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Discipline (English version)

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The notion of discipline seems at first sight foreign to concepts used by PaaLabRes. In our collective, the emphasis is on the concepts of nomad and transversal. In what way is discipline pertinent to our approach?

In the founding text of PaalabRes, the term “discipline” is employed in the two most commonly used definitions, the first one as domain or field of knowledge and practice, separated from other domains, the second one as personal mastery or obedience:

  1. “Our society is characterized in all domains by the instability, the precarity and the erasure of the limits between disciplines.” “Technologies are at the centers of transverse approaches linking disciplines that were until now far apart.” “This does not exclude, in fact, the presence of external observers and the collaboration with non artistic disciplines (notably social sciences and humanities).”
  2. “This book is ‘a questioning on the operations of users, supposedly destined to passivity and discipline’ ”. [quote from Michel de Certeau L’invention du quotidien, I. Arts de faire, Paris, Union Générale d’Éditions, Coll. 10/18, 1980]

These two uses of “discipline” are most often distinct from one another in common language (an “artistic discipline” versus an “iron discipline”), even when this double use appears in the same domain: a teacher should impose discipline in her/his class – rules of conduct and of obedience – in order to teach his/her discipline – ensemble of knowledge of a specific subject matter. If the use of the one thus does not call spontaneously for the use of the other, we can nevertheless think that the two meanings in this last case are perhaps not very far apart.

The origin of the word discipline can be found in effect in discipulus, which means “pupil” in Latin, thus relating discipline to the idea of learning. The history of the word reveals also a kinship between the two definitions and the proximity of a link to the body:

“The ancient meaning of “massacre, carnage, havoc, calamity”, proper to old French, is to be understood as an extension of the idea of “punishment”, an accepted sense during the 12th Century (ca. 1170), especially applied to a cleric’s corporal mortification (1174) and giving way, by metonymy, to the concrete meaning of “instrument used for flogging” (before 1549) in religious circles. However, as soon as mid-12th century, the word is also employed with the modern definitions of “rule of life, of conduct” (ca. 1120) and “education, teaching”. By metonymy, a discipline refers to a subject matter being taught, a branch of knowledge.” [“Discipline” Le RobertDictionnaire historique de la langue française, Alain Rey (dir.) p. 1095]

Discipline as working on the body, was described by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish. He showed the development during the 18th century of discipline in different institutions through an ensemble of meticulous techniques, methods and practices, which aims, through the corporal inscription, at the fabrication of docile bodies combining usefulness and obedience. Discipline as working on the body through specific practices, evidently constitutes the explicit techniques and goals of an institution like the army, but the “body techniques”, as Marcel Mauss calls them, are equally operational in any teaching practice, including those which are the most “theoretical”. A discipline, by its teaching, constitutes an ensemble of regulated knowledge, techniques and practices, which are inscribed indiscriminately in body and mind. One could say then that discipline is, in the same movement, matter and manner. There is no “matter” (knowledge, understanding, etc.) without “manner” (rules, procedures, etc.).

A discipline, considered as “branch of knowledge”, is only, as indicated by the wording, part of a tree which would represent world knowledge. Following this definition, it is an element of a global knowledge, with a possible doubt as to its effective existence in itself, and which would certainly be only situated historically, culturally, etc., a discipline is thus necessarily partial and excluding. It delimits a perimeter of validity of a culture, that is some ways of thinking and of acting, outside which what it defines no longer applies and is no longer valid. A discipline is obliged to turn inward on itself in order to exist in relation with other disciplines and carries in this way an exclusive logic. However it is because a discipline elaborates its own instruments of contemplating and measuring the world, fragmented but specific instruments, that it can often produce unique knowledge capable of enlightening the world in new ways. Nevertheless, knowledge cannot be unlinked from power, there is a great temptation to preserve in the teaching of a discipline only an ensemble of techniques with no relationships to the knowledge intended to be conveyed, and therefore to the power that this knowledge secures. Michel Foucault showed that the functional role to which a body is subjected, was inversely proportional to the political role it was able to play.

Finally, defined in this way, discipline is thus what at the same time allows and impedes a practice.

For us, reflection on the notion of discipline does not aim to suppress discipline or to multiply the inter-, multi- and trans-disciplinary rationales, nor to harden it in repositioning it on exclusive “fundamentals”. What is at stake is rather to try not to dissociate, within one discipline, the entwined rationales often presented in the form of disjointed elements, as for example “theoretical” and “practical” levels. This supposes that one should imagine a “whole” dimension of discipline, which contains its epistemological, historical, cultural, social (etc.) conditions of construction. However, this position goes against the economic model of division of labor elaborated in the 19th century, that Western art music represents through the hyper-specialization of diverging points of view on music: that of the composer, musicologist, audience, performer, teacher, etc., not to mention the instrumental “enforced discipline” [disciplinarisation] of these last two.

Between a call for a mandatory mixing of disciplines, softening their specific concepts in which everything would be in everything, and the extreme fragmentation of one discipline causing it to explode in as many tightly closed specialties as there are practitioners/researchers, we advocate the importation of foreign elements that shake up and introduce other considerations, allowing a provisional reconfiguration of space and of disciplinary practices.

Samuel Chagnard — 2016

Translation Samuel Chagnard, Jean-Charles and Nancy François

For further studies:

Astolfi, J.-P. (2010). La saveur des savoirs disciplines et plaisir d’apprendre. Issy-les-Moulineaux : ESF.

Chervel, A. (1998). « L’histoire des disciplines scolaires », in La culture scolaire une approche historique. Paris : Belin.

Forquin, J. C., (2005) « Disciplines scolaires », in Dictionnaire encyclopédique de l’éducation et de la formation (sous la direction de Philippe Champy et Christiane Étévé), 3e édition, Paris, Retz, p. 275-279.

Foucault, M. (1993). Surveiller et punir : naissance de la prison. Paris : Gallimard.

Lahire, B. (2012) « Des effets délétères de la division scientifique du travail sur l’évolution de la sociologie », SociologieS [On line], Débats, La situation actuelle de la sociologie, on line, January 27, 2012, consultation on February 10, 2016.


Mauss, M. (1934) Les techniques du corps,, consultation on February 11, 2016.


 For an itinerary-song towards…


English : Editorial



PaaLabRes : Artistic Practices in Acts, Laboratory of Research

Welcome on the first version of the digital space PaaLabRes.

PaaLabRes (Pratiques Artistiques en Actes, Laboratoire de Recherches or Artistic Practices in Acts, Research Laboratory) is a musicians’ collective in existence since 2011, which attempts to define the outlines of artistic research led by the practitioners themselves, concerning artistic expressions that do not result in definitive works. In an initial text[1], the collective was defined in the following manner:

“Electronic technologies created the conditions for the emergence of a great diversity of artistic practices, by  allowing considerable access to information about the world and its history. Many practices differentiate themselves both from institutions representing sacred traditions and from commercial cultural industries, in order to invent everyday – very often in a collective manner – their own “art of doing”[2]. We will call these artistic practices “nomadic[3] and transverse”, because they tend to refuse to be fixed in definitive works by continuously reworking matters and techniques according to particular situations, and they tend also to refuse any aesthetic labels (or labels connected to professional identities) by tinkering on an everyday basis along transverse paths.”

PaaLabRes objective is to bring together in action, reflection and research, diverse practices that cannot be closely identified with the definitively fixed patrimonial art forms, nor with the ones imposed by cultural industries. These practices often open ways to collective creation, to improvisation, and to collaborative projects between the arts, including other interactive forms of production.

Questioning the autonomy of art with respect to society, they are grounded in everyday interactions and in contexts that mix art with sociology, philosophy, in transmission activities and education. Because of these features, these practices remain unstable and variable; they are really nomadic and transversal.

The aim of  PaaLabRes is to mix different media in order to develop original art/research facilitated by Internet communication technology. The objectives are to bridge the gaps between a) legitimate research articles and more experimental or poetical texts and more simple reflective contributions; b) artistic productions and artistic education, c) artistic concerns and societal or political questions; d) a very large diversity of artistic categories, styles or fields.

Important information about the practical conditions for realizing the 2016 and 2017 editions of the digital space “PaaLabRes”

The digital space is developed by the collective PaaLabRes, with Nicolas Sidoroff as the principal contributor. The editorial team is composed by Samuel Chagnard, Jean-Charles François and Nicolas Sidoroff.

The totality of the production of the digital space “PaaLabRes” – architecture of the site, creation, translations, technical aspects of the realization – is done with a complete absence of financial means and on the basis of volunteer work. The digital space comes into reality thanks to the participation of artists who can do this because they are salaried in some educational institution or retired from this duty, and who give their time within the limits of their possibilities. These same persons additionally have to carry on with their own research and/or artistic projects, often pursuing a doctoral degree. Some actions (i.e. workshops) carried out by the PaaLabRes collective generate a small percentage in order to pay for the site’s hosting services.

But how can web platforms and communities developing Internet tools (of “framasoft” type) continue to fight the system? How is it possible to escape the invasion of publicity, which is the counterpart of Internet being free of charge?

In the first 2016 Edition, for example, we used “youtube” in order to realize the 72 Itineraries-Songs. This was an “easy” solution to the problem of the enormous space taken by these files, but one which imposed (through “Google”) the presence of publicity. For the 2017 Edition, we have decided to use the platform “viméo”, which appeared to us to correspond more to our sense of ethics, but the inconvenience of the presence of publicity (“Staffpicks”) remains. The trick we have designed to counter it consists in giving ample time to users to click on internal links of the site before the appearance of any publicity.

The issue of the lack of means for alternative research projects and for the use of digital communication tools remains to be debated. All remarks and good ideas on this subject would be very welcome. And more generally any critical feedback on our endeavors would be of great use to us.
Your comments (in english) can be sent at this address: contact[chez]

The  collective PaaLabRes — 2016 — 2017
Samuel Chagnard, Jean-Charles François, Laurent Grappe,
Karine Hahn, Gilles Laval, Noémi Lefebvre,
Pascal Pariaud, Nicolas Sidoroff, Gérald Venturi.

To access the English editorial of the 2016 edition click here :


To access the English editorial of the 2017 edition click here :


In the future other lines will be added as needed.

The PaaLabRes collective hopes that the formula of digital space, which is in the process of being developed will be able to host varied contributions, from original hybrid artistic forms to fundamental reflections on today’s artistic practices. It is very important to us to be able to present a diversity in the domains of artistic production, of cultural expressions, of different ways to present research, and of mixing medias. Our project is to develop a dialog between the detachment of formal research and the lightness of discourses without objects, passing through the polemist’s irony, and the vigor of political debates. What is at stake is the place of artistic practices in the complicated context of our multiple society, in three strongly interactive areas: practices, teaching/learning, research, with their particular systemic approaches.

The collective PaaLabRes — 2016
Samuel Chagnard, Jean-Charles François, Laurent Grappe,
Karine Hahn, Gilles Laval, Noémi Lefebvre,
Pascal Pariaud, Nicolas Sidoroff, Gérald Venturi.


[1] See « 1. Paalabres. Projets de Pratiques Artistiques en Actes, Laboratoire de Recherche », in Revue&Corrigée N°95, March 2013.

[2] See Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984.

[3] See Daniel Charles, Musiques nomades, Paris : Editions Kimé, 1998.