Michel Foucault

Date: January 15, 2018
Category Theory
Topic Heterotopia

Michel Foucault was a french historian, social theorist, and literary critic. Foucault builds the concept of heterotopia to describe places and spaces that function in alternate realities. These are spaces of otherness. They can be physical or mental such as looking into a mirror or when you are placing a phone call. He splits heterotopia into 5 categories.

‘We must think that what exists is far from filling all possible spaces’.

-Foucault, 1980

Crisis Heterotopia → A separate space like a motel room or a boarding school where activities like coming of age take place out of sight.

Heterotopias of deviation → Institutions where we place individuals whose behavior is outside the norm (hospitals, asylums, prisons, & the cemetery).

Heterotopias of time → Such as museums enclose in one place objects from all times and styles. They exist in time, but also outside of time because they are built and preserved to be physically insusceptible to times ravages.

Heterotopias of ritual or purification → Spaces that are isolated and penetrable yet not freely accessible like a public place. Either entry to the heterotopia is compulsory like in entering a prison, or it requires special rituals or gestures, like in a sauna.

Heterotopia of illusion → Creates a space of illusion that exposes every real space.

In my work I would like to consider these heterotopian spaces. When working with digital experiences they can often create alternate realities. Traditionally the user is not made aware of these realities. Referencing concepts like Ex-formation from Kenya Hara, I think it would be interesting to make the user aware of these heterotopias. If aware it might change how the user engages and/or it might give the user the power to subvert the experience for new means of their own. I think that would be a rewarding experience for the user and the creator alike.