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Response to [Re-Place-ing space: …] by Harrison and Dourish


This paper points out the distinction between ‘place’ and ‘space’ – space is the opportunity; place is the understood reality. More specifically, the authors argue that in collaborative and communicative systems, it is place that frames users’ behavior. And such placeness is not necessarily based on space. The content of the paper includes an analysis of space in current systems which leads to the concept of ‘appropriate behavioral framing’. Then the authors point out the placeness in these spaces and discuss the Media Space as an example. Further this topic extends to cultural aspects such as privacy and control. Moreover, the authors argue that place can be spaceless and in reality hybrid spaces exist. All these thoughts lead to the design implications before the authors close the paper.


  • space is the opportunity; place is the understood reality.
  • (In architecture and urban design,) Place derives from a tension between connectedness and distinction, rather than from three dimensional structure.
  • (Concluding previous systems,) in collaborative settings, designers can exploit our familiarity with the spatial organization of our everyday physical environments. In particular, they wish to exploit the ways that space structures and organizes activity and interaction.
  • The features of space:
    • Relational orientation and reciprocity – we share common knowledge of referring and probing in space;
    • Proximity and action – they inform more than physical meanings;
    • Partitioning – people discern different social situations by performing proximity-based partition;
    • Presence and awareness – the presence of people adds to the mutual awareness within space.
  • The real-world value of the features listed above is that they critical cues which allow us to organize our behavior appropriately ( – appropriate behavioral framing)
  • (The assumption is) spatially-organized systems will support spatially-managed behaviors … However, in everyday action, this appropriate behavioral framing comes not from a sense of space, but from a sense of place.
  • We are located in “space”, but we act in “place”.
  • A space is always what it is, but a place is how it’s used.
  • Behavior can be framed as much by the presence of other individuals as by the location itself; in other words, the “place” is more than simply a point in space.
  • Placeness is created and sustained by patterns of use; it’s not something we can design in (we can only design for).
  • We found that new patterns of behavior emerged, not only between the “direct” participants – those whose offices were linked by the media space – but also, critically, by others in physical or organizational proximity.
  • In any case, the roots of privacy are in physical form, not in an abstract notion of the control of others’ virtual access to oneself and one’s privacy.
  • The relationship between space and place is social, not technological.
  • … the shared nature of the audio space, the translocated nature of the visual space, and the melding of virtual and physical space which the media space affords.
  • Design implications:
    • Spaces are not places;
    • Places, not spaces, frame appropriate behavior;
    • Places have social meaning;
    • Different media have different spatial properties.


  1. We can start the conclusion with answering (while not pointing out) the question “so what the hell is this paper about”. Make it simple and stupid. And then we explain the merit of it.
  2. The features of the space (listed above) can be used in discussing  map design.

About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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