand-in was commissioned from French artist Jacques Talrich. (Though not on display, Bentham's actual head was in the Auto-Icon, wrapped up and sitting between his feet, until 2002, when it was moved to a climate controlled facility at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.)  

The PanoptiCam sits on top of Bentham’s Auto-Icon, and it began as a joke. Two years ago, during a meeting about the informational touch screen that sits in front of the memorial, someone quipped that they should put a webcam in the philosopher’s head. It didn't take long before they were seriously considering it. The project—a collaboration between UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Public and Cultural Engagement, and UCL’s Bentham Project—finally started streaming what Bentham sees last month (there’s are a couple of Twitter feeds, too). “Seeing Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon can evoke a wide array of emotions from surprise and shock to mirth,” the team writes on PanoptiCam’s website. “PanoptiCam captures people’s reaction using a webcam mounted above the auto-icon, with the camera feed posted to our website in real time, and time lapse photography generating days in the life of Jeremy Bentham’s current, yet eternal, viewpoint.” The team isn’t just watching for fun, though; it also plans to use it to test algorithms that count visitors to museum display cases.

[h/t Fusion]

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George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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fun
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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