1.1 Our Hybrid Spaces

Our everyday lives are governed by the three-dimensional model of space. A model we accept without question, through the evidence of our own experience and ‘…our instinct to impose Cartesian geometry on our mental models of the space around us’ (Lang, 1999). Rene Descartes defined Cartesian geometry in the fifteenth century, but our subconscious bias towards it evolved long before that as a special case of story-telling bias – our innate tendency to twist the truth to make it easier to relate – a device we regularly use to fool ourselves into believing the world looks simpler than it is. (Lang, 1999)

[Please refer to my Bibliography for the sources of quotes.]

In the late 19th Century with the advent of telegraphy, radio and then the telephone, technology enabled us to operate in interactive spaces outside of our experiential three dimensions. These spaces allow us to bridge vast distances and project our presence instantaneously to another point by carrying our voices there. Through such ‘bridging spaces’ we are being forced to unravel our Cartesian bias due to the increasing complexity of the mental models required to interact with new technologies. The telephone asks us to project ourselves in to an in-between space.

Yet, the fixed-point nature of telephones, the devices providing portals into the ‘bridging’ space, meant that people were largely comfortable in projecting themselves through space because they usually knew the people and the places that they are connecting with. In many cases the user could visualise the person and the location at the other end of the telephone because they knew that person, and they had seen that place. In other cases, such as in business, the user created a mental picture modelled from experience of many other places that have built up over time. In every case the user was certain that when they dialled a number they always spoke to a person at a specific fixed location.

Now communications technologies are untethered from a fixed place. They ubiquitously exploit ‘other’ spaces particularly through the overlapping of our actual space with new virtual spaces that have developed over the last 20 years. We are confronted with the need to interact not only with these other spaces but also through them, in a social context, everywhere. The comfort of ‘knowing’ the space, in which the person at the other end of the phone exists, is removed. The eye is no longer dominant in these new hybrid spaces.

Originally posted by Sam at February 28, 2004 03:02 PM

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