Understanding and representing the social prospects of hybrid urban spaces

Paay, J., Dave, B., & Howard, S.

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Paay, J., Dave, B., & Howard, S. (2007). Understanding and representing the social prospects of hybrid urban spaces. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 34(3), 446–465. https://doi.org/10.1068/b3239

Architecture , Digital Augmentation , Digital Technologies , Hybrid Space , Methods , Sociality

As built environments become increasingly hybrid physical, social, and digital spaces, the intersecting issues of spatial context, sociality, and pervasive digital technologies need to be understood when designing for interactions in these hybrid spaces. Architectural and interaction designers need a mechanism that provides them with an understanding of the `sociality- places-bits' nexus. Using a specific urban setting as an analytical case study, we present a methodology to capture this nexus in a form that designers of hybrid spaces can effectively apply as a tool to augment digitally sociality in a built environment.

Main finding
The authors used scenarios to describe the lived and practical advantages of merging technology and user-perceptions of space. The result of the case study was the development of methods to understand the nexus between 'sociality - places -bits' which designers can use to effectively design hybrid public spaces that digitally augment the built environment. Two methods were developed for this study; one to understand how people operate in space and the other to analyze and model the social context of the space. An example of a practical application of these methods is the creation of a mobile information application that: provides wayfinding descriptions of the space, representations of activities and people, a location of the user by district with interactive imagery and textual and symbolic data providing a richer understanding of the place, proximity alerts, and user history of visits to a place.

Description of method used in the article
Ethnographic methods included field observations and contextual interviews. The authors used grounded theory to take a situated approach to the analysis of hybrid spaces (instead of more common social approaches using descriptions or theories). SOPHIA was the resulting method of this approach. The MIRANDA data collection process consisted of field notes and 250 photographs taken of the square. The work of Lynch (1960) and Alexander (1977) were used to identify physical elements and encode schemas for future content analysis to identify themes and concepts to produce a set of high level abstract concepts that became the vocabulary for the framework. MIRANDA was then used to understand how predominant elements were perceived by visitors by using word pairings. The SOPHIA method used grounded analysis of data to identify 124 themes from which high level concepts were abstracted and three types of social interaction were identified (knowledge, situation, motivation).

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