Monday, October 5, 2009

Yi Fu Tuan - Space and Place

From the paper "Neighborhood Narratives, New Dialogues With/in the Mediated City", by Hana Iverson and Rickie Sanders. 2008.

Place, according to Yi Fu Tuan (1977) combines a sense of position within society and a sense of identity with a spatial location. Places have historically been viewed as physical sites, with natural and emotional endowments that speak to the limits of human freedom. Not only are our human identities bound up with the hills and valleys in which we live but our very humanness and humanity is bound in this way. It is place that gives rise to humanness – in the form of feelings, attachments, longing, nostalgia, desire, melancholy, and fear.

... Space is perhaps best thought of as a three dimensional void where things are held to exist only if they occupy volume. Location based technologies negate the consideration of volume and view space along the lines of abstract Cartesianism.

...Similarly, beginning with the 16th century, the conception of space which relied on the Cartesian coordinate system set in motion a marginalization of place. Space with its numerical properties was regarded as absolute and infinite. Thus it was perceived as scientific and crucial to the goal of imperialism.

...Certain activities are accorded special spatial status, while others are not. Driving a truck is spatial (hence, work), talking on the phone is less spatial (hence, bureaucratic), and pondering an idea is simply ethereal (Sack, 1980, p. 17) hence, indolent.

Yi Fu Tuan refers to the kind of properties that create a sense of place. He also questions, what is space, and how does one have a sense of spaciousness? In what ways do people attach meaning to space and place? The answer goes beyond the cultural; there are certain "animal" relationships to space and place... one could say, embodied senses of how we orient ourselves to space and place. We are interested in how space and place are understood, so that we can question how technology disorients our sense of space and place, or amplifies our sense of space and place.

Three themes run through Yi Fu Tuans book:

1) The biological facts

2) The relations of space and place

3) The range of experience or knowledge.

He amplifies these themes on page 6 of the Introduction.

Chapter 2 focuses on the Experiential Perspective. Experience is made up of sensation, perception and conception. These influence on a continuum, emotion and thought.

Experience is directed to the external world. Seeing and thinking clearly reach out beyond the self. Feeling however, reflects the way in which the self is inwardly affected. (p. 9).

This is important to think about because as you come to define your own experiences, it helps you think about how to design experiences for other people. The final project will be the result of a complex experience design.

tactile perception is at the extreme opposite of visual perception. The skin is able to convey certain spatial ideas and can do so without the support of other senses, depending on the structure of the body and the ability to move. (p. 14)

Sounds, though vaguely located, can convey a strong sense of size (volume) and of distance. For example, in an empty cathedral the sound of footsteps tapping sharply on the stone floor creates an impression of cavernous vastness. (p15)

(which makes me think of the creative possibilities of sound to create, record or alter space.)

Three principal types of space (p. 17), with large areas of overlap, exist - the mythical, the pragmatic, and the abstract or theoretical. Mythical space is a conceptual schema, but it is also pragmatic space in the sense that within that schema a large number of practical activities, such as planting and harvesting of crops, are ordered. A difference between mythical and pragmatic space is that the latter is defined by a more limited set of economic activities.... When an ingenious person tries to describe the soil pattern cartographically, by means of symbols, a further move toward the conceptual mode occurs. In the Western world systems of geometry - that is highly abstract spaces - have been created out of primal experiences. Thus sensorimotor and tactile experiences would seem to lie at the root of Euclid's theorems concerning shape congruence and the parallelism of distant lines; and visual perception is the basis for projective geometry. (p.17)

(so how would you design an experience that would separate the senses, and give a single sense experience of space. )

An object or place achieves concrete reality when our experience of it is total, that is, through all the senses as well as with the active and reflective mind. (p. 18)

(How can you deconstruct a place to recreate it as a new, whole, concrete experience?)

Spatial Ability, Knowledge and Place

P. 68 - Walking is a skill, but if I can "see" myself walking and if I hold that picture in mind sp that I can analyze how I move and what path I am following, then I also have knowledge. That knowledge is transferable to another person through EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION IN WORDS, WITH DIAGRAMS, AND IN GENERAL BY SHOWING HOW COMPLEX MOTION consists of parts that can be analyzed or imitated.

P. 73 - When space feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place. Kinesthetic and perceptual experience as well as the ability to form concepts are required for the change if the space is large.

How well do you relate to small or large spaces? Do you become disoriented in large spaces? How would you design an experience that relates small and large spaces so that the viewer/user has to orient through some kind of maze like experience to orient themselves.

What are the spaces that have become places for you?

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