Projects of Time and Space (paper)

Anders Fogh Jensen, Ph.D. 

Conference: Cultures of Time and Space 

Goldsmith College, London, December 1 st 2005.



Space and territories
Space, existence, social technology


Control It is known for some of you I suppose, that Deleuze used the term “society of control” to describe a development of the social technologies, that exceeds what Foucault called the “disciplinary society” or the “carcéral” – the prison like. In the society of control, the walls around the institutions of the disciplinary society are replaced by another kind of boundaries, informational barriers. The bar is replaced by the code or the card. The entrance into the limited space is replaced by the connection to a stream of bits and bytes. To some extent, the society of control is the disciplinary society brought into the age of information machines. The “yes” and “no”, the “do this” and “do that” of the discipline is coupled with the flows of zeroes and ones of the informational operator.

The important point here lies not in the claim that we are controlled, neither that we are surrounded by information. It seems quite obvious to me that man has always been controlled to some extent, and that information has played a key role in the controlling of man. Rather, the important point about the post disciplinary society, lies in its reconfiguration of space.

Now, how is space configured?


Space and territories 

Deleuze and Guattari suggested that space is to be understood as territories. Space is created through activities that shape the surroundings. It is maintained by activities. Deleuze and Guattari called a space creating activity: a territorialization . A territorialization is not simply an invasion into a territory, but a creation of a territory by an act upon the given situation – and a repetition of that act. The bird shapes a territory by its singing. A state becomes a nation by repeating stories from the past. One opens a space, not by entering it, but by acting upon it.



Now, if it is fair to say, that activity is the central brick in the building of present spaces, the next question pops up immediately: How are our spaces created through activity. I will argue

1) that the project is the dominant way of organising activity in contemporary western society, and following,

2) that the increasing tendency to organise life, labour and love in projects plays an important role in the configuration of space in the post disciplinary society.

When I refer to the projective society, I mean a society where the space creating activity is organised in temporary projects .

When I speak of ‘project’, I do not only include organisational structure on the labour market, but of a conceptual and organizational structure that penetrates social life in general.

The projective society is a structure build on disciplinary grounds. In the disciplinary society, the space is parcelled into different rooms with each their function. One opens a space by entering a given room. Hence, transport is the movement between functions. The movement is a change of room.

In the disciplinary society punishment and sanction is to put one into a sanction room, a room separated from the other functions. Liberty, on the other hand, is the liberty to move, to choose with your feet.

In the projective society, the entering into a room has only little importance to the opening of space. A space is opened by an activity. An activity is never just a movement in an empty space, but a connection to the surroundings.

Perhaps Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of territorialization suits the projective society better than it suits the disciplinary society, because the space configurating action is frequent, whereas in the disciplinary society it is a founding act .

Now, to say something more specific about how the project structure shapes the society, I will list some characteristics of this structure.



Five concepts are crucial to the social technologies of the projective society: project, connection, activity – and as I shall return to in a moment – network and passage.

Now, what is a project?

A project is usually created by connection: Someone meets someone else with an idea, and they do something together to something or someone.

The project is a way of building up organizational structure with small autonomous activity spaces, connected in a network. This structure is becoming a more and more dominant way of organizing in the post disciplinary societies.

As with the dynamo light, which is only lit when wheels are turning, the project space exists only as long as there is activity. Its walls are not made up of pillars, but of the locomotion towards a goal. We can have a law that is never brought into practice, but which nonetheless functions. But if a project is not brought into practice, it does not exist.

A project is a throw or a toss into the future, not a loose idea, not a fixed plan, but something someone will do with someone. A project is not a task set by the present; it is a realization of the future.

Meeting someone to do something with him and then leaving him again, makes the project as particular as the one night stand. The disciplinary society was the repetition of the same; hence the routine was the deed of the good worker, the good mother, the good pupil and the good soldier. In the projective society the routine has become suspicious.

The fact, that the project is limited in time, saves it from everyday life and its boredom. The temporal limitation lifts it up to something special.



Now, the temporal limitation does not only free the individuals concerned from the anti-heroic tasks of everyday life, it also frees them from the guarantee, that tomorrow will be like today. If experience is the ability to anticipate tomorrow with what was learned yesterday, the disappearance of guarantees might explain why experience is becoming as suspicious as routine, and why everybody wants to be a youngster.

When the temporal limitation removes the guarantee of repetition, it moves the passage into the centre of the projective society (or in the world of football: a transfer). The passage is at the same time the problem, the distinction and the social technology of the projective society.

First of all the limited time introduces a consciousness that forms the activity within the project.

a) Knowing, that passage is a condition, the project must have develop the ability to move on. Or if it doesn’t, it’s likely to be of low priority. One must chose his projects with care, in order to get more projects in the future. The ability to move on is called ‘employability’ on the labour market. We can speak more generally of ‘passability’ as the ability to pass to new projects, for example new love partners.

b) The activity within the project must be measurable and visible to assure future projects. This means, that the temporal limitation regulates the choices within the project towards the measurable and visible.

Perhaps the link between information and control consists not so much in the ability to control through communication – as is the case for Deleuze’s society of control – but in the ability to communicate activity.

c) The activity must be spectacular, that is, it must connect the separate and unexpected. Whereas Thorstein Veblen talked about conscipicuous consumption, we could talk about conscipicuous connexions.

The boundaries of the disciplinary society deliver the basis for the projective society, since they provide the individuals with borders to be exceeded. The condition for a passage is a dividing line.

d) The passage has always been precarious. From the fairy tales and the myths we know, that the passage is a test or a hard work to get to the Promised Land. From the rites we know, that the passage is risky business. The youngster’s passage from boy to man are put out in other spaces as to avoid the disturbing of the social order. The new married couple is sent away on a honeymoon to assure that the feminine defloration does not destroy the social order. The passage is an exception to everyday order, that can destroy or realize the future good.

In the projective society the passage cannot be placed outside society. Rather it is in the core of society, since the projects always runs out of time. Hence the inhabitants of the projective society must get accustomed to life as nomads. The nomad life calls the detterritorializing leaders into play: The coach, the mentor, the supervisor – the guides and the shepherd that leads the herd. As the passage is omnipresent, the projective society is always precarious.



The solution to the passage problem is the network. It is through the network that one connects to projects .

Again connections can be of different value due to the distance they bridge: The unpredictability and the exceeding of borders, and the size of the network they access. Some connections are dead ends and they must be disconnected in order not to take up time and activity. The more the organizational practices are build up on time-limited projects, the more a semiotics of connexions, a hermeneutics of connexions and an economy of connexions are brought into play. One must write and read connectability, one must calculate and administrate his connections .

As the passage is precarious it is used as a mark of distinction. Who can pass easily and who cannot? One way of managing the self in the projective society is through conscipicuous connexions.


Space, existence, social technology 

The philosophical considerations concerning the sociology of projects can be developed much further. I have elsewhere showed how the projective structure runs through the dance floors, the different disciplines of sport, notably the organisation of football teams, the single life, architecture, education and schools, social policy, policy of health and the organisation of armies . But let me finish with some considerations of time and space in relation to the project.

As the space is made up of the project activity, the project is one of the reasons why every institutional function can take place everywhere. Connecting to a project activity opens the space. Dinners become meetings, sport and exercise becomes projects of friendship, projects of health and project of regaining power at the same time. It is in the era of projects, that networking has regained its positive sense as an act of coping with passage condition. Networking does not limit its own activity to happen in a certain room.

Furthermore it is through the project that the person and the job are mixed. When the projects substitute the task, the personal commitment is no longer a sign of disqualification but of qualification.

The project was the existentialist anthropology, of Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. That is: Man is the being who has projects. Il pro-jette. Er ist ein geworfener Entwurf. He throws his ideas into the future and pursuits them.

Authenticity to the existentialist was to get oneself as a project. To set up projects with oneself as a project, that is to let the self territorialize the different spheres of life.

Now the project has exceeded the existential structure and has become organisational structure, and the organisation performs the same movement, that the self was meant to perform in existentialist philosophy: It permits itself to be everywhere.

The expansion of the project structure is not only the connection of the separate. It is also the generalisation of the provisional and with this a certain consciousness of the provisional. The consciousness and the experience of the projective society are experiences of limited time and extended space. This consciousness of the expiry date puts new social technologies into play.

The law put the unacceptable out of play. The discipline formed the less acceptable to the better. The project does not have to deal with that, since everything disappears unless new projects appear. The social technology of the projective society is not the prohibition or the ordering. The social technology here is the omission. The projective society doesn’t say ‘no’, it doesn’t shout, it simply leaves you in silence. Spaces close around you, and the phone never rings.

Law says yes and no. Discipline says better and worse. The project only says, “would you…?”. The rest is silence.




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