Space Lost, Space Found-A Psychodynamic Perspective on Spaces, Places, Architecture, and Furniture Inside and around Us

By Visholm, Steen; Sandager, Dorte | Organisational and Social Dynamics, Summer 2020 | Go to article overview

Space Lost, Space Found-A Psychodynamic Perspective on Spaces, Places, Architecture, and Furniture Inside and around Us


Visholm, Steen, Sandager, Dorte, Organisational and Social Dynamics


After the postmodern dismissal of space (McLuhan, Virilio, Baudrillard, Meyrowitch) recently there has been a growing interest in space, rooms, and places (Sejten, 2014).

In the late twentieth century the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells (1996) saw the globalised world as holding a tension between the space of flows and the space of places, the first for the rich and smart in timeless time, for money and trade, the last for the workers trapped in a local existence and bound to clock time. Later, he realised that the space of flows and the space of places coexist and that contradicting interests are articulated in both spaces (Castells & Ince, 2003).

The utopian days of the information age are over, and they have given birth to the recognition of the more dystopian aspects of the information technology revolution. The refugee challenge in Europe has made it quite clear that the network society is not a global safety network. Boundaries that have been invisible suddenly become present in a massive way. The freedom to travel all over the world on the world wide web meets another reality, that body, room, space, and place do not fly that fast.

Boundaries seem to be interpreted primarily as limitations for freedom and development or as protection against intruders-and not as meeting points or identity statements that can lead to exchange and interaction. This stresses the necessity not to deal with network society as something new and progressive, while labelling the "boundary society" as something old and boring, but rather try to work out the dialectics between this polarisation.

Network seems to have a lot of liberating connotations. No hierarchy, all is equal, no one is more than six social connections away from each other, even the president of the United States. The network society appears to be a safety net, where all the lost individuals in the fragmented postmodern society can be saved and feel connected. Everyone can join, no demands, take it or leave it. Networks set us free from responsibility, from leaders and authorities, from differences, etc.

On the other hand, no one can get a full overview of the whole network, since no one knows who is in and who is not, and no one will notice if someone has fallen out. And since the net has no centre and no one knows the proportions and boundaries of the whole, the network cannot look at itself, reflect, and act. The freedom of the network is also a kind of blindness or murkiness with new threats and hidden power structures shaping what on the surface may seem like free and democratic interaction.

Rather than thinking that networks take over after boundaries, you could think of organisational mismatches. When networks spread over the globe, the nation state loses power and relevance in many areas. Instead of seeking isolation or ignoring the challenges, global and regional initiatives should be welcomed.

In this article we present some considerations and perspectives on the issue of how to deal with rooms, spaces, places, and bodies informed by psychodynamic theory and practice. The armchair and the famous couch in the classic psychoanalytic arrangement, and the serious occupation with chairs in group relations and group analysis (circles and spirals, all the chairs of the same kind, no special chair for the group convenor) indicate that space and furniture are important. The reluctance to experiment with space and settings may signify that there are important areas that need to be investigated.

This article presents a number of basic concepts that we have applied and further developed to capture the impact of space and design on social and organisational dynamics in the network society and the interplay between conscious and unconscious motives in space and design. Most of the concepts are well known, yet here they operate within a new context.

Basic concepts

In the following we present the basic concepts, which are chosen to cover the most important subject positions when working with the physical environment. …

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