Space and Place – setting the stage for social interaction
We cannot escape spatiality: we are spatial beings, live, and meet each other in space. Space never is meaningless; it always surrounds us; it is our habitat. Our body is the central reference point for perception. Movement and perception are tightly coupled and we interpret spatial qualities (or positioning of other objects) in relation to our own body. Spatial qualities therefore have psychological meaning – space can feel protectively enclosing or claustrophobic, objects and people are near or far, large objects tower over smaller ones, protect or crush them.
Real space is also always inhabited and situated, becoming place [2, 6, 17]. By inhabiting space, we appropriate it, interpret it and give it meaning. Place is always situated, the environmental context affects meaning. The entrance to a building affects our perception and shapes expectations, changing how we perceive an object that we find inside. Orchestrating this embeddedness into context can be an integral part of design. Real places furthermore have an atmosphere as a result of a complex interplay of social factors, aesthetical, and physical factors of the setting.
Spatial interaction is observable and acquires performative aspects [13, 14]. Visibility contributes to account-ability , implicitly requiring vindication of public action. Seeing actions unfold aids anticipation and improves peripheral awareness. Performative actions take part in shaping atmosphere and how we encounter other humans. We encounter objects and people in space. They have material/physical presence (demanding our attention) – we meet them face to face, feel their (potential) resistance to our actions, feel the atmosphere they emit like an aura, and
resonate with . Social effects of sharing space are intimacy, social nearness and a higher tendency to cooperate. Being in the same place is a reciprocal situation where seeing implies being seen [13, 14]. This creates both vulnerability and trust .
When engaging in tangible interaction, this usually means moving objects around or moving oneself. Configurability refers to the meaningful re-arrangement of (significant) objects, giving the user control over the environment, enhancing engagement, supporting explorative behavior or providing thinking aids (external representations) [4, 12].
Bodily interaction (manipulation, movement, gesture) is experienced as enlivening. It stimulates mental energy, enhances engagement and is expressive. It is part of expert skill, and also a means of self-expression. Bodily interaction is highly performative and supports implicit coordination. The size of interaction spaces/objects influences bodily interaction style. Movement furthermore leads to bodily appropriation of space (taking ownership).
The main concepts for this theme are:
Inhabited Space: Do people and objects meet? Is it a meaningful place?
Configurable Materials: Does shifting stuff (or your own body) around have meaning? Can we configure the space at all and appropriate it by doing so?
Non-Fragmented Visibility: Can everybody see what’s happening and follow the visual references?
Full-Body Interaction: Can you use your whole body? “