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On the becoming-indiscernible of the diagram in societies of control

Hélène Frichot


A diagram is a technology for thinking that secures an understanding of not just the static relations between the components that compose an architectural or urban space, but more importantly, the dynamic movements and potential for transformation of local environments, including the behaviour and habits that emerge between environment and inhabitant. The deployment of diagrams in a design and/or consultancy process can operate to analyse a pre-existing situation, as well as to speculate on how a near future can be spatially predicted, managed, and even controlled. In other words, the diagram can be both critical and projective. Nevertheless, what tends to be assumed is that the diagram is predominantly a graphic tool and that for the most part it translates ideas immediately and unproblematically, securing a clear path between concrete context and abstract idea. Even when a shift in emphasis is undertaken from the diagram as legible graphic object to a diagrammatics understood as an ongoing and open process that enables the transformation of peoples, places, and things, what tends to be forgotten are the less visible, non-discursive, and affective deployments of the diagram. As Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault have demonstrated, a diagram is also a site of struggle pertaining to the distribution of power relations as a composition or decomposition of forces. It follows that a diagram, conceived as diagrammatic process, has political implications. This essay tracks a brief journey following the vicissitudes of the dynamic diagram as it has been taken up in the theory and practice of architecture from the 1990s onwards, and speculates on how far the diagram as diagrammatic process is wittingly and unwittingly used toward the management of contemporary societies of control. The becoming-indiscernible of the diagram in societies of control is the threshold beyond which the outlines of the human subject as project begins to dissipate, a moment of either terrifying dissolution, or else a point beyond which there might open new opportunities for other kinds of diagrams and other processes of subjectification.


Diagram, diagrammatics, affect, societies of control, power relations, architecture, urban space.

Full Text: JOSS_2014_P1-14